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4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive Depiction of Age Extension in the Future
Holy Fire, by Bruce Sterling is pretty impressive. Sterling really packs ideas onto the page! He furnishes his setting with detail after telling detail: there is a much greater sense, seems to me, that the future being depicted is really in the future, and not just now + a few changes, as in so many SF books. And the details are cleverly backgrounded: offhandedly...
Published on Aug. 10 2000 by Richard R. Horton

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3.0 out of 5 stars Young Again
Holy Fire-
Is a book about age, and power. It is placed in the future and the elderly are in control. Mia Ziemann is one of these wealthy elderly people who control this society and have all the insight to the technology of the day. Mia is 94 years old and lives in the 21st century; she has lived her life very cautiously, never being too adventurous.
Mia meets...
Published on Dec 3 2001 by Andrew M. Puccini


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4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive Depiction of Age Extension in the Future, Aug. 10 2000
By 
Richard R. Horton (Webster Groves, MO United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Holy Fire (Paperback)
Holy Fire, by Bruce Sterling is pretty impressive. Sterling really packs ideas onto the page! He furnishes his setting with detail after telling detail: there is a much greater sense, seems to me, that the future being depicted is really in the future, and not just now + a few changes, as in so many SF books. And the details are cleverly backgrounded: offhandedly mentioned here, revealed by a turn of phrase there, implied by a description...(Also, he does stop and lecture on occasion: but the lectures are interesting, not distracting, and important to his story.) Anyway, the way Sterling does this stuff is great fun (in his short fiction too), and he's pretty good at little jokes on the one hand, and telling aphorisms on the other hand.
Holy Fire is set 100 years in the future, and the main character is a woman born in 2001 (a symbolic date, I'm sure; as the fact that the book opens with the death of her former lover, born in 1999, is symbolic too). This woman, Mia Ziemann, after attending her lover's "funeral", and receiving a mysterious "gift" from him (the password to his questionably legal Memory Palace) (a MacGuffin if there ever was one!) undergoes a crisis of sorts and decides that it is time to cash in her chips, as it were, and undergo the radical life-extension treatment which she has been planning. She comes out of the treatment a young woman in appearance, and a different person in attitude, and with a different name (Maya). As a result, she runs off (illegally) to Europe, trying to live the life of the late-21st century young people (it seems). The rest of the book follows her somewhat rambling adventures with a variety of Europeans, young and old, as well as eventually getting around to the meaning of the MacGuff -- er, I mean, Memory Palace.
The book is very strong on the description and rationale for the culture and economics of a future dominated by medical treatment, life-extension methods, and (as a result of the previous two), old people. Sterling knows that if people live a long time, society will be very different, and he does a good job showing us one way it might be different. His views of both young (say, up to 60 or so) and old (up to 120 or more at the time of the book) people are very well done. Part of the book is an attempt to get at what the difference between a society of very-long-lived people (like up to 150 years or so), and a society of near-immortals (up to 1500 years or more) might be: and here he waves his hand at some neat ideas but kind of fails to really convince.
Throughout it is readable, interesting, and funny. The resolution is solid, though as I have suggested, he waves at a more "transcendental" ending, and doesn't really succeed there. But Maya's story is honest and convincing, though Maya as a character is a little harder to believe. She seems to be whatever the plot needs her to be at certain times: this is partly explainable by the very real physical and psychological changes she must be undergoing: but at times it seems rather arbitrary.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, March 14 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Holy Fire (Paperback)
Holy fire is the second book I had read by Sterling and now my opinion of Sterling is in question. Heavy Weather by the same author was definitely in the area of 4 stars, while this book paled into insignificance by comparison.
This book seemed to meander and stop and meander some more as though the author was just trying to fill the pages. The central character even had no vision or goal set and I think this was where the book failed in my opinion. There was no goal. There was little challenge and there was no ambition to the character.
I kept hoping that there was going to be some massive revelation around the corner and instead it just fizzled out at the end.
