Counting Heads

Counting Heads

David Marusek

Tor Books



Trade Paperback

336 Pages


Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

Counting Heads is David Marusek's launch as a science fiction novelist, and presents readers with an entirely new vision of the future. 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. The Boutique Economy has made redundant ninety-nine percent of the world's fifteen billion human inhabitants. The world would be a much better place if they all simply went away.

Eleanor K. Starke, one of the world's leading citizens is assassinated, and her daughter, Ellen, is mortally wounded. Only Ellen, the heir to her mother's financial empire, is capable of saving Earth from complete domination plotted by the cynical, selfish, immortal rich—that is, if she survives: Her cryonically frozen head is in the hands of her family's enemies. A ragtag ensemble of unlikely heroes join forces to rescue Ellen's head, all for their own purposes.


Praise for Counting Heads

Counting Heads was one of my favorite books of last year in any category, and an exemplary entry in the sci-fi genre . . . An ambitious, sometimes brilliant and sometimes overwhelming attempt to provide a fully realized portrait of what society might be like in the 22nd century, when rapid advances in every field from cloning to artificial intelligence to nanotechnology have made our planet both a simpler and a more sinister one on which to live. If you can't think of an experience more validating than seeing your wedding announcement published in the Sunday Style section of The New York Times, just wait until millions of dimwitted gawkers can attend the actual ceremony in holographic form. And if the idea of your boss surreptitiously scanning your e-mail messages strikes you as invasive, imagine how you'll feel when you begin each working day by having a small electronic probe—or 'potty plug'—inserted into your transverse colon.”—The New York Times Book Review

"David Marusek is an extraordinarily gifted new writer, with unique ears and eyes . . . [Counting Heads] brims over with imaginative extrapolations.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Marusek keeps a deep and textured tale spinning along, filled with stresses, shocks and sidelong looks at extrapolations of present-day trends. I took extra care to keep my copy pristine, so it’ll be presentable when I hand it off to another reader who’ll enjoy it as much as I did.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune

“David Marusek's first novel is a wildly inventive story of a future dependent on clones and artificial intelligence. . . . Counting Heads is thick with invention and has an action-filled plot, but Marusek shines in filling it with well-rounded characters.”—The Denver Post

“An intriguing, inventive, and provocative look at cloning that was the best first novel of the year and one of the best SF novels of the decade so far.”—Locus

“David Marusek’s Counting Heads is the most exciting debut sf novel I’ve read since Neuromancer. Counting Heads isn’t just one of the best first sf novels to come down the pike in some time; it’s one of the best novels, period. I hope David Marusek will be writing more of them for centuries to come.”—Elizabeth Hand, Fantasy & Science Fiction

Counting Heads is a compelling and powerful read. Marusek isn’t afraid of asking hard questions—nor is he afraid to try and find answers . . . One of the best sf novels of this (and perhaps any) year, Counting Heads gives us a rich mix of social commentary, speculation, and adventure, all garnished with a tiny pinch of hope.”—Vector

“There are more ideas to the page in this auspicious debut novel than many sci-fi novels have in their entirety . . . Marusek evokes an impelling sense of wonder with an awesomely imaginative and all-too-believable future chock full of nifty details while allowing his characters to compel the novel. Counting Heads is a marvelous must-read from an author who must be noted as an important new voice in science fiction.”—Cinefantastique

“David Marusek is one of the best-kept secrets of science fiction, a wild talent with a Gibson-grade imagination and marvelous prose, and a keen sense of human drama that makes it all go . . . It's hard to summarize this book because again and again, the plot hinges on wonderful, original inventions, and just describing the story line would spoil too many of David's delightful surprises. I haven't felt as buffeted by a book since Gibson's Neuromancer—haven't felt more like I was reading something truly radical, new and exciting . . . When David was writing short stories, he was an exciting writer. Now that he's onto novels, he's practically a force of nature.”—Cory Doctorow

Counting Heads has every virtue of the science fiction classic it is certain to become:  it's an utterly convincing and deeply troubling extrapolation of the right-now, its language and a technology at once new and weirdly familiar. But it also has qualities rare even in the greatest SF classics:  real persons, real suffering, real costs, and a fully achieved human drama. Absolutely splendid.”—John Crowley

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.”—Bookpage

“With subplots exploring the identity problems of clones, the solutions to a particularly nasty overpopulation problem, and the remnants of some invidious 'biologicals' that have required the doming-over of major cities, Marusek presents a gripping conspiracy in an uncomfortably three-dimensional future.”—Booklist

“This extraordinary debut novel puts Marusek in the first rank of SF writers . . . Marusek’s writing is ferociously smart, simultaneously horrific and funny, as he forces readers to stretch their imaginations and sympathies. Much of the fun in the story is in the telling rather than its destination . . . exciting and wonderful.”—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt


On March 30, 2092, the Department of Health and Human Services issued Eleanor and me a permit. The undersecretary of the Population Division called with the news and official congratulations. We were stunned by our good fortune. The undersecretary instructed us to contact the National Orphanage. There was a baby in a drawer in Jersey with our names on it. We were out of our minds with joy.

Eleanor and I had been together a year by then. We’d met at a reception in Higher Soho, which I attended in realbody. A friend of a friend, who was holoing in from Seattle, said, “Sammy
Read the full excerpt


  • David Marusek

  • David Marusek spins his quirky tales of the future by the glow of the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska.
  • David Marusek
    David Marusek