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3.88  ·  Rating details ·  313 ratings  ·  59 reviews
The three basic human needs are food, water…and shelter. But in the late 21st century, compassion is a crime. You can get your memories wiped just for trying to help.
Papa Preston Walford's world doesn't allow for coincidences. Accidents. Secrets in the backs of closets. Or the needs of his own daughter.
Meredith Walford has reason to seek shelter. She needs protection
Paperback, 576 pages
Published June 12th 2007 by Tor Books (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  313 ratings  ·  59 reviews

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Apr 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Ok, I wouldn't recommend this to everyone, but it had so many things that made it perfect for me to read: set in San Francisco (with lots of references to the city), AI and robots, social work-type stuff... It did have flaws, but they're not worth listing because I loved it anyway. Susan Palwick is like Maureen McHugh in that their science fiction feels like it was written by a woman without being heavy-handed about it. Awesomeness. ...more
Feb 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
'Shelter' was first published in 2007 and I have no memory of how it ended up on my to-read list. I bought a second-hand copy off eBay, then ignored it for a while as it smelled a bit odd. There is no mention in the blurb of a plague, so I was deeply disconcerted that the novel begins with a scene of an 8 year old girl quarantined in hospital suffering from a pandemic virus named, I shit you not, CV. This virus also spreads in the air and causes a serious post-viral syndrome in many who recover ...more
Kris Sellgren
Aug 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
This outstanding and thought-provoking novel examines the various meanings of isolation and shelter by following two women whose lives intersect first as children, as survivors of a plague, and then again as the mother of and daycare provider for a troubled boy. In this dark future, excessive altruism is a psychiatric condition; artificial intelligences are legal only outside the US; and brain-wiped criminals who cannot be re-socialized swell the ranks of the homeless. Palwick makes us question ...more
Jun 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelter tells the near future story set in San Francisco, during a major storm that costs many lives, and two old acquaintances, one who has inadvertently harmed the other, meet and explain how their lives lead them to that point. One, Roberta, is poor and on probation, diagnosed with a mental illness of "excessive altruism" because of a series of events the other woman, Meredith, put into motion in an attempt to protect her son. Meredith is rich, privileged, and has some mental illness issues o ...more
Feb 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: status-borrowed
Roberta is on parole for "excessive altruism" when Meredith reenters her life, prompting both to reflect on the events which drew them together: a devastating virus, Preston, first man translated into virtual existence, and their attempts to protect Nicholas and Fred, an unstable child and an artificial intelligence. Shelter has a number of flaws: over-explained backstory, a too-simple conclusion, and heavy-handed themes. Nonetheless it's a brave and intelligent book. The plotline is intriguing ...more
Jeffrey Paris [was Infinite Tasks]
A remarkably well-conceived and well-crafted novel! Palwick imagines a plague that, once it has ravaged Africa, is sufficiently contained to be able to alter brain chemistry and even "mindwipe" undesirables who can then (usually) be re-socialized from scratch. Add in the development of AI entities, smart-bots, and translated consciousnesses (recording memories while alive and then "translating" them to live on in virtual space), and all the tools are in place for a solid speculative investigatio ...more
Feb 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to martha by: Kris
I wish I could rate each half of this book differently. The first half is SO SLOW; it needs some serious weed-whack editing and could stand to be much, much shorter, without losing anything of value. I'm glad I plowed through, though, because the second half was really gripping, and not at all what I expected the book to be about.

Cool things contained herein: AIs, Roomba-descendant bots, San Francisco in the mid-21st century, global pandemics, social services issues, characters of color, the evo
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scribd, 2018
I was thoroughly engrossed by this story. Here are a few reasons why.

The story is mostly non-linear. We start with a man and an intelligent house. Add in a homeless man, who came in from a storm. Then we meet a couple of women with an old connection that maybe neither really wanted to renew. Then we find out how they are all connected. The story unfolds gradually, and I found it fascinating.

Learning the connections makes the whole story pretty interesting. The world now has a deadly flu that kil
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It took me a long time to read. Twice as long as I anticipated. But it was worth it; patience is a virtue. Palwick brings so much heart to this novel. The speculation. The tenderness. The symmetry and the savagery.

