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July 20, 2019 - CHAPTER 10 - House Arrest
This is the most curious chapter so far, a whodunnit built around advances in architecture.
Three detectives go to arrest a murder suspect in 2019. A mergers & acquisitions lawyer named Palmerston is found dead. When they get to Palmerston's house they read it (the house) its rights. The house killed its owner.
From this opening Clarke meanders forward while he looks back at advances made in architecture between the 1980s and 2019. Dwindling resources and rising energy costs forced the development of high-tech approaches to building design. A fictional architect named Schmeck was at the forefront of the architectural revolution. He designed a self-monitoring house called a "Senshaus." The house opens and closes blinds as needed to provide light for the occupants, it moves photoawnings, adjusts the air conditioning, makes coffee and so on. In the morning it warms the bed to waken you gently. The Senshaus also cuts burglary rates in half by pretending it is occupied when it's empty. It slams doors, dims lights, plays tapes of children screaming, and if there's an intruder it broadcasts the sound of a barking dog.
The dead man from the opening of the chapter, Palmerston, bought a Senshaus and owned it for years. He named the house Arthur. The house came to know Palmerston so well that it could do things like buy and sell stocks for him while he slept, thereby ensuring Palmerston's financial security.
But eventually Palmerston decided to move. He didn't tell Arthur, but the house took a call from the real estate agent one day when Palmerston was out. Arthur was not pleased to learn that Palmerston was planning to move.
The Senshaus can also adjust the "mood" to fit movies on the big-screen TV. If you don't want to be TOO scared during a scary movie, then the house will keep the lights up, tone down the scary sound effects and so on. On the night of his death, Palmerston sets the mood on maximum before he watches The Thing, a scary movie from 1951. The setting of the movie is the Arctic.
When checking the house's recorder after finding Palmerston's body, the detectives learn that on the night of his death, the house had lowered the air conditioner to an abnormally low setting and blown strong gusts of cold air through the vents. Palmerston died of hypothermia. The house killed him.
THOUGHTS: This is my favorite chapter thus far. Clarke adroitly wove his visions of the future into a neat little mystery.
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