Another book and, slightly unusually, another crime thriller at that. But ‘Rule 34’ by Charles Stross is no ordinary crime thriller. Firstly it’s set in the near future but more importantly it’s a standard Stross novel only insomuch as the ideas he’s dealing with fly thick and fast throughout the book. Perpeutual motion indeed.

People are dying throughout Europe is a series of bizarre incidents and DI Liz Kavanaugh is drawn into the investigation from her normal routine of monitoring  internet crime for the Lothians and Borders polis. Meanwhile ex-con Anwar Hussein is pointed surprisingly in the direction of an apparently legitimate job as an Honoryary Consul for the newly independent republic of Issyk-Kulistan whilst the Toymaker, a psychotic representative of the Operation  is wondering why his potential recruitment targets seem to be turning up dead just before he approaches them.

Set in a very plausible (if not terribly cheering) near future, ‘Rule 34’, like ‘Halting State’ its predecessor in the same 21st century Edinburgh, is based a lot around Stross’s extrapolations of  how our lives will interact with computers. Along the way he finds time to ponder on topics such as the concept of the impossibility of policing, 21st century targetted marketing and social networks.

It’s also a book that touches on the more sordid aspects of the internet and there’s one particular stomach turning moment which you rather suspect isn’t too far away from a sick reality.

And he also rather neatly builds an explanation for the sorts of coincidences that litter crime novels into the book as a critical thread of the plot itself. Ultimately there IS a conspiracy going on here but it won’t be what you expect.

Stross’s novels are never predictable and always, regardless of the genre, tend to have  thought provoking things to say about our society. ‘Rule 34’ is no exception. Buy it here.

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