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1. Schismatrix Plus (Complete Shapers-Mechanists
2. Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the
3. The Caryatids
4. The Zenith Angle
5. Holy Fire (Bantam Spectra Book)
6. Shaping Things (Mediaworks Pamphlets)
7. Zeitgeist
8. Black Swan
9. Islands in the Net
10. Visionary in Residence: Stories
11. The Hacker Crackdown
12. The Difference Engine (Spectra
13. The Parthenopean Scalpel
14. The Artificial Kid (Context (San
15. Tomorrow Now : Envisioning the
16. Heavy Weather
17. A Good Old-Fashioned Future
18. Distraction
19. Involution Ocean
20. Thinking Robots, an Aware Internet,

1. Schismatrix Plus (Complete Shapers-Mechanists Universe)
by Bruce Sterling
Paperback: 319 Pages (1996-12-01)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$7.45
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0441003702
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
From the pioneer of crucial, cutting-edge science fiction comes the stunning world of the Schismatrix, where Shaper revolutionaries struggle against aristocratic Mechanists for ultimate control of human destiny. Amazon.com Review
Bruce Sterling has called his Shaper/Mechanist novelSchismatrix "my favorite among my books." It is a detailedhistory of a spacefaring humanity divided into two camps: The Shapers,who prefer genetic enhancements, and the Mechanists, who rely onprosthetics. Sterling also published five Shaper/Mechanist storiesbetween 1982-84, which have been collected with the novel in thiscompendium volume. This book represents the definitive collection ofwhat is arguably Sterling's most intense work, offering a hard, grittylook at humanity as it pushes and claws its way to the stars. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (39)

3-0 out of 5 stars Sundog millennium heirs
Sterling has an impressive imagination. He's created a rich, complex, and intriguing universe occupied by a range of so-called `posthumans', chief of whom are the Shapers and Mechanists. These two groups have opposing philosophies and are in conflict with one another throughout these stories. This is reflected in the work, which is heavier on both personal and political machination than on story. There's nothing wrong with that except Sterling sometimes fails to keep the reader sufficiently informed. Clearly he had a clear history of this universe in his head while writing. But the reader does not, and the convoluted nature of the feuding and intrigue can be somewhat impenetrable at times. Compounded with Sterling's often dense, overwritten prose, this detracts from what could have be been an excellent body of work. It's still a good read though and deserves 3.5 stars.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great story
After reading just about everything by Alastair Reynolds, I took his bait regarding the importance of this novel and read it. This book is a very pleasant and quite realistic extrapolation of the future of humanity in the next 200-400 years, built around a central character whose decisions affect our entire species in unexpected and pleasant ways. The ending was very satisfying, and Sterling's thoughts on the potential for humanity as we expand through our solar system is better than any other I have read. The extra stories set in the same "verse" are wonderful as well.

4-0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, albeit weird, view of humanity's future
This is a book that will at first read strike the reader as extremely odd.Sterling's vision of humanity's future is exotic and unlike anything I've ever read before.I started off reading the short stories first, which was a good thing actually.As you read the main story, there are hints to various parts of his short stories that I found really neat.The main story follows the exploits of Abelard Lindsay and his journeys throughout our solar system.The main reason I didn't give this book five stars is because of the dystopic vision of the future.You really feel sorry for Lindsay because he constantly reaches the top only to see everything he's worked for ruined time after time.This is also what makes him such a compelling character.Very few people would be able to endure the way he does and against the odds he faces.

As for the two factions of humanity, the Shapers and Mechanists, Lindsay falls in to neither camp.He befriends people from both sides and really embodies the best of both worlds.There are alien species in this book, though the Investors and the Swarm are the only two to play a major role in events as told here.If you are looking for a book that has humans engaging with aliens on a regular basis, you'll be disappointed.I really enjoyed the whole Solar System spanning journey that Schismatrix took.You don't find out for certain until near the end of the story that humanity's spread through the Solar System was actually due to a catastrophic event or series of events that ruined Earth.In those regards, this is more akin to cyberpunk in space rather than a traditional hard sci-fi or space opera.

As far as a piece of literature, this book will keep you wanting to read another chapter.Lindsay is a great protagonist and you get to see him evolve and adapt to any situation.It does drag a little towards the end of the book, but this is a universe worth exploring even if it isn't a terribly optimistic view of how things will turn up for us when we finally do make it off our planet.The short stories are also page turners.The only other drawback that I can think of is that there are many sexually explicit scenes in the book that may turn off some readers.Hopefully that won't keep you from reading it though as this book is an engaging read.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Glimpse Into a Post-Human Future
Schismatrix is a meditation on what it means to grow older, both individually and as a species. Unlike most of Sterling's later work, it's set in the distant future; and, stylistically, it reminds me of Roger Zelazny's work in a way that Sterling's other novels don't. But the themes of this book will be familiar to Sterling's fans and, if the writing isn't up to the standards of his best work, the ideas certainly are.

Although I'd probably recommend Holy Fire (Bantam Spectra Book) as a better starting point for new readers, I'm impressed that someone so young (at the time) could write such a good book about characters so old. The additional stories collected here aren't outstanding, and they're available elsewhere, but they gain from being read alongside the novel.

5-0 out of 5 stars Sterling's Best
Since "Neuromancer" and the accompanying cyberpunk explosion, Sterling (and many others) has been unfairly relegated to Williams Gibson's shadow.Too bad, because while "Neuromancer" has dated (most near future stories do), "Schismatrix" seems to be getting better and better.

"Shaper revolutionaries struggle against arisocratic Mechanists" is the dust jacket blurb, but this is a gross simplification.Sterling covers a century in the life of Abelard Linsey, Shaper Rebel, compressing it into two-hundred-and-fifty hurtling pages.No words are wasted.The episodes fly: Linsey's exile; his theatrical program; the Red Consensus; the asteroid clave; the arrival of the Investors; and so on.Just when you think the story can't go any further, Sterling starts another unpredictable chapter.The pace is relentless, decades slashed from the narrative (if Sterling had written Dune it would be twenty pages long) as Lindsey's stock rises and falls.

Sterling is a master of the short story: the ability to evoke time, place and character quickly and concisely.Here he evokes a civilisation in chaos -- using Linsey as our eyes and ears -- by giving us bare glimpses of fashion, technology, art, conflict.It's like taking every iconic moment of the twentieth century and watching it in fast forward.

But if you're expecting Cyberpunk, forget it.While there might be some common elements, Sterling is working with a whole other set of textures.The closest thing to Cyberpunk is the "Spider Rose" short-story in the accompanying suppliments (all good, too).If anything, Schismatric might be the first "post-cyberpunk" novel.

Whatever it is, I continue to reread it regulary. ... Read more

2. Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
by Bruce Sterling
Paperback: 368 Pages (2003-12-23)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$8.49
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0812969766
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
“Nobody knows better than Bruce Sterling how thin the membrane between science fiction and real life has become, a state he correctly depicts as both thrilling and terrifying in this frisky, literate, clear-eyed sketch of the next half-century. Like all of the most interesting futurists, Sterling isn’t just talking about machines and biochemistry: what he really cares about are the interstices of technology with culture and human history.” -Kurt Andersen, author of Turn of the Century

Visionary author Bruce Sterling views the future like no other writer. In his first nonfiction book since his classic The Hacker Crackdown, Sterling describes the world our children might be living in over the next fifty years and what to expect next in culture, geopolitics, and business.

Time calls Bruce Sterling “one of America’s best-known science fiction writers and perhaps the sharpest observer of our media-choked culture working today in any genre.” Tomorrow Now is, as Sterling wryly describes it, “an ambitious, sprawling effort in thundering futurist punditry, in the pulsing vein of the futurists I’ve read and admired over the years: H. G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, and Alvin Toffler; Lewis Mumford, Reyner Banham, Peter Drucker, and Michael Dertouzos. This book asks the future two questions: What does it mean? and How does it feel? ”

Taking a cue from one of William Shakespeare’s greatest soliloquies, Sterling devotes one chapter to each of the seven stages of humanity: birth, school, love, war, politics, business, and old age. As our children progress through Sterling’s Shakespearean life cycle, they will encounter new products; new weapons; new crimes; new moral conundrums, such as cloning and genetic alteration; and new political movements, which will augur the way wars of the future will be fought.

Here are some of the author’s predictions:

• Human clone babies will grow into the bitterest and surliest adolescents ever.
• Microbes will be more important than the family farm.
• Consumer items will look more and more like cuddly, squeezable pets.
• Tomorrow’s kids will learn more from randomly clicking the Internet than they ever will from their textbooks.
• Enemy governments will be nice to you and will badly want your tourist money, but global outlaws will scheme to kill you, loudly and publicly, on their Jihad TVs.
• The future of politics is blandness punctuated with insanity.
The future of activism belongs to a sophisticated, urbane global network that can make money—the Disney World version of Al Qaeda.

Tomorrow Now will change the way you think about the future and our place in it.

From the Hardcover edition. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars Interesting, well-written, a bit exasperating
Bruce Sterling writes well, and thinks well.Foremost, I recommend reading this book, if only for its explanation of How Publishing Works.

My complaints:
0.) He is overly pessimistic:
He holds that certain parts of the world will constitute what he refers to as The New World Disorder---failed states, mafiacracies, terrorist labour exchanges.In a week when Gaza is on fire, this is hard to dispute...but he offers no insight, be it ever so tentative, on how such places may transition out of that state, leaving this reader feeling like he's encountered y.a. American Calvinist separation of the unalterably Elect from the unflinchingly Preterite. Given his capacity for optimism (viz sub), this seems odd.

1.) He is overly optimistic:Especially in his consideration of biotech possibilities, his guesses are too full of bad possibilities which he dismissed on the basis of their being too unpleasant for the people involved, or less profitable than better alternatives.Once, I was arguing with a Southerner over the causes of the Late Civil Unpleasantness War Between the States of Northern Aggression; he brought out that old chestnut of slavery's being doomed because it made no economic sense, to which I retorted, "But it was so much fun, at least for the people with the money and power."He also fails to address certain possible contingencies---e.g., adult genetic reshaping's being impossible or too dangerous to be generally practicable---and the fact that in an entropic universe a biologic Gresham's Law might be in play:all it may take is one bad actor (say, someone who lets her experimental bacterial machine be _not_ barren) for everything to go very bad indeed.

2.) He is too millennial, maybe malgré lui:He seems to buy into an "end of economic history" argument, perhaps in sections written during the late 1990s and only slightly hedged thereafter.He dismisses deprecation of the high-tech boom with a simple, 'There will always be some other boom.'This is both too optimistic and too pessimistic at once, because it minimises the permanent damage done by each crash, assume that there will always be enough energy for booms which will do at least _some_ people some good, and because it implicitly contains the assumption, common both to the Marketolatrous faithful and cyberpunk noir, that governments will be completely unable to exercise enough control over their aeconomies to make a difference.This latter completely preferences one technology-of-valuation---capitalism, that is to say the the market as set up to unfairly benefit those with capital---over another:the exercise of "unfair" (to the rich) political will by masses of people who value certain things---health, security, and at least in former times, the dominance of white people---pretty much ab initio, and are willing to use at-least-mystified (but quite possibly not) power to enforce that valuation as long as they can get away with it, which can easily be one unaugmented human lifetime.

3.) He correctly suggests that those living through a Singularity might not feel it as such.This seems true, but not necessarily relevant.Interestingly enough, an observer freely-falling toward a black hole notices no event horizon---however, she _will_ encounter killing tidal forces that make the question of observation moot.Even so is it possible that social or physical or mental stressors might be present even for one going through a technological singularity, to say nothing of those who are not personally benefitting thereby; Mr Gibson's advice as to the uneven diffusion of "The Future" is here relevant:a futurist who wishes to be relevant to sectors of humanity who might not be in on the Real Big Deal when it goes down should at least attempt to guess what it will be like for them.

5-0 out of 5 stars A deep look into tomorrow.
Tomorrow Now by Bruce Sterling examines the future with the focus on man and nature instead of the usual, man and numbers.
Statistics and credit ratings are good indicators of what the future will bring, but Sterling goes way beyond other futurists by bringing man as an organic creature, living in an organic world into the mix.Stuff is not as important as being attractive and having a long healthy life and because this is at the very base of most human desires, this is where Sterling predicts the future will take us.In the past we created huge machines to do the things that tiny microbes do all the time.Sterling shows us a very plausible future where the big things will be done with tiny little biologicals.He predicts DNA, bacteria and microbes will become the machines of tomorrow.Today's news featured a story of a group of scientists that had isolated a bacteria that fed on trash and excreted crude oil.Think of the immense machines, the oil tankers and political problems and the huge land fills this discovery will eventually eliminate.Sterling's future is coming at us fast, it is Tomorrow Now!

3-0 out of 5 stars Great ideas in need of an editor.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first 2 or 3 chapters of this book, but soon after that it became quite clear that Mr. Sterling needs an editor, badly.

The ideas are rich, the structure intriguing, but the prose is nearly stream-of-consciousness, which makes it quite difficult to follow.Each sentence is perfectly understandable, but they do not build on each other in a meaningful or revelatory way.

4-0 out of 5 stars Clever rundown to the ecological end
The coming decades pose great promise and imminent peril, oracular sci-fi writer Bruce Sterling argues in this compelling critique of the state of the modern world. On the plus side, scientists someday might eliminate disease and allow people to live forever. In the debit column, people are burning so much fuel that humanity is setting itself up for extinction. Sterling combines the analytical acumen of a true visionary with the prose of a master craftsman in this fascinating work seasoned with first person anecdotes. As a futurist, Sterling is too savvy to make concrete predictions that soon might be proven wrong (though some of his U.S. political analysis is already losing topicality), so readers might find his approach a bit obtuse at times. But even Sterling's glancing blows connect. We recommend his intriguing analysis and conjectures to techies and to anyone else who seeks a literate look at what the future might hold.

5-0 out of 5 stars Amazing!
Tomorrow Now is essentially a long and brilliant essay by Bruce Sterling, a noted science fiction writer and futurist covering some of his ideas of what the future may hold. Sterling very cleverly breaks the book into seven parts based upon a soliloquoy from Shakespeare covering the ages of man from birth to death, and wittily prophesies what life may shape itself into in our near future.