I don’t know what to say about it that won’t spoil it for you. But consider this: when the climax came, the twist was that there was no twist. The fear I held all along turned out to be true.

“Architecture, of course. Shelter. How people take a dream of comfort and turn it into a build
Feb 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kelly by: martha
Initially difficult to get into; I might not have continued to make the effort if Martha hadn't recommended it. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that amnesia is a big plot point, and I realized toward the end of the book that trying to read the first 50-ish pages makes you feel like an amnesiac. Not sure if that was intentional. Ending petered out a little bit, but the meat of the book itself was pretty fantastic. Between this and The Year of the Flood, starting to wonder if dystopic eco-evan ...more
Anthony Buck
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant book, bursting with ideas and rich characters. The first hundred pages are exceptional and I loved the way that the rest of the book fills in the gaps. It's both clever and emotionally engaging (I cried twice), a rare combination.

I had never heard of Susan palwick before this but no doubt I'll be trying another one. And thanks to Jo Walton, whose review inspired me to give this a try.
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
About 1/3 of the way through the book, I told my mother she had to read it. About 2/3 of the way through, I regretted my recommendation to her, specifically. When I finished the last page and closed the book, I realized that this is one of those books where I couldn't be sure if a person would love it or hate it, though I doubt there would be much middle ground.
I cared about the characters and the story, even though there might have been a bit of a "can't look away from the train wreck" caring t
Jul 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Argh, I just wrote a whole long review of this book and lost it. I'm not going to write it again but here's the main reason this near future science fiction novel about AI and brainwiping and "extreme altruism" as a psychological disorder and two girls, one wealthy and one orphaned, getting a bad disease and being in isolation for months and then as adults both dealing with a psychologically-disturbed 5 year old only gets 3 stars despite some interesting ideas and a pretty good plot: Too many of ...more
I would say that most books I read about dystopian futures end up scaring the pants off of me. The idea that our society could develop into something like the one described in this book is TERRIFYING. I can already see the threads of this future in our society today, which makes it all the more chilling.

It's a story set forty years in the future, AIs have become common place enough that large portions of the population are lobbying to grant them personhood. A deadly virus is raging through Afri
Jan 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I didn't know what this book was about before I started reading it. I only picked it up because it was written by Susan Palwick, whose short story collection, The Fate of Mice, I'd recently read and loved.

I think if I did know what this was about, I might not have read it. It doesn't have anything in particular in here that would make me like it. A passing minor character who's intersexed, and somewhat major character who's lesbian, but otherwise.. nope.

It takes place in the future, with conflic
Fauna Hartley
Sep 04, 2007 rated it liked it
This was a long read. There were times when I couldn't put the book down it was so engrossing. Then there were times when I wanted to skim pages and skip ahead. But, was it worth it? Sure.
Ultimately, I liked the distinctly femine tone of the book. I've read other books about AI that seemed to come off too cold and technical for my taste. This story centers around altruism, empathy and compassion and where that fits within an increasingly artificial world. I also found the presence of faith intri
Eva Mitnick
May 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
It's the second half of the 21st century and three Big Issues are affecting the lives of a handful of San Francisco residents - a terrible pandemic called CV, the question of whether a being with Artificial Intelligence should be considered human or a machine, and a procedure called mindwiping, which destroys the entire memory and is being used not just for murderers but also for the mentally ill. Although these issues are enmeshed with the plot, it's the thoughts and actions of the characters - ...more
May 31, 2015 added it
Shelves: kobo, fiction, ebook, sff, 2015
I read "The Necessary Beggar" several years ago and loved it, but inexplicably didn't seek out another book by Palwick until now. You should read that book, and this one.
She creates vivid, three-dimensional characters, and gives them hard things to do. Not in the sense of scaling a mountain or fighting a dragon, but making decisions with consequences. Her science fiction futures feel real -- she picks up trends from today, extrapolates them forward and weaves them together in ways that are plaus
Oct 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I read this book last night, starting at about 5:00, pausing briefly, and fishing around 2:00 this morning. That should tell you something--it's an absorbing read. I think Palwick's great strengths as a writer are her characters and her plot structures; some of the former make me wish I could meet them (and others make me hope I never do), and the way she weaves together various strands of the narrative keeps the plot moving forward with vivid, but not heavy-handed, suspense. ...more
Dec 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy-and-sf
Set in a near-future San Francisco that's all too real and Kafkaesque, this gripping novel explores what it means to be human, and to be connected to family. As artificial intelligence progresses the line between human and machine blurs, and what it means to be human and compassionate takes on a new dimension.

