Presenting a gritty near-future filled with Big Brother technology and backstreet fabricators of just about anything the average perv could desire, Stross’ latest foray is not for the faint of heart nor for readers looking for a lightweight story. This novel is a challenging read. Told from a distancing second-person point-of-view through multiple narrative voices, it paints a bleak, disturbing portrait of a world where seemingly the only commodity not counterfeited and sold on the Internet is free will.
Edinburgh Detective Inspector Liz Kavanaugh heads up the Rule 34 Squad, a police unit responsible for trawling the seedier side of the Internet looking for memes that suggest illegal activities beyond the usual pornographic fantasies. When three somewhat similar homicides occur almost simultaneously across the globe, Liz — who is called to the scene of the murder in Scotland — must determine what three ex-con spammers had in common besides kinky sexual tastes, and how her ex-girlfriend, who is suddenly back in Edinburgh, fits into the rapidly expanding picture. (ACE, Jul., 368 pp., $25.95)