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Counting Heads by David Marusek

Counting Heads (2005)

by David Marusek

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Counting Heads (1)

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4592136,090 (3.63)1 / 16
Life in the year 2134 is nearly perfect, with nanotechnology and medical science granting people near-immortality. But when Sam Harger is flagged as a terrorist, his powerful wife dies in a plane crash, and his daughter's cryogenically frozen head becomes a sought-after prize, Sam must fight to save the human race from a secret cabal.… (more)



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“I am not pouting, and I am certainly not indulging in self-pity, as Eleanor accuses me. In fact, I am brooding. It is what artists do, we brood. To other, more active people, we appear selfish, obsessive, even narcissistic, which is why we prefer to brood in private.”

In “Counting Heads” by David Marusek

SF stories often regurgitate medieval themes and settings, including wars, sword fighting, emperors, dukes, and so on. Star Wars and Dune do this, too. They would have us believe that people still fight with (light) sabres although they master FTL travel as well. Light sabres may be entertaining, but to me they are not serious SF. I prefer another kind of SF, the kind that shows NEW forms of human/alien behaviour induced by alien settings and new technology, NEW dilemmas and choices, and shows how current developments will play out in the not-too-distant future. In short, it kind of sheds light on the human condition as I’ve been writing “ad nauseam” on this blog. David's Marusek brilliant "Counting Heads" has no sword fighting, no laser guns. It does have court cases being pursued by Artificial Intelligence Assistance up to the Highest Court within milliseconds. People being "seared" - deprived of their online identity and thereby being unable to live a normal life. Societies with large numbers of clones such as "Maries" (that often marry Freds, who are fond of making lists for everything they do). Leftover Nano weapons from a past conflict still wreaking havoc. How drones will change the way life is lived. People choosing the age at which they remain living. A large queue forming outside the neighborhood 3D print shop because someone is printing a couch... Etcetera. And the book was written in 2005. This shows it’s not necessary to write 600-pages books to give us a fine SF novel. More words, not always give us a better book for sure; would a longer book serve to clarify, especially when the reader is forced to embrace and remember new names and terminologies at almost every paragraph? Do we really need to be spoon-fed? I much prefer my SF to be ultra-dense like Marusek's; he prefers to build the world through subtle hints for an attentive reader to pick up and put together. But we're geeks. We're smart guys. We wear hats. This is how we should want our books. We don't need our mommies to cut up our steak for us, so why do we need an author to spoon-feed us big chunks of exposition to explain every nuance? Were this another type of SF novel (meaning bigger), it’d degenerate to a sinkhole of flash-in-the-pan fantasy in the guise of science fiction.

My point: there is SF that retells old stories in new settings, and there is SF that throws most of the old out and replaces it with thought-provoking new stuff. The books from Philip K. Dick could only be made into movies at the end of his life, and decades thereafter, because that's when society had learned enough to understand his concepts. Maybe the same will happen to David Marusek.

SF = Speculative Fiction. ( )
  antao | Sep 16, 2017 |
good, but not great. convincing & frightening view of where technology could take us in a plutocratic future
  FKarr | Apr 4, 2015 |
I enjoyed this book in the weirdest way. The characters, and the richly detailed SF future they inhabit, are fascinating. The central plot about rescuing Ellen's disembodied head, though, was regrettable. I could barely follow it, right up to its arbitrary ending ("Wait, there's only 12 pages left?!?"). The side characters end up much more interesting than the main show, especially Fred Russ and his existential clone journey. It might have worked better as a collection of novellas than a novel. Still, with 2.5 stars for the plot, and 5 stars for the characters and world, it averages out to justify a very "worth reading" 4 stars. I plan to read the sequel as well. ( )
  cloudshipsinger | Oct 9, 2014 |
Meh. Its interesting, but I got sick of the scattered plot lines that really don't seem to go no where. I suspect it might get interesting at the end of the book, but I have better things to read than a book that isn't interesting.

Some things I liked - the technology. It is lovely. I can totally see a large chunk of this book actually happening. The writing is spot on within each segment, but the segments don't seem to go anywhere. Anyway, Maybe I'll pick it up again at another point in time and give this book a real review. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Feb 22, 2014 |
Maybe it was me but this book felt like it was 80 percent filler and 20 percent story. If you can't get enough of holograms and people living as them then this book is for you, otherwise stay away from this one. ( )
  Punchout | Apr 17, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Marusekprimary authorall editionscalculated
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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My father, bless his sensibilities, sanitized books with a black marking pen before adding them to his library. He indelibly struck out all words of an offensive nature. I fear that this, my first novel, would not be permitted to join his library unmarked. Nevertheless, I dedicate it to his memory:

Henry Paul Marusak

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On March 30, 2092, the Department of Health and Human Services issued Eleanor and me a permit.
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