Two things struck me about this book. The first is that it is not nearly as focused on the next fifty years as the title purports. There is a fair deal of what the future may hold, but there is also a great deal of the present thrown in (especially in the soldier section), and some futurism that is more than 50 years out. Surprisingly this didn't bother me at all because his analysis of the present, especially an exposition on three different terrorists warlords, was fascinating, absolutely fascinating. This book ranges far and wide, and colors outside the lines of the 50 years stated, but I was glad it did as I read.

The second thing that struck me was that this is one of the most amazingly well-written books I've ever read. I am not sure I have ever read something as engaging, fascinating, informative and so easy to read at the same time. I have always enjoyed Sterling's fiction work but, frankly, the quality of this non-fiction book trumps his fictional stories. His writing style is very chatty, more or less as if you are sitting across the table from him, and at first this threw me. It's not something you expect in a science book. Yet once I adjusted I realized that this may be one of the clearest pieces of writing I have ever had the pleasure to read. When I say "pleasure to read" I actually mean it. That is a phrase far too over-used, but in choosing it I mean it literally: reading the words was a pleasure regardless of what he was talking about. His sentence construction and word choices were simply pleasurable to read in and of themself, and I have never seen adjectives used so well to create shades and nuances of meaning before.

Much of the speculation for the future involves biotechnology, changes in workplace dynamics, and what we actually produce, the change of market dynamics, consumerism to end-user, medical advances, and the rift between the New World Order (the first world) and the New World Disorder (the third world). If I had one reservation about this book it is that Sterling promised to show why the Islamic terrorism today will be irrelevant in the future. I don't think he ever really did that; he set the stage for it, and provided the backstory necessary to see the writing on the wall, but he never came out and posited why. I agree with him that the terrorism is not a long-term problem but it would have been nice to see him forcefully make that conclusion. That one quibble aside, this is a book that anyone who cares about current events, the future, or science will find compelling, interesting, and incredibly easy to understand and follow. This is a first class work and I highly recommend it. ... Read more

3. The Caryatids
by Bruce Sterling
Hardcover: 304 Pages (2009-02-24)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$12.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0345460626
Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Alongside William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling stands at the forefront of a select group of writers whose pitch-perfect grasp of the cultural and scientific zeitgeist endows their works of speculative near-future fiction with uncanny verisimilitude. To read a novel by Sterling is to receive a dispatch from a time traveler. Now, with The Caryatids, Sterling has written a stunning testament of faith in the power of human intellect, creativity, and spirit to overcome any obstacle–even the obstacles we carry inside ourselves.

The world of 2060 is divided into three spheres of influence, each fighting with the others over the resources of fallen nations and an environment degraded almost to the point of no return. There is the Dispensation, centered in Los Angeles, where entertainment and capitalism have fused with the highest of high-tech. There is the Acquis, a Green-centered collective that uses invasive neurological technology to create a networked utopia. And there is China, the sole surviving nation-state, a dinosaur that has prospered only by pitilessly pruning its own population. Products of this monstrous world, the daughters of a monstrous mother, and–according to some–monsters themselves, are the Caryatids: the four surviving female clones of a mad Balkan genius and wanted war criminal now ensconced, safely beyond extradition, on an orbiting space station. Radmila is a Dispensation star determined to forget her past by building a glittering, impregnable future. Vera is an Acquis functionary dedicated to reclaiming their home, the Croatian island of Mljet, from catastrophic pollution. Sonja is a medical specialist in China renowned for selflessly risking herself to help others. And Biserka is a one-woman terrorist network. The four “sisters” are united only by their hatred for their “mother”–and for one another.

When evidence surfaces of a coming environmental cataclysm, the Dispensation sends its greatest statesman–or salesman–John Montgomery Montalban, husband of Radmila, and lover of Vera and Sonja, to gather the Caryatids together in an audacious plan to save the world. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (17)

4-0 out of 5 stars Good

A pretty good book. Suffers in relative quality in reminding me of The Windup Girl (multiple morally ambiguous viewpoints set among an environmentally devastated planet) while not being anywhere near as good. Still, there's a lot of interesting stuff here, pulled together in an effective story. It's over infatuated with the device of cloning as a perspective device and the beginning is very slow, but it was quite engaging by the end. Solidly in the category of a good and worthwhile SF book, it's short of great I believe mostly in that 1) it goes with a type of shallow satire for a long section, rather than committing to a future dystopian or doomsday premise and 2) having one major character who just bugged, especially her implausible motivation (blow everything up!).

Opening well after the main devastation, the book doesn't spend much time tracing the changes that have doomed old norms, instead it engages with the different new organizations that have adapted to thrive. The Acquis, the Dispensation and China form the main powerblocks, with one viewpoint character assigned to each.

The first two are each interesting, primarily for the contrast. The Acquis are a type of mildly transhuman adaptation in the direction of Green collectivism. Easily the most benign, yet with enough creepy, coercive and austere elements to not feel too idealized. The main interest I found in this angle was the negotiations they were forced into, having to balance their intentions with their relatively weak power. A community that had succeeded at immense odds in reclaiming a bit of the globe against collapse--and now finds that they still have issues to deal with, that their success attracts attention, that in order to work with a broader humanity they have to cut deals with a group that doesn't share their principles, and finally that their very success might have been gained through a heavy ethical cost precisely because of their form of principles. It's a very nice scenario, and while the negotiation scene early in the novel is rather drawn out, it has enough ambiguity to be compelling.

The Dispensation is interesting for contrast, but is less compelling in its own right. A type of disaster-capitalism that now strikes me as having parallels with the portrayal in Market Forces, they focus on hype, entertainment, ultra-adaptation. What's most interesting about the Dispensation is that they don't appear as center stage of their own setting--a lot of authors using this would have made them the center of a dystopia that needed to be challenge. Instead, while there's a lot to obviously condemn about the way they operate, it's shown as an understandable and eminently human structure. Still, this plot strand tens the most to shallow satire over more substantive world-building, and despite some nice character growth is the weakest part of the book.

Finally there's China, the only nation that's maintained it's identity and power, albeit at a pretty staggering cost. The best part of the book is here, partly from the setting, but as well in the protagonist's involvement with this society. The whole atmosphere of navigating through 'the last nation-state', and the confident reasons given in-universe for why of course it was China that did this, are quite intriguing. The very ending makes for a neat connection and plot movement amongst the arcs, but also spoils some of the ambiguity in the China section, making me a bit ambivalent on it. Nevertheless, I'd recommend this work.

Similar to and better than: Stephen Baxter's Titan
Similar to and worse than: Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl

5-0 out of 5 stars Don't listen to the naysayers, this book is awesome!
I am baffled at why The Caryatids has received so many negative reviews on here. I am in so much puzzlement over how people could honestly write these things that I wouldn't be surprised if a rival publishing house has paid people to pan the books of its competition. I suspect, however, that Bookmarks Magazine summed up the reason when they said that "Books of big ideas often polarize reviewers, and Bruce Sterling's latest novel is no exception."

This is a book of ideas for people who like to think and be mentally stimulated. There are so many wondrous new technologies and concepts described in The Caryatids that people in our media saturated society who are already suffering from information overload may be turned off by it. If you're the type of person who wants simplicity from their reading, and thinks that the latest Star Trek or Warhammer 40,000K novel is an example of great science fiction, then The Caryatids probably isn't going to be your cup of tea.

I've also noticed that whenever a novel's protagonists don't have a traditional morality it tends to be polarizing. As the "most helpful" negative review states "there wasn't a single character sympathetic enough for me to care about, much less consider an interesting or worthy protagonist. None of the main characters seems to have any ethical code or system at all". I've seen several people cite amorality of protagonists as their main reason for disliking two other great works of fiction, Jack Vance's Cugel novels (arguably the best novels Vance ever wrote) and Hugh Cook's The Chronicles of an Age of Darkness decalogy. It seems absurd and childish to me, but apparently a lot of people can't get into a novel unless the main character thinks and acts in a way that conforms to their own values. Why should it matter that a character has an "ethical system" or is "sympathetic" or is "worthy of being cared about"? I don't see how this has anything to do with whether the book is good or not.

I've been a long time science fiction reader, I grew up reading Clarke, Gibson, Cherryh, Stephenson, Shirley, Asimov, Delany, Walter Jon Williams, and countless other authors. I do believe Sterling's The Caryatids is among the best science fiction novels I've ever read, and definitely the best I've read all year. It's so intellectually stimulating, relevant, and exciting, my only disappointment was that it wasn't longer. Don't be misled by the negative reviews on here, my advice is to pay more attention to the professional reviews in magazines like Publishers Weekly and Locus, which from what I've seen are more likely to recognize the worth of The Caryatids and give it the praise it deserves.

1-0 out of 5 stars Climate Change Near-Future SciFi Quick Hack
Some publisher appararently asked the writer to "Give me a near-future SciFi novel, based on Climate Change, and make it snappy".

Shallow characters struggle through life in a near-future (2060 timeframe) post-apocalyptic Earth, which has somehow been damaged by "Climate Change".

The characters remind me of "The Eternals" from ZARDOZ.But, in ZARDOZ, the author had purposefully made The Eternals' lives to be very shallow...

1-0 out of 5 stars Yawn,,,,
I don't see how this book got past an editor, or for that matter got past Sterling himself.
It goes nowhere, takes forever to get there, and in the end I found myself simply not caring.
Sterling has written some fascinating, entertaining works in the past. This is not one of them.

3-0 out of 5 stars Conflicted...
I enjoyed the experience of reading this book and getting to play around in Sterling's headspace for a while, but I have to confess that it doesn't really hold together.

There are so many ideas presented here that a single novel doesn't seem to be able to contain them all. Each chapter could easily have been a book unto itself. I'd really like to see Sterling expand upon this universe a bit more, perhaps with further novels and short stories a la his Shaper/Mechanist world. ... Read more

4. The Zenith Angle
by Bruce Sterling
Mass Market Paperback: 352 Pages (2005-04-26)
list price: US$7.99 -- used & new: US$4.13
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0345468651
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Like his peers William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, bestselling author Bruce Sterling writes cutting-edge speculative fiction firmly rooted in today’s reality. Now in The Zenith Angle, he has created a timely thriller about an information-age security expert caught up in America’s escalating war on terror.

Infowar. Cybercombat. Digital security and techno-terror. It’s how nations and networks secretly battle, now and into the future. And for Derek “Van” Vandeveer, pioneering computer wizard, a new cyberwarrior career begins on the fateful date of September 11, 2001.

Happily married with a new baby, pulling down mind-blowing money as a VP of research and development for a booming Internet company, Van has been living extralarge. Then the devastating attacks on America change everything. And Van must decide if he’s willing to use the talents that built his perfect world in order to defend it.

“It’s our networks versus their death cult,” says the government operative who recruits Van as the key member of an ultraelite federal computer-security team. In a matter of days, Van has traded his cushy life inside the dot-com bubble for the labyrinthine trenches of the Washington intelligence community—where rival agencies must grudgingly abandon decades of distrust and infighting to join forces against chilling new threats. Van’s special genius is needed to make the country’s defense systems hacker-proof. And if he makes headway there, he’ll find himself troubleshooting ultrasecret spy satellites.

America’s most powerful and crucial “eye in the sky,” the KH-13 satellite—capable of detecting terrorist hotbeds worldwide with pinpoint accuracy—is perilously close to becoming an orbiting billion-dollar boondoggle, unless Van can debug the glitch that’s knocked it out of commission. Little does he suspect that the problem has nothing at all to do with software . . . and that what’s really wrong with the KH-13 will force Van to make the unlikely leap from scientist to spy, team up with a ruthlessly resourceful ex–Special Forces commando, and root out an unknown enemy . . . one with access to an undreamed of weapon of untold destructive power.

From the Hardcover edition.Amazon.com Review
The Zenith Angle, futurist Bruce Sterling's first novel since Zeitgeist(2000), tells the story of Derek "Van" Vandeveer. As The Zenith Angle opens, Van sits peacefully at his breakfast table, enjoying life as a new homeowner and happily married man, with a new son and a fortune in stock options. Then the morning news reports a jetliner has crashed in nearby Manhattan--colliding with the World Trade Center. Like manyother Americans' lives, Van's will never be the same. He leaves his corporate job to work fighting terrorism for the U.S. government. He soon finds himself sequestered at a top-secret undisclosed location while his fortune vanishes, his former company sinks into a morass of lawsuits and arrests, and his wife and son move to the far side of the country. And as Van is transformed from cyber-whizto spook, he finds himself changing in ways he would never have imagined.

A novel from Bruce Sterling is always cause for celebration, and The Zenith Angle is one of the finest contemporary novels and finest techno-thrillers of 2004. Sterling operates at the cutting edge of both technology and pop culture, and he possesses innumerable literary strengths. However, his strengths don't usually include deeply-penetrating character development, and thatinjures the believability of The Zenith Angle, which is the portrait of a man undergoing an enormous and shockingtransformation. --Cynthia Ward ... Read more

Customer Reviews (40)

2-0 out of 5 stars a let down
when a new bruce sterling novel comes out, i'm first in line to buy it, as i was with this novel.the zenith angle ended up being so disappointing that i only just recently realized he had an even newer novel, several months old.i've read every single bruce sterling novel at least twice, often three or four times.i've loved them all.

but not this one.

the typical sterling novel is chock full of ideas; it's hard to keep the covers closed, so many ideas are ready to burst out.and he mixes them into a typically well paced and interesting plot.

this novel basically has one idea, a not all that interesting one, and the plot seems unbelievable and stretched thin.(some people may note that zeitgeist has a thin plot as well, but i disagree with that, though that's for another review...)

so yeah, as another reviewer pointed out, this novel seems to be written by tom clancy or dan brown trying to pretend to write sci-fi, rather than sterling.maybe i'll read it a second time some day, but i am in no rush to do so whatsoever.

if someone has recently told you that you should read bruce sterling because you like other cyberpunk type stuff, steer well clear of this book.

