Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rule 34 by Charles Stross

While we were in Italy, I started reading Rule 34 by Charles Stross and then finished the book on the flights from Milan to Frankfurt to Philadelphia. I bought this book at the end of 2011. While there is usually some reason why I buy a book, I am not sure what triggered this purchase. It is possible that it is something that I just stumbled on surfing Amazon. Rule 34 was nominated for the 2012 Arthur C. Clarke Award and the 2012 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Set in the near future (about 2030), the book is a murder mystery/police detective story. The novel is told in second-person singular but from three points of view: Edinburgh Police Inspector Kavanaugh who investigates spammers murdered in gruesome and inventive ways; Anwar, a former identity thief who becomes Scottish honorary consul for a fictional Central Asian state; and "The Toymaker", an enforcer and organizer for the criminal "Operation". Their interactions and conflicts drive the story.

The book derives its name from the commonly held rubric that Rule 34 of the Internet states that pornography or sexually related material exists for any conceivable subject. The main character is a cop assigned to the Rule 34 squad.

As I have said before, I love science fiction books that play with ideas about technology in the future. Rule 34 has two interesting threads. First, 3D printers play a role in the story. Sophisticated 3D printers are used to produce knockoff products. The potential for this technology over the next 20 years is intriguing. Second, one of the reviews of the book described the procedural aspects of the murder mystery as The Wire mashed up with Snow Crash. [note to self: need to reread Snow Crash] Data mining, augmented-reality, wearable computing and artificial intelligence change the pace of police work.

I enjoyed this book and give it a B+ grade. I liked it enough that I already ordered a prequel to the book.

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