Holy Fire

Bruce Sterling

Phoenix 1996
A book review by Danny Yee © 2001 https://dannyreviews.com/
At the end of the twenty-first century the world is dominated by a medical-industrial complex devoted to life-extension technology. Those who don't abide by the rules don't get access to the more expensive treatments and, having survived plagues in the first half of the century, a cautious gerontocratic elite run things — largely benevolently, but also rather boringly. When ninety-four year old Mia Ziemann, a respectable medical economist, undergoes a novel treatment which gives her the body and brain of a twenty year-old, she breaks loose. Going underground in the avant-garde circles of central Europe, she attempts to find liberation and fulfillment in art.

Sterling packs a lot into Holy Fire, but the plot is relatively slow-moving: the result is definitely no cyberpunk thriller. He gives us an assortment of fascinating characters, a complex (and surprisingly plausible) imagined future, lots of neat throw-away ideas (enhanced dogs, translating wigs, living cities, and more), and some serious philosophical exposition (something which usually kills a novel, but Sterling pulls it off). Some of the larger themes include the psychological effects of aging, the balance between creativity and security (for both individuals and societies), and the nature and source of artistic inspiration. Holy Fire may lack mass appeal, but it is a success both as a novel and as a philosophical exploration: I recommend it to anyone who likes intelligent science fiction.

March 2001

External links:
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Related reviews:
- books by Bruce Sterling
- more science fiction
%T Holy Fire
%A Sterling, Bruce
%I Phoenix
%D 1996
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1857998847
%P 296pp