Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Counting Heads (Counting Heads, #1)” as Want to Read:
Counting Heads (Counting Heads, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Counting Heads (Counting Heads #1)

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  970 Ratings  ·  130 Reviews
Counting Heads is David Marusek's extraordinary launch as an SF novelist: The year is 2134, and the Information Age has given rise to the Boutique Economy in which mass production and mass consumption are rendered obsolete. Life extension therapies have increased the human lifespan by centuries. Loyal mentars (artificial intelligences) and robots do most of society's work. ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 16th 2007 by Tor Books (first published 2005)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Counting Heads, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Counting Heads

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Sep 21, 2016 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was caught by the premise and what can I say? I love hi-tech future-Earth stories, especially when they don't automatically deform into the dissolution of society, but rather, they discuss important issues in sometimes humorous, sometimes disturbing, sometimes just plainly WTF.

This one is definitely all of the above.

The entire novel is extremely rich in wonderful world-building ideas in the grand, nearly overwhelming sense that it's all over the place, from nanotech everywhere, to domed cities
mark monday
Sep 15, 2011 mark monday rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: futuristik
enjoyable and perplexing in equal measures. despite the hyper-futuristic setting, warm humanistic values are carefully embodied by every major character - a welcome surprise for a novel with so many inventions and so much jargon flying at the reader willy-nilly. especially enjoyable are the clone couple, adorable in their basic clone personality templates but increasingly intriguing as they begin to push at the boundaries of their existence. the central character of the nearly-senile, curmudgeon ...more
Ben Babcock
I’m not a connoisseur of Coen Brothers films, but there are two I love: Fargo and Burn After Reading. Both of these bleak-yet-comic films have in common their stellar ensemble casts and strong, interwoven stories. Neither has a single, clear protagonist following a simple, linear plot. That would be boring! Instead, each film presents a complicated set of narratives in which everyone is the protagonist of their own life even as they antagonize others.

Counting Heads is a bit like these Coen Broth
What an interesting and intriguing book! Ideas about society are outlined in detail, but it's not boring or tiring to read. This is not a ponderous overweighted tome; instead, the Reader follows along with the personality of Samson Harger, (a person of about 140 according to pg 186, on pg 188, his years of life are noted as 1951-2092) through courtship, marriage, arranging for a child, all the usual relationship things.

Sam is a packaging artist .. his 'wrapping papers' will excite you -- both in
Oct 21, 2013 Ryun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frederik Pohl once said, “A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam.” David Marusek has taken this to heart with COUNTING HEADS, an incredible extrapolation of the future of human community and the joys and troubles that come with it.

The biggest fault with COUNTING HEADS is not the novel itself, but its billing. While the dust jacket sells the book as an adventure story, it’s really a throwback to the great social explorations of Robert Silverb
Oct 23, 2010 Erika rated it liked it
Samson Paul Harger was born in 1951 and died in 2092. Unfortunately, he still has over 40 years left to live; watching his body deteriorate at a rate normal for that of a man living in the 20th Century is only going to prolong his sense of injustice. In Samson’s lifetime, mortality is more of a distant bother than a reality. Humanity has experienced a technological boom, neé—a renaissance of medicine, cloning, and that ever elusive font of youth: immortality.

Shortly after getting married to his
Aug 11, 2012 JBEG rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I simply loved this book--and loved exploring the politics, ethics and economics of Marusek's remarkably plausible century-from-now world. The only thing keeping me from giving it a full 5 stars is that the book in the end is remarkably unfinished in terms of plot, and while the plot remains the least compelling thing about the book there is likely to be some frustration for readers in the sudden pulling of the plug here. Fortunately the sequel, MIND OVER SHIP, is there to keep you going. -- j
Marusek’s debut novel is set in a futuristic Earth of nanotechnology and cloning. Society is divided up roughly into four groups. Affs are the very rich, practically immortal beings who seem to spend their time spinning webs of power. Free Rangers are the middle class, living often in Charters, a sort of communes. The lower class is made up of clones, everything from Russes to Evangelines to Jennys, bred for their dominant traits. Jennys are nurturing and often work in healthcare, Russes are loy ...more
Jan 12, 2010 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best book I've read in a while; it's a massively complex story being told through at least half a dozen different perspectives that don't really coalesce until the very end in a spectacular way.

