REVIEWS by SULLYDOG
by Bruce Sterling
On the face of it, Holy Fire is about a womans quest for youth, for some small measure of immortality. But look deeper, and youll see that when Sterlings 90 year old protagonist, Mia, undergoes an extensive cellular remodeling,shes really looking for the creative spark that she lost somewhere along the way. Emerging from a vat of regenerative soup like a fetus from a womb, Mia soon realizes that, although shes regained the body of a twenty-year old, the same social expectations shes lived with all her life still threaten to snuff whatever faint glimmer may remain of the Holy Fire.
And so she runs. She lands in Europe, amidst a troupe of renegade Bohemians and artists. Not realizing that she is really a part of the oppressive "gerontocracy," they take her into their circle and immerse her in their own ideas of art. Here, surely, shell find kindling for the creative fire within?
Well, not quite. She does manage to take up a camera, and begins her search feebly, by photographing the work a mad potter. But these young, aimless Bohemians have mistaken artifice for art, and it is only when Mia is taken in by an ancient photographer that her Holy Fire truly begins to burn.
From there, it is a short trip for Sterling to make his point. Mia doesnt regain her creative spark by remodeling her tired body, but by shedding her tired life. Her creative spark begins to brighten the moment she decides to run and take back her own existence. When she finally crosses the line from artisan to artist, it is in the presence of a man so ancient that hes become almost a part of the earth. The shutter clicks, and we know Mias journey has just begun.
The book is short on action, and has a tendency to get just as bogged down as the endless, empty ramblings of those Bohemians. But as usual, Sterlings characters are sharply drawn and quirky, his settings earthy and exotic at the same time, and his prose alternates between the quietly poetic and the technically dazzling--his description of Mias regeneration is a biomolecular tour-de-force. All in all, a most rewarding read. Hopefully Sterlings fire will continue to burn for a long time to come.