Excellent and thought-provoking.
Mary Peret
A tale of love and loss in a future where AI is possible and real. Can a person live forever as an uploaded series of memories? Can a machine help a seriously disturbed child heal? What does a mother do when all of the decisions she has made to help her child hurt other people? According to to Susan Palwick, all human beings seek one basic need -- shelter. A worthwhile read with a genuine attempt to ask some very big questions.
Mar 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book on a whim from the "staff pick" table at our local library and I'm glad I did. Set in a world with AI beings and people who have "transferred" their consciousness onto the web, Shelter paints a bleak future where brain-wiping is commonly prescribed for seemingly minor social transgressions. It is the connection between the characters, both human and non-human, that really count in this story and make the book such a good read. ...more
Jan 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Pretty good--I haven't read much SF lately. Mr. Rogers *would* make a perfect AI personality. Biggest complaint: At the end, the characters gave up the skeptical POV that had pervaded the rest of the book, and became dreadfully earnest. It's nice to give us a happy ending, but it was less satisfying.

May 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Not my usual thing, and I found it slow with characters I had little empathy for, particularly Meredith & family. I really couldn't understand why everyone went to such lengths to protect the kid. The ending was far too sugary sweet for my taste. Nonetheless....3 stars for the writing skill. I am intrigued enough to want to read other work by Susan Palwick. ...more
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: female-author, sci-fi
Took me a bit to get into, once it got rolling I was very into it. Meredith is a turd but the story needs her to be, so it works. I loved the concept of a near future AI where a virus incidentally gives us 'brainwipe' technology, after it decimates enough of the global population to make AIs prevalent enough to cause problems re: rights and personhood. ...more
Jan 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
Bumped down from 5 stars because the ending is just a little too tidy. Otherwise this was a wonderful book - absorbing, thought-provoking, believable (aside from the ending)... highly recommended for anyone. (Even non-SF fans would likely enjoy it, because it's mainly about people, not gadgets). ...more
Apr 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Okay, so I've been reading this between feedings of my brand new baby, so my concentration levels have not been at normal levels. Held my interest, and raised some interesting questions about memory, personality, what makes a person a person, and mental health issues. ...more
Jan 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: sff
Adore Fred. Hate Preston. Book needs more Roberta and less Meredith. Knotty and thoughtful on sentience, ecology, faith, personality (& biochemistry), homes, safety, and love. Nicholas breaks my heart. Positioning of Africa more thoughtful than initially apparent.
May 31, 2013 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book, and it was full of interesting ideas and realistically flawed characters. However, it did have massive plotting and structural problems that prevent me from giving it a higher rating.
Sue Milo
Sep 23, 2007 rated it liked it
Long, slow read. Interesting, though. What would have happened if Meredith had reported Nicholas before his final act, would the wiping have gone better? Would he have been less damaged?
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Susan Palwick is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she teaches writing and literature.

Raised in northern New Jersey, Palwick attended Princeton University, where she studied fiction writing with novelist Stephen Koch, and she holds a doctoral degree from Yale. In the 1980s, she was an editor of The Little Magazine and then helped found The New York Review

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“In any relationship, the person who cares the least is the one with the most power.” 2 likes
“Architecture, of course. Shelter. How people take a dream of comfort and turn it into a building, someplace they can live, someplace they'll be happy. Not that it ever works. You design your dream house, and then once you build it you realize that the roof leaks and there isn't enough closet space, and anyhow the shape of your dreams has changed, but you'll just have to settle for what you have, because you don't have the money to build another house and may not even have the money to remodel. Plus the taxes keep going up.” 0 likes
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