2-0 out of 5 stars This story from Sterling isn't very sterling.
I normally absolutely adore Sterling, his 'Zeitgeist' holds a place of honor on my bookshelf; I found it to be witty, poignant, and full of strangely likable characters. In essence, it's everything this book isn't. 'The Zenith Angle' is really the nadir of Bruce's work. An attempt to spin a tale about the clashing realities of cyber-security and real security in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, but instead, all this book does is clash. The story is a wandering, meandering mess that seems half-finished. Instead of a clear plot with an introduction, exposition, and resolved conclusion, the book reads more like a series of half-finished tirades, and those tirades don't even have a focused direction. Is the book for open-source, or against it? For computer security, or against it? Optimistic about the future, or pessimistic? Who knows? It's never made clear. The characters are almost all utterly unlikable, including the book's 'hero' Dr. Vandeveer. 'Van' as he's called, is a whiny, self-righteous, know-it-all nerd who's a jerk to his wife, not very good at his job, and incapable of having a normal social interaction with anyone. Speaking as a computer geek, very few -real- geeks are like this, especially the ones who get far in fields like computer security. We may lack a bit of social polish, but we're not cold-hearted jerks. None of the other characters are any better; the only character I felt any pangs of like for was a bit-character, a rich business mogul that appears in the prologue, and then gets mentioned a few times throughout the book, apparently having gone crazy, from some combination of old age, BSE, and being tricked by holograms (Yes, really.)
The technology in the books is awful too, it's a glossed-over mix of internet buzzwords, MovieOS fakery, and over-simplified pulp fiction; The sort of schlock I'd expect in a novel by Dan Brown or the other authors that make their coin writing New York Times Bestsellers, but I expect -much- better from Bruce Sterling.
This book is so badly written, so trite, so lacking in depth or emotion that it even made me not care about 9/11, not as it was happening in the book, anyway. Listening to 'Van' snivel and worry about it as it happened on his TV toward the beginning of the book, I mostly found myself wishing one of those planes would hit his house and save me from having to wade through a few hundred more pages of schlock.

If you want to read a poignant, witty, thought-provoking book set in the modern post-9/11 Information Technology world, pick up William Gibson's 'Pattern Recognition' and 'Spook Country'. If you want to read a half-baked rant that appears to have been assembled from rejected bits of otherSterling works, pick this book up. I still hold Mr. Sterling's work in the greatest esteem, and I'll happily read his next effort, I just hope it's far better than this was.

5-0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this book
Being a programmer and a geek, I really enjoyed reading this book. Yes, some of it is implausable, and there a few rants in there, but I didn't like the book less because of that. I liked the characters - Van, his wife Dottie, Michael Hickock, etc. There's also some dry humor in there. It's not a super action-packed story for the most part, but I liked reading about what Van and Dottie worked on. I also liked the ending.

I have read some of Bruce's other books (and enjoyed them too), and this book is a little different than them. And not everyone will like every book that an author writes. I for one am glad Bruce wrote "The Zenith Angle", and am searching for more books like it.

1-0 out of 5 stars Er, it's considered a "thriller"??
This is way down on the boring end of Sterlings' writing. Three-fourths of the way through and pretty much nothing has happened. I mean literally no narrative events have occurred, and the characters have advanced no conflict. Amazing considering the story takes place around 9/11 and is supposed to be about some kwel l33t hackers' responses to it.

Sterling vaguely attempts to include real human emotions but they are wedged in pretty clumsily. The main character is separated from his wife and child for much of the book--there are occasional reminders of how desperately he misses them! And how he's trying to save the world for their sake! Sadly, it's impossible to care about the human emotions of these cardboard cutouts Sterling arranges around metal government desks to discuss federal funding disputes.

Really, this is sort of bureaucracy-fiction, not science-fiction (or "design fiction" as Sterling now calls it.) I half expected the story to turn on the filing of some form in triplicate, though it never really even got that interesting. The brief good parts actually read like Sterling's non-fiction essays, and characterize the over-funded paranoiac surveillance State in some chilling ways. So, a star for that.

2-0 out of 5 stars Where's the beef?
A peculiar book. Sterling's descriptions of technological gadgets and governmental processes are convincing, but Zenith Angle seems to be missing some things. An obvious or compelling plot, for one - you can read 3/4 of the way through the book without figuring out what exactly is the point of the book. The characterizations are weird - a mixture of colorful, dull, and just plain odd. For a hundred or so pages it seems like it might be a good read, and then after a couple hundred pages more you realize you have just about run out of pages, and it hasn't become a good read yet.

Each page is well written, but taken as a whole, the book's pages add up to surprisingly little. ... Read more

5. Holy Fire (Bantam Spectra Book)
by Bruce Sterling
Paperback: 368 Pages (1997-10-01)
list price: US$7.99 -- used & new: US$5.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 055357549X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
The 21st century is coming to a close, and the medical industrial complex dominates the world economy. It is a world of synthetic memory drugs, benevolent government surveillance, underground anarchists, and talking canine companions. Power is in the hands of conservative senior citizens who have watched their health and capital investments with equal care, gaining access to the latest advancements in life-extension technology. Meanwhile, the young live on the fringes of society, ekeing out a meagre survival on free, government-issued rations and a black market in stolen technological gadgetry from an earlier, less sophisticated age.

Mia Ziemann is a 94-year-old medical economist who enjoys all the benefits of her position. But a deathbed visit with a long-ago ex-lover and a chance meeting with a young bohemian dress-designer brings Mia to an awful revelation. She has lived her life with such caution that it has been totally bereft of
pleasure and adventure. She has one chance to do it all over. But first she must submit herself to a radical--and painful--experimental procedure which
promises to make her young again. The procedure is not without risk and her second chance at life will not come without a price. But first she will have to
escape her team of medical keepers.

Hitching a ride on a plane to Europe, Mia sets out on a wild intercontinental quest in search of spiritual gratification, erotic revelation, and the thing she missed most of all: the holy fire of the creative experience. She joins a group of outlaw anarchists whose leader may be the man of her dreams...or her undoing.Worst of all, Mia will have to undergo one last radical procedure that could cost her a second life.

In Holy Fire, Bruce Sterling once again creates a unique and provocative future that deals with such timeless topics of the human condition as love,
memory, science, politics, and the meaning of death. Poginant, lyrical, humorous, and often shocking, Holy Fire offers a hard unsparing look into a world that could become our own.Amazon.com Review
In an era when life expectancies stretch 100 years or more andadhering to healthy habits is the only way to earn better medicaltreatments, ancient "post humans" dominate society with theirubiquitous wealth and power.By embracing the safe and secure,94-year-old Mia Ziemann has lived a long and quiet life. Too quiet, asshe comes to realize, for Mia has lost the creative drive and abilityto love--the holy fire--of the young.But when a radical newprocedure makes Mia young again, she has the chance to break free ofsociety's cloying grasp. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (39)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Really well written. It brought up a lot of important questions such as, "what is the nature of age and youth?" The characters were vibrant and complex. I highly recommend it.

2-0 out of 5 stars Get young and bum around Europe
Overall the idea of turning into a young person again when nearly at the twilight of your life is perhaps the dream of everyone, yet when Maya gets this chance it seems she doesnt do anything with it.
The book started out strong with her escaping to find her own way but quickly the book lost its way and just like the main character just kept wandering back and forth.
This to me is too bad as I normally consider this author very strong in his writing but I get the feeling he just want sure what to do with this so he kept writing and writing till the book was filed.

5-0 out of 5 stars My favorite Sterling book
I actually took a class in SF as Literature in college learned that the best SF was supposed to tell you something about people.Unfortunately, there is a lot of SF that doesn't even try, but this book was a nice example of setting up a futuristic setting and then looking at people.Think about what would happen to a very old woman if she REALLY did have the same body AND brain of a teenager again.Would she act in ways her 60 something children would approve of?Sterling is not my favorite, but this is worth a read.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not Free SF Reader
A realised version of the old people are boring meme. Rejuvenation
treatments are available to those that can afford them, and these lead
to, of course, those very elderly being in control through wealth and
influence. They tend to lead static, safe, placid lives to protect
their investment in themselves.

So, any change can only come through the young who avoid any of the
existing technology. Here, one of the former group crosses to the
latter, slumming to some degree.

4-0 out of 5 stars Like an Altman movie
Previous reviewers here have touched most of the bases. This is a meander, not a nail-biter. It reminds me of one of the Sprawling Robert Altman films like "Nashville" with numerous characters and set pieces strung loosely together.

Sterling occasionally seems to be trying to show how witty he is. But I found much to enjoy in this book.One pleasure, a cyber-punk mainstay, is utter confidence in the wordplay depicting the fabulous computer networks of a future world, with wearable super-power communication hardware, etc.

I appreciated, actually, that the story took more interest in its amusing characters than in plot development to some sort of climax. That said, there is occasional action and excitement. It's true the central Mia / Maya character wasn't deeply drawn, but I liked her and her adventurous spirit.

Altogether a fun, light read that made me think a bit. ... Read more

6. Shaping Things (Mediaworks Pamphlets)
by Bruce Sterling
Paperback: 152 Pages (2005-09-01)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$12.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0262693267
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
"Shaping Things is about created objects and the environment, which is to say, it's about everything," writes Bruce Sterling in this addition to the Mediawork Pamphlet series. He adds, "Seen from sufficient distance, this is a small topic."

Sterling offers a brilliant, often hilarious history of shaped things. We have moved from an age of artifacts, made by hand, through complex machines, to the current era of "gizmos." New forms of design and manufacture are appearing that lack historical precedent, he writes; but the production methods, using archaic forms of energy and materials that are finite and toxic, are not sustainable. The future will see a new kind of object—we have the primitive forms of them now in our pockets and briefcases: user-alterable, baroquely multi-featured, and programmable—that will be sustainable, enhanceable, and uniquely identifiable. Sterling coins the term "spime" for them, these future manufactured objects with informational support so extensive and rich that they are regarded as material instantiations of an immaterial system. Spimes are designed on screens, fabricated by digital means, and precisely tracked through space and time. They are made of substances that can be folded back into the production stream of future spimes, challenging all of us to become involved in their production. Spimes are coming, says Sterling. We will need these objects in order to live; we won't be able to surrender their advantages without awful consequences.

The vision of Shaping Things is given material form by the intricate design of Lorraine Wild. Shaping Things is for designers and thinkers, engineers and scientists, entrepreneurs and financiers—and anyone who wants to understand and be part of the process of technosocial transformation. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

2-0 out of 5 stars Nice observations, unacceptable English
"Everyone can't be a designer." , which the author wrote, is NOT equivalent to "Not everyone can be a designer.".

Look up De Morgan's rules, for example, or the Chicago Book of Style, or Strunk and White, or ... just get a good editor,
because such poor exposition gets in the way of reading the ideas.

That said, the ideas are excellent;Mr. Sterling just needs a real English-savvy editor.

2-0 out of 5 stars good idea, poor book
i had high hopes but was vey dissapointed, fortunatley it is a very short book so i stuck it out, (to be fair there are one or two worthwhile parts) i really did not like the writing style a lot of waffel to make pritty staight forward points. the general idea is quite valid and interesting but poorly extrapolated and supported. just watch the ted talk from bruce.

5-0 out of 5 stars Techno-futuristic ruminations on "spimes" and sustainability
Type a few words into Google and you can find a sushi restaurant, a movie theater, concert tickets or a new car. But if you misplace your car keys in your house, you still have to search the old-fashioned way: room by room, cushion by cushion, coat pocket by coat pocket. If Bruce Sterling is correct, though, one day you'll Google your keys. And your shoes. And your dog. This is the nascent "Internet of things" made possible by technology, including such items as radio frequency ID tags and traceable product life cycle management. That is where technology is going: to the interactive "spime," Sterling's term for objects that will arrive with data attached. In this visually arresting novella-sized essay, Sterling riffs on a number of scenarios, from customized-to-order cell phones to products that "know" how much carbon their construction required. His aphoristic prose seems at times like madness, but there's method in it: Sterling urges designers to make beautifully sustainable products rather than more proto-trash. We believe his book could reform your ideas about design and provide a stock of carbon-neutral insights you can deliver to your colleagues over a recyclable cup filled with shade-grown coffee.

2-0 out of 5 stars This book is a little too short.
This book is 'wafer thin', I would recommend John ThakorsIn the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World instead, it is goes into a lot more depth, but is still a sci-fi.

5-0 out of 5 stars A tool, in a way...
This is such a short read, and such a good read - it really is a tool, more of a reminder.The way some people put a model of their dream car on their desk, to remind them their goal, this book should be kept around, read once or twice a year to remind oneself to put purpose, intelligence, and diligence into what you create.I think I'll start giving copies of this to new employees...
... Read more

7. Zeitgeist
by Bruce Sterling
Mass Market Paperback: 288 Pages (2001-07-31)
list price: US$6.99 -- used & new: US$3.30
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0553576410
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
It’s 1999, and in the Turkish half of Cyprus, the ever-enterprising Leggy Starlitz has alighted — pausing on his mission to storm the Third World with the G-7 girls, the cheapest, phoniest all-girl rock group ever to wear Wonderbras and spandex.

His market is staring him in the face: millions of teenagers trapped in a world of mullahs and mosques, all ready to blow their pocket change on G-7’s massive merchandising campaign — and to wildly anticipate music the band will never release.

Leggy’s brilliant plan means doing business with some of the world’s most dangerous people. Among these thieves, schemers, and killers, he must act quickly and decisively.Y2K is just around the corner — and the only rule to live by is that the whole scheme stops before the year 2000.

But Leggy’s G-7 Zeitgeist is in serious jeopardy, for in Istanbul his former partners are getting restless — and the G-7 girls are beginning to die....
Amazon.com Review
"Like Tom Clancy on PCP." That's how Bruce Sterling describes his fin-de-siècle head trip, Zeitgeist, a typically Sterling spectacle packed with verbal flash and digerati wit, along with the expected rail-gun-steady stream of well-thought-out ideas and references. His self-appraisal, as it turns out, is right on. This is a guy widely considered "another, hipper Alvin Toppler" (in the words of cyberpunk godfather John Shirley), an effortlessly intelligent master of both style and substance.

Fans will recognize Zeitgeist's antihero protagonist Leggy Starlitz from Sterling stories "Hollywood Kremlin," "Are You for 86?" and "The Littlest Jackal." The well-connected, world-class fixer is part mystic, part sleaze--sort of Uncle Enzo meets Templeton "Faceman" Peck--and his latest hustle is plying the Third World with merchandise from his all-fake, all-girl band, G-7. (Its seven talentless, Wonderbra-wearing members are known simply as the American One, the French One, the German One, etc.)

