This is a reissue of Schismatrix Plus by Bruce Sterling. The original, from 1986, was a reissue of the novel Schismatrix, but included the short stories by Sterling that are set in the same world. This world is thousands of years in our future and humanity is divided between two main factions. There are the Shapers, who believe that humanity is allowed to change and adapt naturally – that humans change naturally through genetic adaptations. On the other side of evolution are the Mechanists who believe that humans will only achieve their full potential with mechanical implants and prosthetics. The Shapers view the Mechanists as unnatural abominations and the conflict between the groups is often deadly.
Abelard Lindsay is the one man caught n the middle of the conflict. Lindsay is a former Shaper diplomat, highly trained in treachery and deceit, and now a man who doesn’t belong in either faction. He travels between the two camps, sewing discontent and embracing revolution, and he travels through the galaxy, trying to unite the various human off-shoots and bring about something even greater – a Schismatrix – “of a posthuman solar system, diverse yet unified, where tolerance would rule and every faction would have a share.”
Author Bruce Sterling has long been a favorite of mine, though oddly enough, I’ve never considered myself a fan of Cyberpunk (“oddly” because Sterling, along with William Gibson, is considered one of the founders of the Cyberpunk style [a combination of lowlife and high tech – per Wikipedia]). And while this may be one of Sterling’s most popular books/collections, it is one of my least favorites. I find the scope too broad, such that I find it hard to enjoy the journey.
I’m also fond of books with strong characters and Abelard never connects with me. I can’t pinpoint exactly why this is, but he doesn’t appeal to me in such a way that I really don’t care about what he does. This puts me off early on and that makes the reading of the book a chore.
The short stories, which include: “Swarm,” “Spider Rose,” “Cicada Queen,” “Sunken Gardens,” and “Twenty Evocations” are a bit more enjoyable for me (of course, I love reading short stories). It helps, of course, to understand the Shaper/Mechanist universe, which means reading the novel.
Overall, I understand why this has achieved some degree of ‘fame’ within the science fiction community and is on yet another reprinting, but as with sooo many ‘popular,’ classic scifi books (I’m thinking back to the likes of Dhalgren by Delany) I sometimes think that concepts and unusual styles favor more heavily than character and story.
Looking for a good book? Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix Plus is now a classic in the scifi literary world, as evidenced in part by this new reprinting, but one really needs to be prepared for a long, slow haul when reading this.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Bruce Sterling
publisher: Open Road Media Sci-Fi and Fantasy
Kindle Edition, 340 pages