by Gavin GrantNovember, 2005
Count on Marusek for a top-notch debut
What a month for speculative fiction readers! First up is a sizzling debut novel, David Marusek's Counting Heads. Marusek built a following with his short fiction, including stories such as "We Were Out of Our Minds With Joy," published a decade ago in Asimov's magazine. For his first novel, Marusek builds on that wonderful story and fleshes out a future where almost anything is possible for those who can afford the price. Most people in the 22nd century use life extension therapies so they don't have to age. However, for security purposes, the U.S. government has seeded its domed cities with slugs that continually check everyone's DNA for corruption or viruses. Samson Harger, an artist married to one of the most powerful women on Earth, is ecstatic he and his wife, Eleanor, have just been given a license to have a child. However, a slug registers him as a terrorist and he is "seared"; his nanomachines and personal computer are burned out of him and he can no longer use life extension technologies. This is just the first complication in Samson's life, which will become something stranger than he ever expected. Counting Heads is full of both invention and action. It is dense and thought-provoking, and its story pulls the reader along until the very last page. Let's hope there's more where this came from. Gavin J. Grant runs Small Beer Press in Northampton, Massachusetts.