Starlitz makes use of a shady, flamboyantly weird network of state officials, bodyguards, photographers, and other assorted players to push the merchandise--action figures, lip gloss, shoes, you name it--on what one of G-7's savvier members calls the "Moslem hillbillies." But things get surreal as G-7 girls start dying, characters start explicitly referring to their purpose in the narrative, and one of Leggy's associates conspires to break G-7's most sacred rule: that the whole enterprise must end by Y2K. --Paul Hughes ... Read more

Customer Reviews (19)

3-0 out of 5 stars humorous sci fi...
It has this crazy half-superman anti-hero.
Sterling is good at throwing out literary names and facts
I've never heard of.
1)Pelevin( Russian author) wrote Omon Ra and The Yellow Arrow
2)Turkish cabaret music
3)America is basically nine different cultural regions
The bookis humorous but somehow too negative.
It is basically a satire on made for pop groups.
Bruce Sterling is sort of a cyberpunk James Barrie.
I think it it is his lack of integrity that bothers me most?

5-0 out of 5 stars My personal favorite Bruce book - not your best intro to him tho
For anyone new to Bruce, you should know that many readers, myself included, think most highly of Bruce's short stories, at least as much as the full novels. I myself couldn't have had a better introduction to him than "Hollywood Kremlin," where Bruce first began the misadventures of modern-day picaroon, Leggy Starlitz.

This late novel, "Zeitgeist," is a continuation of the series of short stories which began with "Hollywood Kremlin," and developed through 3 or 4 others now found in the collections, "Crystal Express," "Globalhead," and "A Good Old-Fashioned Future," in that order. And so if you are new to Bruce Sterling, those are the books I would recommend, rather than this one. Bruce has displayed an extremely sharp wit over the years I have been reading him, and his short stories demonstrate this best, perhaps.You also need to read the earlier Leggy Starlitz episodes to be able to get your bearings in this novel.Me, I would love to see all the Leggy stories gathered together in one publication.

Among many clever, outrageous remarks Bruce has made over the years, I remember reading that nobody has anything useful to contribute after they are 40 (rough paraphrase, sorry.) If I remember correctly, Bruce turned 40 right around this book's publication. So as well as all that everybody else has said, I might add that the book appears to be about Bruce. There has always been a little of himself in Leggy Starlitz.

Bruce is seeking his own transformation as well as that of the world around him. He has reached the age he predicted he will no longer be relevant, yet now approaches the age where a writer should be "coming into his own." Where now? That is the question Bruce is faced with -- or the "People" magazine version of the question: Is there life after 40, Bruce?The end of this story puts me in the mind of the "Schismatrix" story or stories, in a number of ways.The characters all seek to transcend their own limitations and mortality, and one presumes become better people as well.But does "better" mean the same thing to a butterfly as it does to a caterpillar?

I believe the final transformation of Leggy in the end, this represents the challenge we are faced with as modern, post-modern, whatever ... human beings. Can we open our minds and our hearts, or do we continue on with the shallow 20th Century agenda? Or will the question be answered for us soon anyway? Me, I'm putting my ZZ Topp records up for sale right now!

On a side note, several of the reviewers here outdo themselves in demonstrating how far they excel beyond Bruce in semiotics, epistimology, structuralism this and that.Bruce has always attracted such wannabees, and probably always will. He is not so different from them, after all.For me, to say that the writing is no longer intellectual cutting-edge has little to do with whether what Bruce has to say is valid, or more to the point, entertaining.Some reviewers seem to differ on that point.

So if you want Good Bruce Sterling and are unfamiliar with his writing, look elsewhere; my recommendation: "Crystal Express."But I doubt anybody that has read a book of his wouldn't find a laugh or two here.But prerequisite are "Hollywood Kremlin," "Are you for 86?" and "The Littlest Jackal," available in short story collections elsewhere.

4-0 out of 5 stars Less of a story, more of an essay
Zeitgeist is an absolutely fascinating book. But let's face it, Sterling doesn't have half as much interest in the plot as he does in making observations of the modern world. This is pop culture, mass consumerism and culture war wrapped up in a brilliant package, but it seems a lot less like a novel than it does a series of modernistic philisophical conversations.

4-0 out of 5 stars A very good "What is Reality?" book
Not necessarily one of my favorite books, this one has enough "alien elements" to it to, as another reviewer said, to join the sci-fi ranks, such as the Old Masters who gave us "Rendezvous with Rama", "Childhood's End", "I,Robot", "Ringworld", "Foundation", as well as cyberpunk books like "Mona Lisa Overdrive", "Neuromancer", "Snow Crash", "Cryptonomicon", and "Cyber Hunter".

3-0 out of 5 stars "The Spirit of the Times"
I totally have no idea that what I have in my hand is actually a sci-fi novel until I get right in the middle of it, because it was one of the rare occasions I never read the spine as it is indicated there. I also have no idea that the lead charachter Leggy Starlitz is actually the authors vehicle to several other stories of his.

The story filled with political intrigue amidst the backdrop of fictional scenarios, turned to centralize its storyline with the lead charachter when the said charachter was subjected to take care of his telekenetic daughter who appeared halfway on the book.
The novel have a thing about Princess Diana's death, a parody of the Spice Girls, mentioning Osama Bin Laden way before the 9-11 attacks... although the book may not hold your attention for all of the time while you try to read right through it - its quite an ambitious fine novel set in a sort of a parallel universe to the one where we are.

In the meantime, im still a pair of chapters short to finish it as I type away right here... ... Read more

8. Black Swan
by Bruce Sterling
Kindle Edition: Pages (2010-09-08)
list price: US$3.85
Asin: B0042G0RRY
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
2010 Sidewise Award Nominee Best Short-Form Alternate History

«The ethical journalist protects a confidential source. So I protected “Massimo Montaldo,” although I knew that wasn’t his name.

Each time I’d made use of Massimo’s indiscretions, the traffic to my weblog had doubled.

There were eight “Massimo Montaldos” on Google and none of them were him. Massimo flew in from places unknown, he laid his eggs of golden information, then he paddled off into dark waters. I was protecting him by giving him those favors. Surely there were other people very curious about him, besides myself.»

The novelette "Black Swan" was originally published in Interzone, Issue 221.

From the Suite 101 review:

«Bruce Sterling's "Black Swan" opens in an Italian cafe with a journalist meeting his source, an edgy individual who has on several occasions passed the journalist new designs in computer-tech which seem to have come from nowhere. From there the story takes off in entirely unexpected directions, covering Nicola Sarkozy and parallel universes. What gives the story added poignancy is the sense that as our own possible futures close off one by one with the effects of climate change, depletion of fossil fuels and the lack of viable successors, Sterling opens a dizzying vista of alternate possibilities.»

... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars A trippy exploration of alternate realities, with some appearances by Nicolas Sarkozy
A thought provoking novella exploring alternate histories and realities.Definitely the kind of story you have to read more than once to get its full impact.

4-0 out of 5 stars A SF short story about us
"Black Swan" is yet another story about parallel universes. So the good part of it isn't the weird travel between alternate realities, which has already been (and better) exploited lots of times in SF literature.
The fun and interesting of this novel comes from the divertissement Sterling builds up adding people and historical turning points to the different worlds he writes about. More, Sterling is one of those authors who use fiction to report their sociological thoughts without any need to add any scientific proof to support them.

3-0 out of 5 stars Do not read previous review.
This SHORT story is more proof that Sterling is one of the better writers of this time and genre. the story was compelling and interstimg. It left me wanting more.

I was let down by my fellow reader that gave this story a 1 star. Not because the story was bad, prose unreadable or other countless reasons. They chose to rate it one star because they felt they were over charged for a short story. Poor form my fellow reader, should have kept your dismay between Amazon and yourself. Instead you took it out upon the writer and his peice of work. You my friend should be banned from using the internets.

1-0 out of 5 stars DONT BUY ITS A SHORT STORY
Nice story, but only a short story.Got my money back from Amazon.No where does it say it's a short story.I was suspicious, so I looked hard for a number of pages, or anything to give me a clue.Nothing was there so I took a flier.

I hope that Amazon gets much better at listing books.First, I want to know when the original printing of a book is, not the nth version date, and second I need to know what I'm buying, as a type.This was advertised as a book and it just isn't. ... Read more

9. Islands in the Net
by Bruce Sterling
 Paperback: Pages (1994)

Asin: B0018XS34S
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars With respect to the other reviewers...
...I found value in this work by Sterling. I don't remember a whit of the plot machinations or the characters ten years after reading it. I do remember, however, the author's gift for thoughtfulness about the mechanisms of the future--the "sunglasses" in particular are something I think about often, being used to confer with "board members" all over the globe.

I think Islands in the Net is a valuable read in that the author put a lot of thought into the technology itself of his "future." It's regretful that the book itself is turgid, but an awful lot of cyberpunk at the time was plot- or "feeling"- heavy, with the technology needed by the plot just "there," and little thought given to how and if it would work and be used.

This book was very interesting at the time I originally read it if you were thinking about how to build the future, and what to build and how it could actually be used in practical fashion, rather than say, the kevlar dusters and mirrorshades.

3-0 out of 5 stars I'm really surprised at this book.
I have read most of Sterlings other works of fiction and loved all them (The Difference Engine, Heavy Weather, Global Head, Holy Fire, Good old fashioned future, Zeitgeist).

This book surprised me. The title has nothing to do with the book. I had to force myself to read the whole thing and I only did that because it was hard to get (I know now why was out of print).

The main character, Laura, and those that surround her are probably the most annoyingly self-righteous cast of characters I've seen. They live in the future, think they know everything, have genetic engineering, yet they still do natural child birth. The criminal element in this book is way more interesting and believable.

I re-read my favorite science fiction when I either see it on my self and forget what it was about or every couple of years. Islands in the net is a laborous read that I wouldn't repeat.

2-0 out of 5 stars Boring
The headline isn't entirely fair as the last third of the book gets pretty good. Sadly most of the book just drags along with characters that you don't like, political philosophies that should have died with Communism and a worldview firmly rooted in the 80s.

Maybe it's just because I've read Bruce Sterling short stories and I know that he can write. Maybe it's because I've read Neal Stephenson and compared to Snowcrash, other books in the cyberpunk genre are plodding. But mostly it's just not a very good book.

Set in the 2030 this book concerns a democratic corporation and the information pirates that it's trying to bring to heel. Instead of focusing on the pirates, as Gibson would do, this book concerns itself with the corporate types that are trying to figure out what's going on in the assassinations.

The world set-up in this opening is dull. Most of the characters are talking heads to spout philosophical mumbo-jumbo. A church of goddess worshipping prostitutes was probably innovative in its time but Starhawk's fifteen minutes are up, and paganism has moved away from the hippie garbage finally.

Halfway through the book it becomes a travelogue of the various places in this world. Here's where it begins to get good. Zelazny compares it to Candide. Sadly it's nowhere near as funny as Candide- which could be the fault of the main character whose nowhere near as innocent or cynical as she would need to be to pull off a Candide. Instead she's simply morally outraged.

When the book gets to Africa it begins to pick up, but then the protagonist is rescued by a Noam Chomsky type reporter whose running a guerrila army. This is where the book again falls flat on its face - by presupposing that Noam Chomsky would actually be able to run a workable system - rather than criticize the unworkabiility of current systems.

There are moments, but mostly this book is a lifeless remnant of the cyberpunk explosion.

5-0 out of 5 stars Incredibly underrated, though not for everyone
This is one of the gutsiest SF novels I know of. Bruce Sterling has set his novel in one of the most incredibly detailed, well thought out futures ever developed. He's thought about his world geopolitically, economically, ideologically, and on a host of other levels, including how people live on a day to day basis. His people have internalized genuinely different ideas because of the world that has shaped them. In this sense it is most like some of the best Heinlein novels.

The world Sterling creates alone would make this worthwhile reading, but his characterization is strong and unconventional, and he tells an extremely interesting story that travels all over the world. This isn't really a fast-paced pageturner, and it isn't immersed in hard-science details about how things work in the future--it's more like real life for most of us, where technology is part of the background, and just works. So if those are the kinds of things you value in a SF novel, this may not be your book. But the traditional virtues of plot, characterization, and setting make this an outstanding novel.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not Sterling's Best
Having read and liked The Difference Engine, I wanted to try something else by Sterling (writing solo). While I didn't find the book to be as bad as some earlier reviewers, I do have to say sheer stubbornness is what got me to the end. This book, by the way, is not cyberpunk or even science fiction, it is more political thriller ficton or whatever.In spite of the title, the few oblique references to the "Net" in the book seem to refer generally to modern communication technology including television and the phone. I was pretty bored until the main character got out of Texas, and even though you want to care about her, there is nothing about her that really grabs you. Some of the minor characters are a lot more interesting. Some intriguing socio-political ideas are hazily touched on, but this was NOT one of those books that are hard to put down, which may help explain why it is out of print as of this writing. ... Read more

10. Visionary in Residence: Stories
by Bruce Sterling
Kindle Edition: 320 Pages (2006-02-08)
list price: US$15.95
Asin: B001UE6O96
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
"I'm a science fiction writer. This is a golden opportunity to get up to most any mischief imaginable. With this fourth collection of my stories, I'm going to prove this to you."

With these words, Bruce Sterling—author of New York times Notable Books of the Year and one of the great names in contemporary fiction—introduces his latest collection of thirteen tales. If you're familiar with his cyberpunk creations you won't be disappointed, but these stories range far beyond the limits of future technology. Visionary in Residence takes the reader to places never imagined and certainly where no one has ever been. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars Maybe his best collection yet.
I've grown quite tired of Sterling's novels.With the exception of the "Schismatrix" material (with I think is his masterpiece), his long-form fiction often degenerates into rambling narrative, inconsistent characters, and non-endings.

But his short-story material is wonderful.I can't think of another writer who is so consitently imaginative, entertaining, funny, and insightful.I've enjoyed all of his collections, and none more than this.

3-0 out of 5 stars some interesting stories but won't drag you back for more.
This collection of short stories was somewhat disappointing.
For the most part the stories do have interesting plot points or interesting premises highlighting just how out of the box Sterling can be sometimes. However the stories generally seem to run out of steam near the end and often come up feeling somewhat contrived or rushed.
The standout exception is "luciferase" which is *so* different that it deserves a read.
Overall a good light read but it probably won't drag you back for a 2nd look.