I was disappointed, but went into this book expecting to love or hate it based upon other reviews that I read before buying it.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Zzzzzzz, May 14 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Holy Fire (Paperback)
Too long, boring plot (near zero drama), peppered with numerous implausibilities from the school of sci-fi writing that thinks it can throw in whatever utopian, hair-brained idea it likes (almost at random) without regard to context or economic plausibility. Bleah. Three stars for concept, minus two for draining the life from it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sterling's Best, Jan. 11 2003
This review is from: Holy Fire (Paperback)
Bruce Sterling ( and William Gibson) has almost abandoned plot in their novels. There is a plot in this book but it is of the most perfunctory " Macguffin" type.
If you are looking for a book where you will be grabbed by the plot and pulled through the book desperate to finish it, then look elsewhere.
Sterling writes wonderfully in this book of the ennui of age. This is one of his best themes, and can be traced back to his earliest work. The extrapolations he makes are great such as the Fashion industry consisting of the eternally cosmetically altered young are great.
If you liked "Involution Ocean", "The Artificial Kid", or "Distraction" then you should love this book. Otherwise especially if you are more a fan of the more plot driven SF books
you may be a little baffled and disappointed by this book.
Still one of my favourites though.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A convincing future, Feb. 28 2002
By 
Kevin (Ann Arbor, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Holy Fire (Paperback)
With this book, Bruce Sterling has created one of the most believable futures I have read. Most of his predictions are well-reasoned, and he doesn't overlook the social consequences of his technologies. The characters are believabler as well, although Mia/Maya is the only one fleshed out at length. Sterling's writing style is good; although he isn't exactly a poet, his sentences and paragraphs are clear and the book is quite readable. The only real problem is the plot, which is a little hard to follow. Personally, I can enjoy a good setting as well as a good plot, but if you demand plenty of action then you might not like this book.
Unfortunately, I haven't found Sterling's other novels to be as good as this one--I wasn't that impressed with 'Distraction' and didn't even finish 'Heavy Weather.' His short stories are well worth a look, though.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Intricate with a sence of humour, Jan. 17 2002
By 
This review is from: Holy Fire (Paperback)
In general, Sterlings' books are great. They have a coherent plot and a lot of interesting and inventive details (e.g. post-apocalyptic futuristic customs and technology). I find it difficult, however, to understand the motives and drives of a lot of the characters. Occasionally I wonder why they bother to do what they do. Maybe it's just me. Read it -- time well wasted.
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4.0 out of 5 stars MIA SWALLOWED BY MAYA, Dec 31 2001
By 
This review is from: Holy Fire (Paperback)
STERLING does a great job of showing the pain of transition for his initial central character, Mia, as she struggles to become a real woman, Maya. The Mia/Maya schizoid personality sustained conflict throughout the story. It works to the last line where Maya finally proves she has the Holy Fire to click her first true picture. Ambiguity arises, however, as to whether her Holy Fire results from her longevity drug treatment or whether her own will power gave her a second chance to find her muse. The question is: what motivates the old Mia to become the young at heart Maya? What did Sterling create in Maya? Was she a drug sculptured android without a real soul? Perhaps this was Sterling's underlying question--does Mia need a soul?

The author's distinction between gerontocrats and the vivid, young generation is suspect because if the longevity treatments were actually working the older class would stay young at heart--not just young of skin. This doesn't happen. So all the treatments to keep the body clicking are, in the main, cosmetic. Something else is missing here, most old people want to stay alive to enjoy their grand kids and great grand kids. Here the old seem to grow into a narcissistic, power driven shell, abandoning their own kid's lives. However, the story works because it exposes the hidden disconnect between just living and the quality of life.
Sterling barely explains a lot of his jargon. His drug, lacrimogen, sounds like ecstasy. All it seems to do in the story is give the users a good cry! I'll bet no reader understood why Mia/Maya almost died in the immersion scene due to the interaction of the futuristic drugs inside her body with those in the pool. One must ask Sterling who he thinks his readers are--chemists?
