four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
21-Mar-Apr-2006
user_rating: 
0

A-CountingHeadsThe year 2134 looks vaguely familiar to those of us in the here and now. In the near future’s "boutique economy," nanotechnology, life-extension therapies, clones, and artificial intelligence reign. It sounds perfect, but technology has made nearly all of Earth’s inhabitants superfluous. The powerful Eleanor Stark and her husband Sammy Harger are two of the lucky ones—they even receive a permit to have a child. But after Eleanor and her daughter, Ellen, are assassinated, Ellen’s cryogenically preserved head disappears. Some want her head. And others want her dead—for good.
Tor. 336 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0765312670

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Lowdown: In a standout debut, Marusek pushes the service economy to its painful limits." Ted Rose

San Diego Union-Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"There’s nanotech, and little spy slugs that sample people’s blood to find out if they’re infected, and a horridly grinding society. … Marusek keeps a deep and textured tale spinning along, filled with stresses, shocks and sidelong looks at extrapolations of present-day trends." Jim Hopper

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Marusek has built a meticulously detailed world and populated it with vital, complex characters. … The author also takes pains to demonstrate how the combination of near-constant surveillance, life extension almost to the point of immortality, and the monopolization of the labor force by robots and clones affects the lives … of people at both ends of the economic scale." Michael Berry

SciFi.com 4 of 5 Stars
"The big clone party—a magnificent literary set piece—that sprawls across the middle of the book will knock your socks off. … [Marusek’s] tools make the story shimmer and glow, hypnotizing the reader into true belief in the substantiality of his marvelous, alternately hilarious and melancholy new world." Paul Di Filippo

Denver Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Counting Heads is thick with invention and has an action-filled plot, but Marusek shines in filling it with well-rounded characters." Fred Cleaver

Critical Summary

Critics compared this debut SF novel to works by Charles Stross, Rudy Rucker, John Wright, and even Philip K. Dick. Marusek examines present-day trends in technical and scientific advances, projects the social, biological, economic, and political consequences of such progress—and runs with it. Yet, although the author "is unstintingly generous in his speculations," notes SciFi.com, he is also "convincingly realistic." Inventive set pieces, complex and cliché-free characters with ordinary aspirations, and blurred lines between "real" and "artificial" thrilled all reviewers. Only the ending rang false in its brevity, suggesting that perhaps a sequel may be on its way.