Archive for April, 2023

Review: Holy Fire

Sunday, April 16th, 2023

I’m charmed by the idea of a reader coming to Holy Fire and experiencing the reverse of my encounter with Portrait of a Thief. You could imagine coming on Holy Fire expecting a SF actioner and being surprised to have hit a more literary meditation on art and immortality.

That’s too tight a box to fit the work into, though. Bruce Sterling has a way of shifting tone easily. He’s also never only looking at the surface of an idea, even when he’s cracking wise. He’s got “ha-ha only serious” down to an art form.

Holy Fire‘s plot centers on an old woman in a near-future world where life extension has become a societal priority and success. For some. Our protagonist has a couple moments that shake her perception of her place in the world and throws herself onto a new path.

Her old path was that of a conventional professional who has played by the rules and is having a long life. Her new path is a young person trying to find her place in the world. How that’s possible does the job of getting the reader into the world Sterling’s built.

That world is plausible enough that I bought it, but I suspect there are places where hard SF folks will question the math. I kept my eye on the characters and quite enjoyed how they lit up themes. I suspect this is a book that folks at least in their 40s will directly resonate with, but who can tell? I can only see from where I am.

There were twists and turns, interesting characters, intrigue and thoughts on immortality in here. And I quite like Sterling’s prose as a rule.

Strongly Recommended.