Sterling's projected growth in the medico-pharmaceutical industry is very thought provoking. It gives Sterling an opportunity to investigate the divide between the cult favoring longevity and the young x'ers. His sharpest statement is made when he has the young would be artist girl take the swan dive off the building. "To hell with your longevity!" she sang as she splattered to the ground.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Living Longer Better!, Dec 12 2001
By 
Kevin Spoering (Buffalo, Missouri United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Holy Fire (Paperback)
Imagine yourself, as a very old person, suddenly made very young again. Would you want your old desires and passions back, if they were forced upon you? Most would say yes, and Bruce Sterling writes a wonderful and enlightening tale centering around a woman named Mia and how human desires and values change as we grow older and how our basic drives can be turned upside down if we became young again. Older people sometimes get set in established behavioral patterns and Sterling gives thought to this in addition to possible societal views and monetary structures that may accompany vastly extended life spans.
Sterling writes of a world in the process of achieving the goal of extending human life spans indefinitely, set late in the 21st century. Sterling uses the term 'posthuman' often in this novel, I believe he should have used the term 'transhuman' as this term more accurately describes the characters in this novel. As I understand it, a posthuman is one who has access to very advanced medical care and his/her body is effectively immortal, or as much as is practical or theoretically possible, and yes, I am probably splitting hairs here. But in fact, one could argue we have transhuman medical care in existence already, with the advent of artificial hearts, etc..
This novel is wrote in an easy to read, flowing style, a pleasure to read, much of the plot had the character Mia living a wandering and aimless lifestyle, but the story was well executed. I found it a cute story, much human interest, with humor mixed in. It's premise of a society transformed by long life spans could be a portent of things to come, and how ultimately we may be able to use our science to bootstrap ourselves out of our own mortality.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Young Again, Dec 3 2001
By 
Andrew M. Puccini (Macomb, Illinois United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Holy Fire (Paperback)
Holy Fire-
Is a book about age, and power. It is placed in the future and the elderly are in control. Mia Ziemann is one of these wealthy elderly people who control this society and have all the insight to the technology of the day. Mia is 94 years old and lives in the 21st century; she has lived her life very cautiously, never being too adventurous.
Mia meets an old friend/lover who is on his deathbed. This experience changed her outlook on life. Could there be a chance she could change who she is? How much would it cost her? This brings Mia to the realization that maybe she has been too careful, too unadventurous throughout her life. So now she must escape a team of medical keepers to the underground escaping her life. She then must go trough a very painful procedure that would make her young again. She will enter a false world, a false reality that is just hooked up to a network of computers, in this world is Holy Fire this is a drug that may change all human life forever.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A breezy but plausible look ahead, Oct. 23 2001
By 
Ryan "Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelon... (Somerville, MA, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Holy Fire (Paperback)
I thought that Sterling's world was one of the more well-thought out extrapolations of the future that I've read in a while. Too many sci-fi tales seem to use Blade Runner for a template, so it's refreshing to see a world where technology and people have evolved without some cataclysmic event forced into the narrative (although long-over plagues are alluded to). The book takes place in a future when most of the terrible woes of the 20th century have been fixed, and people now occupy themselves with trying to find purpose, or at least amusement, in a world that's become a little too safe and dull.
Sterling keeps it going with breezy wit that half admires and half mocks his characters, and a satirical vision of technologies like genetic manipulation and virtual reality becoming toys for a wired leisure class. Sometimes it gets a little too breezy, and you get the feeling that Sterling's more interested in sly commentary than a sensical plot or realistic characters, but as it was, I enjoyed the humor.
The characters, though they could have been better explored, were futuristic sketches of people we actually know. The ruling class that Maya leaves behind seems like a committee of fretting, but permissive grandparents. The young bohemian society that she hooks up with after her transformation comes across as a literary blend of the roaring 20's, the superficial 80's, and the dot.com 90's, whose profound soul-searching is actually also quite narcissistic. Yeah, I could see a future like that. Maybe we should hope for Blade Runner.
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Holy Fire
Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling (Paperback - Oct. 1 1997)
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