It's the future. Disease is mostly gone, except for virulent nanomaterials that salted the Earth in the last war. Civilization is ordered, and humanity is experiencing a marvelous renaissance through technological salvation. Except when it doesn't. Murder, corruption, manipulation, pull back the curtain
A.A. Attanasio
Jun 20, 2012 A.A. Attanasio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How do we tell good science fiction from bad? By the rhapsody of language and scientific ideas. Counting Heads flickers us into the 22nd century in a fast-paced narrative of cascading tech-extrapolations that actually drive the story. It’s exhilarating! This is arch science fiction flexible as music. Keenly imagined future-science is the eerily beautiful femme fatale of this noir portrayal of our mercantile culture as a murder mystery – where the victim is the human soul. A masterful work.
Aug 26, 2012 Dwagon rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I gave up on this book halfway through. I almost never give up on books like that... but in this case, the book never connected with me.

The story, to the extent that there is one, is set on a future Earth that has been devastated by nano- and biological weapons. People live in cities, which serve as enclaves to protect them from remnants of past wars. We have a massive class divide, with cloned humans serving as virtual slaves and affluents who rule the world, all living in a police state set up
Jan 22, 2008 Lauryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sci-fi freaks, fiction peeps
Recommended to Lauryl by: read about another book by this author in The Believer
"On March 30, 2092, the Department of Health and Human Services issues Eleanor and me a permit...There was a baby in a drawer in Jersey with our names on it. We were out of our minds with joy."

The first paragraph of this book may go in my top ten all time opening paragraphs, it's so good.

I haven't read a good sci-fi book in a long time, so this was really, really satisfying. I'm finding myself sort of at a loss to describe it, even though I enjoyed it so much. It's almost more exciting, I think
Previous TCL Reviews
This is one of those science fiction novels that is full of plausible descriptions of customs and gadgets and governments that really make you think about where the future is headed. For example, people live hundreds of years due to life enhancement technologies, and they have loyal “mentars” – essentially personal concierge/nano-robots – that are implanted into their bodies and speak to them inside their heads. It’s worth reading just for the vivid imagination of the author, but be prepared to ...more
Jun 28, 2012 Scott rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Marusek starts with a catchy hook and fascinating speculative scifi. But the story quickly degenerates into almost uncountable plot threads. It seems as if Marusek had a beginning and an ending in mind, and then invented a myriad of ideas and characters to get from A to B. Unfortunately, many of those ideas and characters, which seem like they will be important, never amount to anything, and remain unresolved at the end. I've heard that Marusek started as a short story writer, and after reading ...more
Feb 18, 2009 patrick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

As a 'first novel' I found this book to be less than satisfying. While it's densely packed with all sorts of futuristic scenarios and interesting technological 'stuff', the plot is hard to parse. Partly due to a glaring lack of clear delineation of terminology he uses in the book. Perhaps if one has followed his other writings in various anthologies and such some of it would be more clear, but if you're looking for an introduction to Marusek's writing this isn't the one to start with.

The plot
David C. Mueller
Jun 18, 2011 David C. Mueller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-misc-authors
This is the best "post-singularity" novel I have read to date. This author combines a tremendous imagination for his future setting with believable and admirable characters. This is an emotionally warmer book that the other "post-singularity" works I have read by other authors and I am looking forward to reading the second novel in the series, "Mind Over Ship." Not since reading Donald Kingsbury's "Psychohistorical Crisis" have I been so entertained by a SF novel. Some aspects of the universe of ...more
Alex Rogers
I was underwhelmed. I've had this on my to-read list for a long time, influenced by many positive reviews, and was excited to finally find it in e-book form. But while I finished the book, I found it really hard to "lose" myself in like I do with almost any book I enjoy. The best science fiction books are often initially difficult initially, and take a while to accept the author's fictional world / premise / characters - but then you are caught up and immersed in their stange and wonderful creat ...more
Jan 10, 2009 Liviu rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: genre-sf, read_2009

This is a novel I bought on publication four years or so ago, and tried to read many times and stopping after the brilliant novella introduction told by Sam, when it just degenerates in cold jargon that meant nothing to me.