2-0 out of 5 stars Very hit or miss
"Visionary in Residence" (modest to a fault, Bruce is) is a real mixed bag. There are two or three nifty stories here, and a bunch of forgettable stuff.

Sterling seems to be writing fiction out of some sense of obligation these days, not out of a love of it. His old stuff is often great, but anymore he obviously enjoys his Wired columns, his many (many) tech conference keynotes, and his pure design criticism (like the excellent Shaping Things) way more. It's almost like he's writing these short stories in order to keep his SF Writer's Club membership card active or something.

3-0 out of 5 stars Extropian Infodump
Bruce Sterling is a brilliant futurist whose novels have defined cyberpunk, and have propelled science fiction into new ultra-scientific realms. However, his short stories are more varied but less groundbreaking, as can be seen in this rather uneven collection. The main problem is that several of the short stories herein were created for very specific niche publications, and some show signs of being subjected to space constraints or heavy-handed editing. For example, "Homo Sapiens Declared Extinct," "Ivory Tower," and "Message Found in a Bottle" are just too short to provide anything other than simplistic attempts at big statements on social problems. A couple of other stories here, "In Paradise" and "Code," offer up much more interesting stories and settings, only to end very abruptly with absolutely no conclusions for the characters or thematic ideas. Fortunately, the longer submissions here will be real treats to Sterling fans, and save the collection from oblivion. "The Blemmye's Strategem" is a winning piece of supernatural historical fiction that is quite outside Sterling's usual subject matter. Meanwhile, Sterling continues his futurist innovations in the adventurous "The Scab's Progress," co-written by Paul Di Filippo; and especially "Junk DNA," co-written by the bodaciously creative Rudy Rucker. Those longer and better-constructed stories save this collection and make it a worthy addition to Sterling's body of work. But most of the briefer submissions are barely memorable. [~doomsdayer520~]

3-0 out of 5 stars Not as "visionary" as one would wish
Bruce is one of those authors I always approach hesitantly. When he's good, he's very good, but when he's not, he's . . . well, not terrible, but certainly uninteresting. That goes for both his novels and his short stories. As I've noted elsewhere, he's a kick to listen to in person at a con, but his ideas and enthusiasms and social concerns don't always translate well into print. This collection of thirteen stories which first appeared in the past five or six years is divided thematically -- "Fiction for Scientists," "Design Fiction," "Architecture Fiction," etc. And there are several here that are great fun: "In Paradise" (love by means of real-time language translation in your cell phone), "Code" (boy-nerd meets girl-nerd), "The Necropolis of Thebes" (a very thoughtful look at "the old days" -- really old), and "The Denial" (actually a ghost story set in Ottoman times). One of the best, under the heading of "Ribofunk," is "Junk DNA," written with Rudy Rucker, which is about a high-tech start-up built around genomics instead of software; it's damaged, though, by the rather silly ending which makes me think Bruce simply got tired of writing it. The least-readable story, as it happens, is also about biotech -- "The Scab's Progress," with Paul Di Filippo, which made almost no sense at all to me. Also, if the author would just learn to write endings for his stories instead of just stopping his typing, I wouldn't have to keep turning the page, wondering if the rest of the story had been omitted. ... Read more

11. The Hacker Crackdown
by Bruce Sterling
 Hardcover: 328 Pages (1992-10-01)
list price: US$23.00 -- used & new: US$3.70
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 055308058X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
An investigation into the rising tide of electronic crimes probes into the issues and personalities on both sides of the law who are involved in wire fraud, 800-number abuse, and computer break-ins that threaten national security. 50,000 first printing.Amazon.com Review
Bruce Sterling's classic work highlights the 1990 assault onhackers, when law-enforcement officials successfully arrested scoresof suspected illicit hackers and other computer-based law-breakers.These raids became symbolic of the debate between fighting seriouscomputer crime and protecting civil liberties. However, The HackerCrackdown is about far more than a series of police stingoperations. It's a lively tour of three cyberspace subcultures--thehacker underworld, the realm of the cybercops, and the idealisticculture of the cybercivil libertarians.

Sterling begins his storyat the birth of cyberspace: the invention of the telephone. We meetthe first hackers--teenage boys hired as telephone operators--who usedtheir technical mastery, low threshold for boredom, and love of pranksto wreak havoc across the phone lines. From phone-related hi-jinks,Sterling takes us into the broader world of hacking and introducesmany of the culprits--some who are fighting for a cause, some who arein it for kicks, and some who are traditional criminals after a fastbuck. Sterling then details the triumphs and frustrations of thepeople forced to deal with the illicit hackers and tells how theydeveloped their own subculture as cybercops. Sterling raises theethical and legal issues of online law enforcement by questioning whatrights are given to suspects and to those who have private e-mailstored on suspects' computers. Additionally, Sterling shows how theonline civil liberties movement rose from seemingly unlikely places,such as the counterculture surrounding the Grateful Dead. TheHacker Crackdown informs you of the issues surrounding computercrime and the people on all sides of those issues. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (43)

4-0 out of 5 stars Still interesting today
While being quite old, this book can still be an interesting read today if you are interested in the early days of the Hacker movement as we know it today or have fond memories of the time yourself. Sterling tries to give us the complete picture, from the Hacker underground, over the Telcos and law enforcement to the back then newly founded EFF and other electronic civil libertarians. If you have ever read an issue of Phrack or 2600, spent countless hours on old-school BBS's or still remember the internet before the world wide web became popular, this will also be a fun trip down memory lane.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the best historical "hacker scene" accounts
Bruce Sterling's book The Hacker Crackdown (THC) captures the spirit and history of the "hacker scene" in the late 1980s and early 1990s.Having lived through that period with my C-64 and first 386 PC, I thought the author accurately describes what it was like for computer users during that era.THC is one of my favorite books on hacker activity because it combines a narrative with the author's accounts of interactions with key individuals.THC expertly tells several stories from multiple perspectives -- hacker, law enforcement, security professional, telecom operator, even homeless man-on-the-street!The author also manages to not offend technically-minded readers while describing material for non-technical audiences.

I found the last line of the book to be especially prescient: "It is the End of the Amateurs."This statement applies to offensive as well as defensive players in digital security.Consider the focus of THC: the hunt by law enforcement officials for, essentially, bit players in the digital underground.The offenders were basically joyriders (who no doubt caused plenty of headaches for security professionals) who didn't materially profit from their actions.The offenders also did not serve foreign masters for purposes of espionage.On the other side, many of the defenders were only discovering digital crime and pioneering incident response tradecraft in the heat of battle.In brief, THC is about amateur offenders vs amateur defenders.For the last five to ten years, digital security has been almost strictly a matter of professional offenders (criminal and state-sponsored) vs professional defenders (corporate, military, and improved law enforcement).

The bottom line is that anyone involved with digital security will enjoy reading The Hacker Crackdown.

4-0 out of 5 stars good story
its a great book at first its a little boring but after passing chapter2 its starts to get alot faster and better,i picked it up because iv been a computer geek since i was 8 and literature like this is good to know.must buy,plus it has a cool looking cover

4-0 out of 5 stars Good book
This is a good book. I took it to mexico with me and read it on the beach.

5-0 out of 5 stars Essential reading on computers, freedom and privacy.
Bruce Sterling of Cyberpunk fame takes a journalistic approach to researching law and disorder on the electronic frontier by examining two specific events in depth : the 1990 Operation Sundevil, a concerted nationwide effortby district attorneys, the Secret Service, the FBI, local authorities and various Telco security to bust and publicize a hacker crackdown; and the resulting trials and creation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and rise of the civil libertarians.

The book is divided into four parts: crashing the system, the digital underground, law and order, and the Civil Libertarians. Mr. Sterling does a credible job explaining the telco systems and motivations and actions of the people on both sides of the issue - phone phreaks/hackers and law enforcement/district attorneys without succumbing to a lot of jargon or taking sides.

The book is replete with interesting accounts of Alexander Graham Bell and history of telephony, the origins of the Secret Service and its' early battles with "Boodlers", and the dissemination of the E911 document that came to cause grief to many people.

Reading this in 2006 and beyond will cause a few chuckles at his penchant for describing and drooling over advance systems (I have a real urge to drive down to the storage unit for my Commodore 64 and IBM clone), yet the events of the early hacker sub-culture remain relevant to anyone interested in computers, freedom and privacy. ... Read more

12. The Difference Engine (Spectra special editions)
by William Gibson
Mass Market Paperback: 429 Pages (1992-01-01)
list price: US$7.99 -- used & new: US$4.15
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 055329461X
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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With the computer age arriving a century ahead of its time--during the Industrial Revolution--politician's daughter Sybil, explorer and paleontologist Edward, and diplomat and spy Laurence race toward a rendezvous with history. Reprint. NYT.Amazon.com Review
A collaborative novel from the premier cyberpunk authors,William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.Part detective story, parthistorical thriller, The Difference Engine takes us not forwardbut back, to an imagined 1885: the Industrial Revolution is in fulland inexorable swing, powered by steam-driven, cybernetic engines.Charles Babbage perfects his Analytical Engine, and the computer agearrives a century ahead of its time. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (109)

5-0 out of 5 stars I was truly shocked...
...at the 2.7 average review this book received!So shocked, I first thought that maybe the rating had something to do with this (Spectra) edition!Or that I clicked the wrong link!I checked that I clicked the right link.I did.

Well, I liked this book a lot.I love books that make me think, or encourage me to learn more about things I may not be familiar with - this book had both qualities.

This is the process I used to really get into this book:

1.Read it first to get the story.
2.Looked up people, terms, events I was not familiar with.(I learned a lot! - Google "The Difference Dictionary" for a great one-stop resource that not only summarizes aspects of the real people, places and events of the book, but provides links for more in-depth study.)
3.Read the book again with my new-found knowledge that allowed me to appreciate the book more thoroughly.

I think "The Difference Engine" is a wonderful re-imagining of the people and places of Victorian-Era London.I feel that Mallory was the most well-developed character and I read his section (during my first reading) as fast as I could to find out what happened to him.I was literally reading "The Difference Engine" non-stop during a weekend.

Reading through slowly a second time, I noticed subtle things I missed the first time.Like how certain people who seemed to disappear, were in fact acting behind the scenes (Sybil, for instance).I was still left with questions at the end of my reading to ponder, and to me, books that leave me pondering are the best!

I do wonder about the purpose of the long sex scene, but I think that while Mallory was... occupied, and Fraser was recovering, and the police were dealing with the factories, these things together allowed London to become total chaos.Maybe Mallory needed a break from his grim reality...

I would recommend this book to lovers of all things Victorian, those who enjoy mysteries and intrigue, and to those who don't mind endings that can be a bit ambiguous, leaving the reader thinking.

I do not recommend this book to those who would dislike researching people, places, and events portrayed in a novel, or who need every loose end tied up in an obvious fashion.

3-0 out of 5 stars It is exactly what average rating says it is
A friend of mine recommended this book and I bought it despite mediocre average rating based on reviews. Well, it is exactly what you see on the average rating, a solid 3 star work which spans 420 pages. Absolutely no character development, and to tell the truth I can't really understand the idea of the whole book, for the cunning authors are too pseudo-smart to be understood, taking the steampunk shooting adventures aside and how-does-it-help-the-story treasures like page 228 'Then, with a crooked smile, she slid out of bed, and squatted by its side, hoisting the chemise to her waist. "That champagne runs right through you, don't it? Don't look unless you want to." Mallory looked aside politely and listend to the rattle of piss'.

After reading all the way through 420 pages I really feel tricked and would like to get my time back from the authors... alas that is not possible. On the other hand, I already suspected exactly that sort of quality by 1/4th of the book and should have stopped then.

3-0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I thought I'd love this book. I really did. I mean, it's a classic of steampunk literature and alternate history! But, I didn't.

Except for a pretty good beginning, the plot moves slowly and a bit disjointedly. There are a couple of exceptions, but most of the characters are unengaging and uninteresting. The conclusion is so vague that I had to read it twice before I figured out what the 400+ pages had been leading to.

There are exciting bits, and I enjoyed the use of historical characters who have followed very different paths from what they did in real history. The description- the sights, sounds, smells- is such that one feels that one is really *there*. But the novel is as much- perhaps more- a political one as a fantasy one. The class riots are given as much attention as the main plot, leading one to wonder at the end if this were two books mashed together. Perhaps the two authors didn't quite agree where the plot should go, and this is the result. I feel a firm editor would have shaped this book up into a stunner, but instead it rather wanders.

1-0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably BORING!!!
The plot takes forever to develop. Characters not at all interesting. Endless English drivel. One saving grace - I would read about 20 pages each night when I had trouble falling asleep. Problem solved. I did throw this book in the trash about 200 pages in.

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Alternate History Novel
This book is both entertaining and informative. Many, if not all, of the main characters are historical figures whose life paths have been altered by the authors to fit into their plausible alternate history universe.The plotting is brisk, the characters straight forward but interesting, and there are tidbits of fun facts sprinkled throughout (the etymology of vitriol, for example). In short, if you are a fan of William Gibson (I have not read any other book by Bruce Sterling), and plausible alternate histories, you will not be disappointed by this book. ... Read more

13. The Parthenopean Scalpel
by Bruce Sterling
Kindle Edition: Pages (2010-09-27)
list price: US$3.85
Asin: B0044XV1XE
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«I love both her and them. I have come to understand that she is what they are.A woman accepts a man, expecting that he will change.A man takes a woman, expecting that she will never change.They are both disappointed.Yet within this very disappointment is the primal source of all new men and all new women.»

