Rule 34 by Charles Stross is set in the near future (less than 20 years I’d say) Edinburgh, Scotland. We arrive (or you arrive) as Detective Liz Cavanaugh is summoned to a fairly odd murder scene–a “two wetsuit job”. She finds that the victim was a prior person of interest and he has died from the deleterious effects of a former bathroom appliances of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu.
I say that “you arrive” as the novel is told in the second person. The voice wasn’t as difficult to get used to as I had thought it would be. The only problem I had was that it was sometimes (for me) a bit difficult to remember who was the “you” in the particular chapter. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character in the story.
We next meet Anwar Hussein. Anwar is on parole for some bit of identity theft related computer crime and is looking for some job reputable enough to satisfy his parole officer. He finds this as he is recruited to run the Scottish consulship of a small central Asian republic. His main job seems to be to hand out packages of bread mix.
Liz is in charge of a computer-crimes unit who’s main function is to try to stay ahead of internet pornography. She thinks of her squad as the “porn monkeys.” She has been placed into this role as a result of something occurring a few years back that has derailed her career. When more unorthodox murders begin seeing the light of day she is assigned to the investigation.
Meanwhile, we also meet the Toymaker. The Toymaker is something of a middle manager for a modern day organized crime ring. He is also suffering from some form of psychopathic disorder that is somewhat kept in check with pharmaceuticals.
I enjoyed this story quite a lot as Stross brings all these threads together into a very well done thought provoking story. Along the way he turns a few things on their head. He plays with the idea of where Artificial Intelligence may get its market push (think anti-spam) and what it may look like. He also moves away from the lone detective genre to the team approach to solving crime. Very enjoyable.