Since I got an arc of book 2, I decided to get over once and for all with this book, so I fast read the second, larger part and it's such a waste of a great setup.

I hope book 2, Mind Over Ship will fulfill the promise of the brilliant 46 pages of Counting Heads, followed b
Servius  Heiner
Feb 19, 2008 Servius Heiner rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This book was both horrible and good at the same time, I’m not sure how that is possible, but hey I guess it is. Great concept, poor execution. Then the ending, I will not even call it an ending. It didn’t end it just stops.
Dec 21, 2015 Marianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engrossing view of the future where the fascinating technological wonders that Mr. Marusek created drive the story forward but don't detract from the complex relationships between the clones, humans and sentient machines that populate this well-imagined world.
Aug 09, 2007 Kellan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Far future, mind fuck (thats a good things) gives way to a plodding story.
Dec 30, 2010 Dan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

A glum dystopia that isn't even fun to visit.
Jan 06, 2017 Elmwoodblues rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Show, don't tell,' is right out of Writing 101, and a good author follows this advice without the reader even noticing. From the first-page slang of 'A Clockwork Orange' to the immediate drop-in worlds of a George Saunders short story, a writer's self-confidence and trust in the reader makes for an engrossing partnership.
Sci-fi writers can easily fall into a trap of thinking they must explain the world they are creating; Marusek avoids this pitfall, allowing the reader to glean meaning as the s
Nov 23, 2016 Andrii rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
David Marusek is one of the greatest modern sci-fi authors. If you have read his short story "The Wedding Album" you'll like this book. And if you haven't read it, you probably should - it's a good sample of what's going on in Marusek's mind (and it REALLY is worth reading). His stories are always filled to the top with dozens of creative, well-thought-out sci-fi ideas.
Dystopian, nano-laden, future history. I liked this book for its world-building.

The writing was very tight. Its also fairly gritty. (It has both graphic sex and violence.) The author chose a complicated multi-character POV and he handled it well. Although, I did not. In the beginning I was a bit disoriented by the character changes, and the 30+ year jump-in-time that occurs mid-story.

This is a conspiracy novel, with a thousand conspirators playing the long game. Plotting was rough, and the stor
Jun 25, 2015 Anthony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is hard to know whether to give this book a 4 or 5 star review, it has so much that is a 5, but it did lag at a slow pace early on so I went with a 4.

I was so excited to read this novel because I had read the short story, We Were Out of Our Minds with Joy, many years ago and always thought I wish there had been more to this story. The world it took place in was so rich and deeply detailed that I thought there should be more. When I discovered that David Marusek had indeed expanded that short
David Garcia
Aug 11, 2012 David Garcia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, though it is set in the future, has many themes that apply to us today. It deals with themes like the mortality of humans and our attempts to avoid our deaths. It also discussed the problems with too much uniformity, and how close humanity is to getting to that point. Not only that, but it also managed to bring into medley the idea of other sentient beings that could, but don't, destroy all of humanity. These themes impress upon the reader that the future may not be as bright and chee ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]Excellent. I tend to find myself unexcited by the possibilities of nanotechnology to change society; authors who are excited by it often write only characters who are equally excited, or else appalled, by it. David Marusek here has an entirely believable society, with love, parenthood, age, and death - and loneliness, in a world of material plenty - which happens to also have vast amounts of nanotechnology. (I confess I did find the summary o ...more
Mar 25, 2010 Aurélien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
I have mixed feelings about this book, but overall it's really good. It is really innovative and full of great ideas, all very credible. Marusek explores the future of nanotechnologies with brio, describing a scary future where nanobots give you near-immortality but also zero privacy.
The plot is a bit complex, maybe too many characters, but it also gives you a good sample of the different kind of people who coexist in this not so distant future: an ex-star who lost his nanobots and is now aging
Fred Wulff
The setting was interesting, but the protagonists are continually threatened by ill-defined enemies with ill-defined powers for ill-defined reasons, which makes for a long slog.