An unpublished novelette

«No one within the castle had ever been able to overcome the severe grammatical problems associated with Ida. Sometimes she was “she,” sometimes they were “they”. There werefurther problems with the singular form, the plural form, the feminine plural possessives, the feminine singular and plural pronoun declensions, and so forth.
Even when I came to know Ida, Clemenza, Vittoria, particularly well, so much so that I used affectionate diminutives for her, and the intimate familiar form rather than any formal honorifics, I used to stumble over the simplest Italian sentences: “You” (singular) come embrace me,” or “You (plural) please give me a kiss.”» ... Read more

14. The Artificial Kid (Context (San Francisco).)
by Bruce Sterling
Paperback: 309 Pages (1997-08)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$23.51
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 188886916X
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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The ultra-rich satellite-dwellers orbiting the planet Reverie love to tune in to the televised exploits of the world's best professional combat artist, The Artificial Kid. But when an enemy discovers a secret from The Kid's murky past, The Kid must face the fiercest battle of his life, placing the fate of the entire planet in his hands. First published in 1980.Amazon.com Review
The entertainment industry rules on the planet Reverie, aworld founded by Moses Moses as an experiment in corporatelycontrolled equality. Instead, the experiment has caused Reverie tomutate into a landscape of decadence and class separation. Miles abovethe surface, the ultra-wealthy live in orbital homes, watching thesurface citizens' home-produced videos of sex and extremeviolence. The title character of The Artificial Kid, Arti, isthe most popular of the Combat Artists. These futuristic mirrors ofprofessional wrestlers or American Gladiators confront each other insuperhero-esque battles (although the Combat Artists' contests arereal) within a complex system of honor, ritual, and conduct. Arti hasreached the height of his fame--equally loved by his fans and friendsand despised by his competitors. However, he is not entirely who heseems to be, and when the planetary founder mysteriously returns, TheArtificial Kid finds himself embroiled in a battle for power that'snot ready for prime time. Bruce Sterling, best known for hisnonfiction work, The Hacker Crackdown, and the classiccyberthriller, Islands in the Net, presents a seminal, vivid,and turbulent future in The Artificial Kid. The ArtificialKid is a work of satirical social commentary with the breakneckpace of a Hong Kong action film. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

3-0 out of 5 stars Not Free SF Reader
A wealthy man indulges in a sociological experiment, but creating his
own personal corporate society. The incredibly wealthy live above the
planet, those not so, on it.

The media is king, and a reality violence show is the main
attraction. This is sport by way of Rollerball and The Running Man, and
the best protagonist of this mayhem is The Artificial Kid.

4-0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, Delightful Early Bruce Sterling Novel
With "The Artifical Kid", a young Bruce Sterling demonstrated his excellence in writing comedic novels, to which he would return much later, in full force, in novels like "Holy Fire" and "The Zenith Angle", among others. While his second novel isn't nearly as polished as his later classic "Schisimatrix", it does explore in embroyonic form, some of the same issues of identity and what it means to be human, that he did quite remarkably well in his mid 1980s work. I couldn't help but laugh as I worked my way through the pages of Sterling's early novel, observing that it's nearly as funny as some of Harlan Ellison's best satirical short fiction. For anyone who wishes to understand Sterling's development as a leading member of the cyberpunk literary movement, then this early novel of his is required reading.

2-0 out of 5 stars Good idea poorly executed
I'm a complete geek and avid reader of hard sci-fi.I like Neuromancer from William Gibson, Snow Crash and Diamond Age from Neal Stephenson, and Diaspora and just about everything else from Greg Egan.

But I can't recommend "Artificial Kid" by Bruce Sterling.The ideas behind the story are good.His descriptions are visibly good, but it reads neither like a good story, nor like a tech manual.

The problem isn't isolated to this book either."Difference Engine" also reads slowly.I can't even pinpoint exactly what it is, other than Bruce Sterling's writings are VERY slow to read and hard to stay focussed on the story.It's almost as if the acting is poor.Dialog, inner and outer, just seems adolescent.

5-0 out of 5 stars It's the Def, Bruce!
The only problem I had with this book is that the exclamation of "Death!" and/or "Thank Death!" was not slurred as in "That's the Def, man!" which is a common slang term heard on New York City playgrounds.

Other than that, I was gripping the pages wide-eyed in fear for my life at whatever was going to happen next. For real.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not bad, entertaining
The Artificial Kid was a fairly short but fun read.The Kid himself is agreat character and his friends were all pretty original as well.For thefirst few chapters it looks like it might be a highly entertainingadventure.After that it gets sort of bogged down and takes a newdirection, but on the whole I found it worth the effort.I liked thevarious warring clans, the individual combatants, the follicle mites andthe whole concept of televised (or the equivalent) combat art.

Things Ididn't like about the book (don't worry, nothing really revealing here):the Flying Island, Crossbow and the Chairman's transformation, a climax youwouldn't exactly call exciting.Also, the Crossbow Body was a pretty shakyand only vaguely accounted-for concept. ... Read more

15. Tomorrow Now : Envisioning the Next Fifty Years
by Bruce Sterling
 Unknown Binding: Pages (2002-01-01)

Asin: B003L1X58Y
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (17)

3-0 out of 5 stars provocative at times
Tomorrow Now is a bit dated already, which might be surprising considering that it claims to envision the next 50 years. He claims that Biotech will be important, but this should not surprise anyone. Roger Revelle told me the same thing in 1980.
Sterling predicts our extinction. Predicting apocalypse is not hard. People have always done so, although the means has changed. In the '60's it was air pollution that was going to kill us, and now the air in L.A. is very much improved. What is more interesting and profitable is to discuss the means of getting out of this mess.

This is an ok read, as it will make you think, but it is not as great as some of the reviewers make it sound.

5-0 out of 5 stars Amazing!
Tomorrow Now is essentially a long and brilliant essay by Bruce Sterling, a noted science fiction writer and futurist covering some of his ideas of what the future may hold. Sterling very cleverly breaks the book into seven parts based upon a soliloquoy from Shakespeare covering the ages of man from birth to death, and wittily prophesies what life may shape itself into in our near future.

Two things struck me about this book. The first is that it is not nearly as focused on the next fifty years as the title purports. There is a fair deal of what the future may hold, but there is also a great deal of the present thrown in (especially in the soldier section), and some futurism that is more than 50 years out. Surprisingly this didn't bother me at all because his analysis of the present, especially an exposition on three different terrorists warlords, was fascinating, absolutely fascinating. This book ranges far and wide, and colors outside the lines of the 50 years stated, but I was glad it did as I read.

The second thing that struck me was that this is one of the most amazingly well-written books I've ever read. I am not sure I have ever read something as engaging, fascinating, informative and so easy to read at the same time. I have always enjoyed Sterling's fiction work but, frankly, the quality of this non-fiction book trumps his fictional stories. His writing style is very chatty, more or less as if you are sitting across the table from him, and at first this threw me. It's not something you expect in a science book. Yet once I adjusted I realized that this may be one of the clearest pieces of writing I have ever had the pleasure to read. When I say "pleasure to read" I actually mean it. That is a phrase far too over-used, but in choosing it I mean it literally: reading the words was a pleasure regardless of what he was talking about. His sentence construction and word choices were simply pleasurable to read in and of themself, and I have never seen adjectives used so well to create shades and nuances of meaning before.

Much of the speculation for the future involves biotechnology, changes in workplace dynamics, and what we actually produce, the change of market dynamics, consumerism to end-user, medical advances, and the rift between the New World Order (the first world) and the New World Disorder (the third world). If I had one reservation about this book it is that Sterling promised to show why the Islamic terrorism today will be irrelevant in the future. I don't think he ever really did that; he set the stage for it, and provided the backstory necessary to see the writing on the wall, but he never came out and posited why. I agree with him that the terrorism is not a long-term problem but it would have been nice to see him forcefully make that conclusion. That one quibble aside, this is a book that anyone who cares about current events, the future, or science will find compelling, interesting, and incredibly easy to understand and follow. This is a first class work and I highly recommend it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Recommended reading to understand the right questions
This is entertaining, informative, funny, and grim at the same time.A bittersweet look at the future.

When you look at the reviews, just remember that republicans will hate this book because they have a belief system impervious to the reality happening outside of their heads.They alone have the power to be right and rightness is affirmed by belief!They read Fred Barnes and John Stossel for whats really going on because they're closed and finite.Ambiguity is kryptonite to republicans.

Read this book to find out more about the small print at the bottom of the social contract.There is no threat of a New World Order.There is a New World Disorder that is already here and devolving.Order is not on the horizon anywhere except in one's own chosen orthodoxy.

4-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Futurist Architecture Built on Weak Foundations
Bruce Sterling is, without doubt, a brilliant futurist. In "Tomorrow Now", he serves up a feast of clever andentertaining prognostications about humanity's near future. But reader beware! The book is like a gleaming, new building whose stunning design, lavish decoration and gleaming contours can blind observers to many small architectural flaws and the crucial fact that it's built on shaky foundations.

To take one example, Sterling tells us in one paragraph that a "cruise missile ... is just a rich guy's truck bomb". But in the very next paragraph he emphasizes that there are in fact huge differences between cruise missiles and truck bombs that go far beyond the class background of their users. Cruise missiles are produced and deployed by complex, industrially advanced societies, while truck bombs are used by terrorists who operate beyond the ken of settled governments and civilized society.

Another, more serious example of some of the less-than-deep thinking that went into this book is its overall organizational gimmick, which is based on the "Seven Ages of Man" so poetically described by Shakespeare and Marlowe. Sterling emhasizes the chronological aspect of these "Ages" by labelling his chapters as stages. Stage 1 is the Infant, Stage 2 is the Student, and so on. He uses these stages as conceptual launching pads for fascinating riffs on a variety of subjects related to 21st century technology, culture and politics. In the chapter on the Infant, for instance, he writes at length about future bioengineering not just for babies but also adults and what this will mean for huminaty as a whole. In "Stage 4: The Soldier" he speculates on the nature of future warfare. Thus, Sterling is really often talking about cross-cutting themes rather that chronological ages, which is more than a little confusing. Why he did this, except that it is so cool to quote from Shakespeare, escapes me.

A final example of Sterling's inconsistency is the subtitle of the book itself: "Envisioning the Next 50 Years". In fact, he often describes trends from the late 21st century, which puts us more than 50 years ahead. So why didn't he just call the book "Envisioning the 21st Century"? Search me.

This is a great book, but Sterling's slickness can't completely compensate for these weaknesses. Cool soundbytes, technological virtuosity, cute wordplay and even large dollops of honest-to-God weighty insight are not enough to make up for some rather shoddy underlying illogic and conceptual weaknesses.

2-0 out of 5 stars Not very good...
Not very good...tries to examine the social and institutional trends, but goes into much self-serving prose. ... Read more

16. Heavy Weather
by Bruce Sterling
 Paperback: 320 Pages (1995-12-01)
list price: US$6.99 -- used & new: US$2.55
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 055357292X
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Bruce Sterling, one of the founding fathers of the cyberpunk genre, now presents a novel of vivid imagination and invention that proves his talent for creating brilliant speculative fiction is sharper than ever. Forty years from now, Earth's climate has been drastically changed by the greenhouse effect.Tornadoes of almost unimaginable force roam the open spaces of Texas.And on their trail are the Storm Troupers: a ragtag band of computer experts and atmospheric scientists who live to hack heavy weather -- to document it and spread the information as far as the digital networks will stretch, using virtual reality to explore the eye of the storm.Although it's incredibly addictive, this is no game.The Troupers' computer models suggest that soon an "F-6" will strike -- a tornado of an intensity that exceeds any existing scale; a storm so devastating that it may never stop.And they're going to be there when all hell breaks loose.Amazon.com Review
Why hack computers when you can hack nature? Sterling'sStorm Troupe lives in a post-greenhouse world ravaged by monster stormsand finds itself hacking the ultimate storm: the F-6 tornado. No onein the Troupe,not even it's brilliant, driven leader, guesses the real nature of theF-6 or the shadowy forces unleashed in its twisting fury. Not until itis too late... ... Read more

Customer Reviews (34)

4-0 out of 5 stars A harrowing visit to Tornado Alley
The year is 2030, and the world is in a state of political, economic, social and environmental chaos.Things have literally fallen apart.Everything is for sale, and life is cheap.

Some choose to retreat into hacking or drugs, or sit in front of the television absorbing manipulated news and information.Others, like Dr. Jerry Mulcahey, lose themselves in the pursuit of knowledge.Mulcahey, who has dedicated his life to the study of weather, is chasing the ultimate storm--the F-6 tornado.If his theories are correct, an F-6 would contain enough energy to make an atomic bomb look like a firecracker.

Assisting him in his work is a rag-tag group of disciples, collectively known as The Storm Troupe.Together, they watch the skies over America's Tornado Alley, waiting for the cataclysm to take shape.The Troupe itself is watched by weather groupies and opportunists, and by members of a shadow government, who wait for the storm to pursue their own agendas.

Sterling tells a great story with vivid and memorable characters.His vision of the future will enthrall, disturb and entertain you at the same time.While all this may sound familiar in the advent of the movie Twister, remember, Sterling got there first, and did a much better job with the material.

4-0 out of 5 stars Not Free SF Reader
A story about a team of storm chases, and their dictatorial, totally
obsessed leader, and their struggles to survive and make a living.

Also of interest is that in this society commercial banks are
extinct dinosaurs, as a system for person to person encrypted,
government and corporate proof financial transactions has been
invented, totally cutting out the middle man and law enforcement in
general from tracing money.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fun eco-cyberpunk
I enjoyed reading this book.A lot.There were a few glitches, like a mysterious creepy subplot that doesn't really explain or resolve itself.Perhaps these were just anti-linear story techniques or something.But generally the book is well written, the characters are interesting, and the mix of ideas is one I have not found elsewhere.I hope to see more writers pursue this direction.

Maybe I've got some major blind spot, but I haven't seen apocalyptic, dystopian, cyberpunk type science fiction seriously or centrally address climate change - which this book does, in an appropriately pessimistic, cynical, but still entertaining way.Interesting thoughts on the collapse of standard currencies, militarization of police and civilian life, treatment-resistant diseases, and so on.Fun stuff.

4-0 out of 5 stars Not a future to look forward to
Bruce is one of those Texas SF authors I've seen and heard at Cons since the late 1970s. His style in public has always been to hold forth and fulminate, which can make for interesting and invigorating policy discussions but which sometimes get in the way of his fiction-writing. But he's pretty much gotten it right with this one. It's set in the 2030s, in the aftermath of several worldwide eco-economic disasters, most involving the total loss of water in places like West Texas and Oklahoma, without which they have become real deserts. In the foreground of the story is the Storm Troupe ("Storm Troupers," get it?), a dozen-odd tornado-chasers led by Jerry, a highly charismatic mathematician cum atmospheric physicist who, after hundreds of hours in VR simulations, is predicting an F-6 storm a whole order of magnitude beyond anything we've ever seen. Jerry is also in a deep relationship with a young woman whose brother, Alex, an intermittent invalid, is one of the most interesting characters I've seen in quite a while. Sterling is in his element here, bombarding the reader with techno-jargon from several disparate disciplines while describing in detail the handbasket the world has gone to hell in. High adventure of the geeky variety.

