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Rule 34 by Charles Stross Stephen Send a noteboard - 28/05/2012 04:33:08 PM
Rule 34 is a novel by English sci-fi author Charles Stross. It is the second in the loosely connected Halting States series. A near-future speculative crime story set in a semi-independent Scotland, the story revolves around (mainly) three interconnected POVs in Edinburgh. Firstly there is Liz Kavanaugh, a police inspector who investigates internet related crimes, secondly there is Anwar Hussein, ex-con, computer hacker and newly made honorary consulate of the shady Independent Republic of Issyk-Kulistan, and, finally, The Toymaker, an operative of an international crime syndicate.

The whole plot kicks off with the discovery of the body of a small scale criminal who has died under the inauspicious circumstances of a drugged enema. Soon it appears that there has been a wave of deaths across Europe within a short space of time, all involving black market criminals and what appear to be freak accidents. Liz Kavanaugh, stuck in a dead-end position in the Edinburgh police force, is brought into the investigation.

The whole novel is quite interesting. Being set in the late 2020s the changes that have taken place are somewhat minimal and quite believable. Scotland is now semi-independent, mostly self-governing with only foreign policy dictated by Westminister. Their usage of the Euro is one point which may break suspension of belief, depending on your political views and opinions of current affairs. There is a slight Orwellian feel to the story, with unmanned police drones surveying the streets for possible crime and ex-con Anwar having his phone and tablet computer tracked constantly. Other innovations like CopSpace, the augmented reality tool used by the police, are believable future technologies.

The main characters in the book are all interesting. Liz Kavanaugh is a disenchanted career cop. After a life focussed on policing and her career an incident a few years previous has shunted her to the side to the unwanted and dead-end task of policing the internet’s spammers and weirder perverts. An out lesbian, she has gone through life in a series of semi-serious relationships, always putting her career ahead of her personal life.

Anwar Hussein is a recently released ex-con, priorly involved in hacking and identity fraud. Since his release from prison, he has attained the position of honorary consul for the Independent Republic of Issyk-Kulistan, a breakaway republic in central Asia, obtained due to his dodgy connections. A very much non-devout Muslim, Anwar regularly drinks and has a string of homosexual affairs, two things he tries to hide from his wife and family.

Possibly the most interesting and definitely the most disturbing character in the book is the Toymaker. An operative of an international crime syndicate, he has been tasked with rejuvenating operations in Edinburgh when he gets embroiled in Liz’s investigation due to his potential recruitment targets all turning up dead. He then turns his attentions to Anwar, to the detriment of Anwar’s cousin. The Toymaker is also an out and out sociopath and a schizophrenic and prone to belief of the presence of lizard aliens in disguise ruling the world, and that he is continuously surrounded by rape machines. He makes the point that he is not unusual amongst the members of the Operation, that they have a predilection for the neuro-atypical.

This is a very interesting book and at times is quite blackly humourous. I would definitely recommend this to fans of near-future speculative fiction or to fans of crime fiction. It is one of the best books I’ve read this year. 5/5 Stars. It is available from Orbit in the UK and Ace in the US.

Note for anyone looking for more information on this book online: Yes, the title is a reference to that Rule 34. Be careful to keep safesearch on when googling and try to restrict searches to things like ‘Rule 34 Charles Stross novel’.
"I mean, if everyone had a soul, there would be no contrast by which we could appreciate it. For giving us this perspective, we thank you." - Nate
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Rule 34 by Charles Stross - 28/05/2012 04:33:08 PM 7234 Views
ok so I have to ask... - 30/05/2012 09:48:19 AM 617 Views
I was wondering the same thing. - 02/06/2012 10:32:26 PM 785 Views
It's an enjoyable book and not at all dirty. *NM* - 03/06/2012 05:48:05 PM 323 Views
I'm definitely going to pick up some Charles Stross. - 01/06/2012 10:00:34 AM 675 Views
That is the only book of his that I have read. - 01/06/2012 01:04:58 PM 628 Views

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