The background society is a pretty standard panopticon-based dystopia. Certainly a lot of authors have gotten a lot of mileage out of writing Kafkaesque tales with this background (recent examples include Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief and Stover's Caine series), but the horror in these settings comes from the protagonists
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Infoquake (Jump 225 , #1)
  • Postsingular
  • The Quiet War (The Quiet War #1)
  • Lady of Mazes
  • Brasyl
  • Probability Sun (Probability, #2)
  • The Golden Age (Golden Age #1)
  • Spin State (Spin Trilogy, #1)
  • Radio Freefall
  • The Caryatids
  • True Names: and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier
  • The Listeners
  • The Chronoliths
  • Singularity's Ring
  • Vacuum Flowers
  • On Wings of Song
Author David Marusek writes science fiction in a cabin in Fairbanks, Alaska. His work has appeared in Playboy, Nature, MIT Technology Review, Asimov’s, and other periodicals and anthologies and has been translated into ten languages. According to Publisher's Weekly, “Marusek's writing is ferociously smart, simultaneously horrific and funny, as he forces readers to stretch their imaginations and sy ...more
More about David Marusek...

Other Books in the Series

Counting Heads (2 books)
  • Mind Over Ship

Share This Book

“There's not much to say about loneliness, for it's not a broad subject. Any child, alone in her room, can journey across its entire breadth, from border to border, in an hour.

Though not broad, our subject is deep. Loneliness is deeper than the ocean. But here, too, there is no mystery. Our intrepid child is liable to fall quickly to the very bottom without even trying. And since the depths of loneliness cannot sustain human life, the child will swim to the surface again in short order, no worse for wear.

Some of us, though, can bring breathing aids down with us for longer stays: imaginary friends, drugs and alcohol, mind-numbing entertainment, hobbies, ironclad routine, and pets. (Pets are some of the best enablers of loneliness, your own cuddlesome Murphy notwithstanding.) With the help of these aids, a poor sap can survive the airless depths of loneliness long enough to experience its true horror -- duration.

Did you know, Myren Vole, that when presented with the same odor (even my own) for a duration of only several minutes, the olfactory nerves become habituated -- as my daughter used to say -- to it and cease transmitting its signal to the brain?

Likewise, most pain loses its edge in time. Time heals all -- as they say. Even the loss of a loved one, perhaps life's most wrenching pain, is blunted in time. It recedes into the background where it can be borne with lesser pains. Not so our friend loneliness, which grows only more keen and insistent with each passing hour. Loneliness is as needle sharp now as it was an hour ago, or last week.

But if loneliness is the wound, what's so secret about it? I submit to you, Myren Vole, that the most painful death of all is suffocation by loneliness. And by the time I started on my portrait of Jean, I was ten years into it (with another five to go). It is from that vantage point that I tell you that loneliness itself is the secret. It's a secret you cannot tell anyone. Why?

Because to confess your loneliness is to confess your failure as a human being. To confess would only cause others to pity and avoid you, afraid that what you have is catching. Your condition is caused by a lack of human relationship, and yet to admit to it only drives your possible rescuers farther away (while attracting cats).

So you attempt to hide your loneliness in public, to behave, in fact, as though you have too many friends already, and thus you hope to attract people who will unwittingly save you. But it never works that way. Your condition is written all over your face, in the hunch of your shoulders, in the hollowness of your laugh. You fool no one.

Believe me in this; I've tried all the tricks of the lonely man.”
More quotes…