4-0 out of 5 stars hack this storm
Weather challenged everyone before the 20th century: if you lived in Kansas, how did you know what weather was coming toward you over the plains?Naturalists developed anemometers, wind vanes, barometers, rain gauges, and thermometers to collect measurements over time of the weather at particular locations.In the early 19th century, statisticians sought to interpolate among enormous numbers of measurements of wind speed and direction, humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, and rainfall to figure out what the atmosphere plans for us in terms of weather.Only when we distributed accurate clocks along railroad routes could meteorologists integrate this data into weather maps that showedthe development and decay of weather systems over time and geographic space.In the 20th century, with aircraft, more complex statistics, and computers, we developed measurements and models of weather systems in 3-dimensions.(See, for example, James Fleming's Meteorology in America.)

The protagonists of Heavy Weather use nothing as handy as a thermometer, but rather a combination of modern and futurist tools, most of which require developing a personal knack to master.In addition to supplying a story, the extreme weather of the southern plains also serves as a metaphor for stormy relationships and the battle that one protagonist, Alex, wages with his own body, whose mysterious debility has seemed to control his life's purpose until he chooses to focus on helping his sister's troupe of roving weather hackers to understand the region.Medicine employs instruments much like those used to measure weather, but that reduce Alex's body to a mapped system that then does not respond to therapies as doctors project.

This is a complex book, gratifyingly over the top in areas, and mundane in some aspects of character development.Sterling's novels show that he is intent on examining basic interpersonal relationships, such as parent-child, lovers, siblings, colleagues, and civil society in extreme settings.As with all his books, his protagonists are heroes who are less than heroes, sometimes improbably sweet or strong.

In light of the mysterious, powerful weather on the U.S. Gulf Coast this fall, I especially recommend this book.As I listen on the radio and TV to the reasons that the public and officials give for not acting appropriately in the face of enormous risk, I think about the 500-year transition much of the world has made away from a mystical and toward a science-based understanding of "why things happen."Clearly, the science of hurricanes has not been heard by many of those who are most at risk of losing life and property, as well as by many of those most favored by position or education and bearing an enormous responsibility, as experts, to act to promote public safety.

Four stars only because I wish this Sterling book were longer, with more development of his settings and technologies.It might be a characteristic of the cyberpunk label that intriguing terms get plopped in the text with little explication, their meaning derived from narrative context.However, many of these terms stick like burrs and travel with me into conversations; they are very pithy.I can't complete the metaphor of comparing extreme weather to the characters because that would give away too much.Suffice it to say that there's an end to every storm. ... Read more

17. A Good Old-Fashioned Future
by Bruce Sterling
Mass Market Paperback: 288 Pages (1999-06-01)
list price: US$7.99 -- used & new: US$4.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0553576429
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
From the subversive to the antic, the uproarious to the disturbing, the stories of Bruce Sterling are restless, energy-filled journeys through a world running on empty--the visionary work of one of our most imaginative and insightful modern writers.

They live as strangers in strange lands. In worlds that have fallen--or should have. They wage battles in wars already lost and become heroes--and sometimes martyrs--in their last-ditch efforts to preserve the dignity and individuality of humanity.

A hack Indian filmmaker takes the pulse of a wounded and declining civilization--21st-century Britain. A pair of swashbuckling Silicon Valley entrepreneurs join forces to make a commercial killing--in organic underground slime and computer-generated jellyfish. A man in a Japanese city takes orders from a talking cat while pursuing a drama of danger and adventure that has become the very essence of his life.

From "The Littlest Jackal", a darkly hilarious thriller of mercs and gunrunners set in Finland, to a stark vision of a post-atomic netherworld in his haunting tale "Taklamakan", Bruce Sterling once again breaks boundaries, breaks icons, and breaks rules to unleash the most dangerously provocative and intelligent science fiction being written today.Amazon.com Review
A Good Old-fashioned Future is a paperback collectionof seven short stories by former cyberpunk guru turned socioculturalprognosticator Bruce Sterling. Most of the works here come withimpressive pedigrees, ranging from a Hugo Awardfor "Bicycle Repairman" to Hugo nominations for "Maneki Neko" and"Taklamakan." Another piece, "Big Jelly," was cowritten by Sterling'sfellow cyberpunk alum, Rudy Rucker.

These stories have a lot incommon. They all take place in the near future, and most areaction-oriented, involving colorful characters such as secret agents,Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Mafioso's, and revolutionaries. But theyare also personal tales that tend to focus on individuals rather thanideas, which makes them hit home more often than standard SF fare. Thebest of the bunch is probably "Taklamakan," a high-concept piece abouttwo freelance spies sent to a central Asian desert called Taklamakan,where the Asian Sphere is doing some sort of secret research intospace flight. "Bicycle Repairman" is set in the same world, butinstead of in an Asian desert it takes place in Chattanooga,Tennessee, and the spies in this story aren't the good guys. It's aless successful piece than "Taklamakan" but also a good read.

Notall of the stories in this collection have the edgy,this-is-what-tomorrow-will-be-like quality that typifies Sterling'sbest work. But even when Sterling isn't at his best he's entertaining,and A Good Old-Fashioned Future is certainly that. --CraigE. Engler ... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

4-0 out of 5 stars Great place to start investigating this smart science fiction writer
This was the first Bruce Sterling I've read, fiction or non-fiction, and I definitely plan to read more. Sterling is ostensibly a cyberpunk author, which (I think) means that his stories feature marginal characters (e.g., terrorists, bicycle repairing squatters, skyscraper climbers, neuter industrial spies, etc.) in gritty, if not necessarily grim, near-future circumstances. Whatever subgenre of science fiction he belongs to, Sterling is a literate, intelligent writer who sees the line between science and science fiction growing ever hazier and whose speculative extrapolations are all the more frightening and engaging because they are so close to the contemporary reality. (For example, in aptly titled story "Sacred Cow," Anglo-Americans and Western Europeans have been decimated by the slow plague of "mad cow" disease---a chilling possibility---leaving Bollywood to take up the cinematic slack---another chilling possibility!) Other reviewers have commented on the unevenness of the stories in this collection, and I concur with that assessment; a few of the stories are definitely not as interesting as others, but luckily the number of these weaker stories is low. In short, this is a great place to start investigating a smart science fiction writer whose reputation will probably be hard to tarnish.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Quintessence of Sterlingism
A Good Old-Fashioned Future, (...), is an anthology of seven stellar stories authored by Austin, Texas novelist and seer Bruce Sterling. These yarns were originally published in magazines -- such as Asimov's, Hayakawa's Science Fiction Magazine, Omni, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, -- that were sold between 1993 and 1998. And with the exception of one tale, they are all interlaced in some form or another, whether by scheme or character.

My favorite story in this collection is "Big Jelly," a collaboration Sterling hatched with his close friend Rudy Rucker of Freeware fame. "Big Jelly," is an anecdotal account of the unintended consequences that result from a second-chance meeting between Tug Mesoglea, a gay San Jose computer programmer, and Revel Pullen, a straight Texas oil billionaire that dabbles in venture capitalism on the side. While not the longest story in AGOFF, "Big Jelly" does seem to have the most going on, conceptually. Also note the glib sense of humor, as in the initials of the story, and the backward names, "gut" and "lever." Lever Pullen... hehe. Coincidentally this is the one story that has little in common with the others. The other stories seem to take place anywhere from 30 and 70 years from now. Based on the quality of this story, I'd love to see a whole novel from this pair. Would that be too much to ask for? After all, Bruce did collaborate once before on The Difference Engine with William Gibson. What do you say Bruce?

My second favorite parable in this group is "Deep Eddy," a forty-seven page recounting of Edward Dertouzas's pleasure trip from the metropolis of Chattanooga, Tennessee, into the dark heart of modern-day Dusseldorf, circa July 2035. "Deep Eddy," a ripe old 22, is a young man of amazing technical prowess, and while deemed a "security risk" upon his arrival on European soil, he's then assigned his own personal Security Guard who will escort him while he conducts his business in country -- and her name, we are led to believe, is simply Sardelle. These two curious specimens are then thrown together in a dangerous set of circumstances, as they attempt to reach the city center during a "Wende" -- a multi-cultural holiday of some type, wherein over a million people rapidly descend upon the city over the course of a few summer days. Ultimately this turns out to be a tale of both efficiency and charm, and is told by Sterling. with a firm grip on a "truly alien sensibility." In the final analysis, "Deep Eddy" and "Sardelle" are destined to part ways, but not until after they spend a couple of years together. I'd really like to see another story featuring Sardelle, perhaps set in the Canary Islands or Ibiza.

And I suppose my third favorite gem from this volume would be "Bicycle Repairman," a chronicle that has garnered many accolades, and that has been reprinted in any number of other places, such as The Year's Best Science Fiction, Vol. 14, Hartwell's Year's Best SF2, and The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. "Bicycle Repairman" is set in the Chattanooga of 2037, and involves one Lyle Schweik, southern high-rise squatter and confederate mail-drop for one Edward Dertouzas, whom is set upon by comely Federal Agent Kitty Casaday, after receiving a mysterious delivery from former acquaintance "Deep Eddy," currently living it up in Spain. Only it turns out Casaday is incompetent, like most government workers, and as a result she is captured by a trap that Lyle had set up in his home. After some light coercion from Lyle's "unique friends," Kitty reveals her ulterior motives -- "spills the beans" so to speak. When you boil it down, this is a truly fascinating short-hop extension of "Deep Eddy," a classic Sterling short that the author decided to riff on a mere three years later. I'd really like to see another story featuring Eddy & Violeta Dertouzas, their two children and their in-laws -- set in a unified Middle East of 2048. Can you humor me Bruce?

For the purpose of this review, and in favor of not boring you, I've decided to summarize only three of these adventures. The other four items in this anthology, Maneki Neko, The Littlest Jackal, Sacred Cow, and Taklamakan are just as good, in terms of quality. The trio of story lines I've decided to outline for you here are simply the ones that I most prefer to tout. *Sterling still pens short stories from time to time, but the realities of being a writer with a family to support generally make it a necessity that he concentrate solely on non-fiction books, such as *Tomorrow Now, or on science fiction novels, such as *Holy Fire. Which is too bad, since he's so truly adept at the art of the short story -- arguably a more elusive gift than the basic ability to complete a manuscript of novel length.

If you seek out A Good Old-Fashioned Future based on my recommendation here, you'll also want to pick up Bruces@ older anthology, Globalhead, from 1992, and gobble up "Dori Bangs," perhaps the most melancholy short story ever set to paper. I highly recommend anything written by Bruce Sterling, and this volume is one of his better efforts. I have seven of his books -- four in hardback, and three in paperback. Zude. Eventually I'll own them all. Keep on writing Bruce, never change what you do, and please -- write faster!

5-0 out of 5 stars Stellar collection of stories from cyberpunk's visionary
Bruce Sterling rose to prominence in the 1980s as the master visionary and literary theorist of the cyberpunk movement. Although he has not left cyberpunk's sensibility behind, his newer fiction incorporates a wider range of themes, philosophical concepts, and just plain fun which is immediately engaging and entertaining as well as intellectually satisfying.

The best of Sterling's fiction- and "A Good Old-Fashioned Future" definitely belongs in that category- extrapolates current events and trends into the near future, then gives them a baroque twist. Here, Sterling's combination of a mad-cow disease epidemic and the rise of Indian cinema combine to make "Sacred Cow" a darkly humorous exploration of reverse colonialism. Likewise, cultural warfare- whether between differing intellectual movements, government and squatting entrepreneurs, or ethnic minorities against their own state and each other- invests and links the three last stories in the book in a progression that is as intricate as it is involving.

It's not all Bollywood and literary theory, though- Sterling loyalists will be pleased with the return of his irrepressible outlaw Leggy Starlitz. Scheming to free a group of islands from Danish control in order to set up a money-laundry, Starlitz's efforts are as amusing as they are, always, ultimately futile.

All in all, this collection is excellently balanced between the foreboding and the comic, the earnest and the absurd, and it's a must-have both for Sterling fans and those who just want to know how good science fiction can be.

3-0 out of 5 stars An uneven collection
This uneven collection points up a lot of what was going wrong for Bruce Sterling in the 1990s: an overconfidence in his own ability to have his finger on the pulse and sometimes seemingly superficial understanding of other cultures replacing in-depth research.

This is at its worst in stories like 'The Littlest Jackal', set largely in the Aland Islands between Finland and Sweden - I've been there, and he just seems to use the islands as an exotic locale without any real understanding of the culture or geography. This story also features the return of Leggy Starlitz, the shady gun-for-hire of several stories in Globalhead, Sterling's previous and equally uneven collection. Unfortunately where in those stories he was amusing, here he has out-stayed his welcome and become tedious. I know these stories are an ironic riff on the old cyberpunk assassin theme and the superficiality is probably intended, but still - I don't think it works.

Also lightweight is Sacred Cow, which has a great concept (Bollywood film-makers come to Britain to take advantage of cheap labour in a country devastated by mad cow disease), but which largely fails to deliver more than a few cheap laughs. The title character of Deep Eddy (who gets a mention in a couple of other tales) is another of those irritating know-it-alls that Sterlings seems to specialise in at present. Will the geeks inherit the earth? Perhaps he's right, but it doesn't make for interesting characterisation here. Neil Stephenson does this a lot more effectively.

However, there are some really good stories in this collection.

I've lived in Japan, the setting for Maneki Neko, which in this context appears to suffer from the same faults as the lesser stories in demonstrating no more than a passing grasp of the culture in which it is set. However, having thought about this more, I realised that when I first read this story when it was published in F&SF's 'best of' collection, I really enjoyed its subtleties and humour (like many in that fine collection), and indeed its Japaneseness. Perhaps this time I reread it via Leggy Starlitz instead!

The long Bicycle Repairman and Taklamakan, set in the same world as Deep Eddy, are also better, the former a fairly gritty urban tale in a set amongst techie squatters, the latter a effectively dusty and atmospheric tale of some of the same foreign techs and spaceships in central Asia. I also enjoyed the wobbly and wonky Big Jelly which is at least partly down to lunatic collaborator Rudy Rucker's all-round obsession with jellyfish!

Sterling started to return to form with the novel, Holy Fire, but for fans of short fiction I suggest going back to his first satisfyingly varied collection, Crystal Express, which featured both early cyberpunk and more tradtional space-and-aliens sci-fi done equally well.

Overall this collection suggests that Sterling isn't putting as much effort into his short fiction as he used to, but there are very few writers who start off writing short stories who continue to do them as well or as often as their careers progress. While there are some really worthwhile pieces in here, my reading of them at least was unfortunately coloured by the not so great ones.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent collection of cyberpunk stories
It's nice to know that someone is still writing good tight cyberpunk stories.Overall, it's a format that suits Sterling quite well.I've read his novels, and they don't seem to be quite all there.It's the short stories that he really shines.

All of his interesting sensibilities are there, and he has evolved to new concepts as time goes on and the future we expected changed.The Japanese mega-corp - a staple of early science fiction - is dead.Bruce was ahead of the curve in viewing Russia as an interesting place to do cyberpunk.Certainly as history unfolds, it remains an interesting place.

Lastly, the evolution of the writing is good.It maintains the cyberpunk view of the world, undergoing some few modifications for the Internet as it came out, not envisioned, as well as the toys that make cyberpunk fun.Bio Drills that eat sugar, not eating and living on implanted fat for days.The whole Urban spider concept is a fun one that needs to be explored more.

Overall, a must read for the old-school cyberpunk fan.Heck, it's a must read in general. ... Read more

18. Distraction
by Bruce Sterling
Mass Market Paperback: 544 Pages (1999-10-05)
list price: US$7.99 -- used & new: US$3.94
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0553576399
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
It's November 2044, an election year, and the state of the Union is a farce. The government is broke, the cities are privately owned, and the military is shaking down citizens in the streets. Washington has become a circus and no one knows that better than Oscar Valparaiso. A political spin doctor, Oscar has always made things look good. Now he wants to make a difference.

But Oscar has a skeleton in his closet. His only ally: Dr. Greta Penninger, a gifted neurologist at the bleeding edge of the neural revolution. Together they're out to spread a very dangerous idea whose time has come. And so have their enemies: every technofanatic, government goon, and laptop assassin in America. Oscar and Greta might not survive to change the world, but they'll put a new spin on it.Amazon.com Review
It's the year 2044, and America has gone to hell. A disenfranchised U.S.Air Force base has turned to highway robbery in order to pay the bills.Vast chunks of the population live nomadic lives fueled by cheaptransportation and even cheaper computer power. Warfare has shifted fromthe battlefield to the global networks, and China holds the informationedge over all comers. Global warming is raising sea level, which in turnis drowning coastal cities. And the U.S. government has become nearlymeaningless. This is the world that Oscar Valparaiso would have been born into,if he'd actually been born instead of being grown in vitro by black marketbaby dealers. Oscar's bizarre genetic history (even he's not sure how muchof him is actually human) hasn't prevented him from running one of the mostsuccessful senatorial races in history, getting his man elected by awhopping majority. But Oscar has put himself out of a job,since he'd only be a liability to his boss in Washington due to hisproblematic background. Instead, Oscar finds himself shuffled off to theCollaboratory, a Big Science pork barrel project that's run half bycorruption and half by scientific breakthroughs. At first it seems to be a lose-lose proposition for Oscar, but soon he has his "krewe" whipped into shape and ready to take control of events. Now if only he can straighten out his love life and solve a worldwide crisis that no one else knows exists. --Craig E. Engler ... Read more

Customer Reviews (63)

5-0 out of 5 stars Bruce Sterling's best
I'm not Bruce Sterling's biggest fan, but I am a fan, despite his glaring limitations as a writer. Let's get them out of the way up-front: Bruce Sterling cannot write convincing dialog to save his life. Bruce Sterling characters are, almost without exception down to the minor characters, hysterics with their emotional lives dialed up to 11; they emote with the enthusiasm of a 13-year-old's fanfic. Nobody reads Bruce Sterling for the subtlety of his emotional portrayals, the wit in his dialog, or the depth of his characterizations. (At least, I assume nobody does?)

What you read Bruce Sterling for, as I've joked ever since he used to have that column in the Science Fiction Eye, is not so much for what he writes as for what he *reads.* The research that Bruce Sterling puts into his books consistently puts him at or just slightly beyond the cutting edge in historical analysis and cultural commentary, and this book is no exception. The best comparison would be to one of his earliest novels, Islands in the Net, which came out in 1989. Its technology has aged a little poorly in the last 20 years, but its themes are exactly those of the 21st century war on terror: specifically, the dangers of non-state actors using the isolation of failed third-world states for a wide variety of purposes, and how ugly it was going to be when the developed world cleaned those messes up. Sterling, like most science fiction writers trying to predict the future, got almost every single detail wrong, but he got almost every single theme and idea right. And that's what you read Bruce Sterling for.

Which brings us to this book, which came out 8 years before the current financial melt-down, 8 years before the current climate-change bill, and asks every single one of the right questions. Suppose the US economy completely melts down, and unemployment rises above 50%? Suppose the US's military and international political influence wanes to the point where the only foreign reporters who show up to cover American news are travel reporters and those looking for silly-season stories? Suppose global warming really does submerge the Louisiana delta, suppose the federal government gives up on maintaining the levees? How would we live? How far would politics and governance collapse? What would it be like for an adult, emotionally, if you had grown up in an America that had been in that level of crisis since you were in grade school? How will the country's white minority deal with it when they're no longer even vaguely in power, when they're the ethnic group everybody blames for America's problems?

The line that stays with me, all these years later, is lead character Oscar Valparaiso's summary: "The future is impossible, but it's /doable,/" and that's the attitude he brings to the whole story, as he stumbles from bizarre situation to even more bizarre situation all the way to the end. Nothing about his world is how it ought to be, but that doesn't mean there's no way to have fun. Nothing about his world is right, but that doesn't mean there's nothing left to try. Nothing about his world is honest, but that doesn't mean that there's no right or wrong left. And, as he says, "the women are beautiful and the music really swings!"

When you read Distraction, you come away from it with two contradictory impulses: "oh, my g-d, this is awful!" and "huh, doesn't seem all that bad" /at the same time./ And given the way the last two years of history have turned out (I write in mid 2009), even if once again Bruce Sterling has gotten every detail wrong (and he likely has), you'll be better prepared for what's coming next if you read Distraction, just as you would have been better prepared for the War on Terror if back in 1989 you'd read Islands in the Net.

2-0 out of 5 stars So many good ideas, so little plot
Distraction shows why fiction was really mostly a warm-up for Sterling's current career as non-fiction writer and design futurist agitator. Distraction is peppered with crazy asides: reputation servers, rogue arms of the military, cloth phones.

But there is no plot here, none. There are hundreds of pages where the story simply veers from location to location with a cast of characters that seems to grow and shrink for no particular reason. I defy anyone to summarize the central narrative of Distraction in a sentence or two. It can't possibly seriously be categorized as a "thriller", right?

3-0 out of 5 stars Vintage Sterling
Distraction by Bruce Sterling will make you think until your dendrites grind while scaring the @#$% out of you, but you'll be laughing so hard you won't notice.By just nudging reality a tiny bit, Sterling shows us a possible and plausible scenario of what can happen when everybody's distracted by what's doable.In this future world with limitless internet and knowledge transmission the government becomes frightening and ridiculous at the same time, sort of like a rabid dog on roller skates that's being politically correct.
Politicians think only politically and scientists think only scientifically, but everybody's bipolar.Throw in a hacker turned cop and red necked governor for color and let everybody believe they know exactly how people should deal with the massive changes in civilization wrought by technology and you get a schizoid tale that is alarmingly possible.

4-0 out of 5 stars Masterful writing undermined by gross implausibilities.
Rating: "B":masterful writing and funny/clever satire, undermined
by gross implausibilities and clunky auctorial manipulations.

Distraction has a more mature, less headlong feel than Holy Fire,
Sterling's previous novel. And the premise is grimmer -- the mid-
21st century USA, bankrupted by a Chinese netwar, is coming
seriously unglued.could almost see the footnotes in the catalog of "what went wrong":

Military bases selling equipment to survive:Russia, now

16 US political parties, endless infighting:recent Italy.

Charismatic, corrupt, narcissistic Southern governors: a composite from RL -- pick your favorite. Fer sure a contribution from Narcissus ultimus, the Man from Hope.

Sterling's eye for the absurd and powers of invention are
unmatched, and you'll have a lot of fun reading Distraction. But --
the book never quite jells, and left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied. I
started a review, but couldn't quite put my finger on what went
wrong -- until I found Gerald Jonas had done the review I wanted to
write [G00GLE NY Times]:

In DISTRACTION (Dec 98, Bantam, $23.95) the estimable Bruce
Sterling demonstrates why science fiction is such a difficult genre
to get right...So unlikely is [Sterling's] next-century scenario
that I found myself unable to take the actions of his characters
seriously, even as satire. Ideas as counterintuitive as the
bankrupting of the United States by the overnight obliteration of
copyright and trademark laws cannot function as mere background for
other events; they call for front-and-center treatment on their
own... The players in the drama [are reduced] to bloodless puppets of
the authorial imagination...

Yup, that's pretty much What Went Wrong with the book. Perhaps he got too
close to some True Beliefs... Pity. Still worth reading, but you might wait for the paperback, or get it from the library. And mind you, I'm a big Sterling fan.

Minor cavil for a bit of background, which shows up 2 or 3 times:
Wyoming burning? What's to burn? You can walk through a short-
grass prairie fire and barely singe your leg-hair. Grmph.

And I profoundly, deeply, sincerely wish Mr Sterling would find
some fresh superlative modifiers....

I know, cheap shot. But DISTRACTION marks the start of Sterling's decline as a novelist, which, I'm sorry to report, has now extended to his nonfiction.And he's published no new short fiction since 2003. Sigh.

Review copyright 1999 by Peter D. Tillman
Minor revisions, 2006.

3-0 out of 5 stars It's okay
The story here is decent but not exactly what it's pitched as.To read the description would lead you to believe that you're going to read a book about two people trying to change a corrupt, lost America.But by the time you finish, it's obvious that the story is more about two people who are caught up in their own bubble and have not really made an effort to fix America.Instead they have played a bunch of "dangerous" games with a few politicians and some crazies who have dropped out of society becuase there are just not jobs left.
I was also constantly mystified at how everyone reacts to Oscar in this story.Every single character he comes across just stares in amazement at his skills to think and plan quickly and to get the upper hand.That is fine and all except that he never actually earns this respect.At no point in the story did he have a thought that was really that original or dashing.Sure, he can talk quick but lots of people can do that.There were no ideas he put forward that the reader couldn't see coming.Perhaps the moral of the lesson is that in the future everyone will be so slow that a "normal" thinker by our standards will be nearly super-human.
But the one thing this book has going for it is that it has a sharp, believable future.If we don't fix our system now, it is not difficult to see the America painted here as a reality.That vision of the future alone does make this worth reading and saved the book from some serious issues that I had with it. ... Read more

19. Involution Ocean
by Bruce Sterling
 Paperback: Pages (1988-04-01)
list price: US$3.95
Isbn: 0441372066
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars Peculiar & potential-filled early work from ground-breaking author
nvolution Ocean, published in 1977, is Bruce Sterling's first book. It is introduced by Harlan Ellison, who claims that the book is a "stunning tour de force" that will rock the genre and its readers. Ellison, although a great judge of talent (especially if you ask him), was either painfully incorrect or wildly prescient. Sterling did do his rocking, but it wasn't until Mirrorshades in 1986.

Involution Ocean is a far cry from the cyberpunk niche that Sterling later came to dominate (and arguably create). The setting is the far-flung world of Nullaqua. The world is defined by a single habitable crater, and that crater is filled with a heavy, perpetual mist of dust. Nullaqua is a sea-faring world, populated by a race of stoic, unimaginative sailors - all on an ocean of dust.

The book's protagonist is John Newhouse, an off-worlder. John is drawn to Nullaqua by 'Flare', a potent drug stilled from the belly of the 'dustwhale'. The story begins with the drug being declared illegal. In order to preserve his supply, John is forced to join a whaling ship, and sail the dusty seas of Nullaqua.

Besides John - acerbic, jaded and worldly - the ship carries a few other misfits. The captain is a massive and terrifying man, bent on carrying out his mysterious research. He harbors a secret vendetta against the dust and its denizens. His pseudo-scientific labors seem more like angry provocations of their environment.

Another misfit on board is an alien bat-woman - a winged scout from a distant world who has abandoned her people. Despite her disfiguring cosmetic surgery, she's far from human - and even the touch of a human being causes her physical pain.

If this seems like Moby Dick (plus a random bat-person), the comparison is intentional. In his foreword, Ellison even notes that Sterling wryly showed up with the manuscript entitled 'Moby Dust'. It is, however, a testament to Sterling's ability as a fledgling writer (he wasn't even out of college when this was published) that what starts as a SF pastiche becomes something very different by the end.

The complex relationships between the characters are at the heart of the book. Although the voyage invariably comes to a cataclysmic conclusion, everyone finds their own unique form of redemption. Sterling only has one serious lapse - an epiphany or dream sequence that reveals the origins of the dusty ocean and its sinister (and legendary) inhabitants. It is essentially six pages of Lovecraftian tomfoolery, an unpleasant and parenthetical break for world-building in an otherwise character-driven narrative.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not Free SF Reader
The problem with being addicted to a drug, is that if your source goes
away, you are in big trouble. This is exactly what happens to the main
character here. Even more of a problem, on their dust filled world is
that it is extremely hazardous to attempt a journey to find more of it.

This is what two drug fiends, a nutty captain and a crazy woman do, however.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Involution Ocean - harder to get hold of than 'Flare'
This is a simple tale with a tight narrative focus.Being addicted to a rare drug has it's hazards.The main character's drug of choice, flare, is declared illegal so he and an inept junkie friend head out on a dust whaleship in a crater to extract flare from the source.

The characterisationis really very strong for such a short book. The characters are all verydifferent and their interaction is great.The plot is simple, but hangstogether extremely well. I found some of the descriptions of the alien lifeand the sensibilities of the locals and whalers really absorbing. There arequite a number of amusing little scenes in this book.(I think a few maybe unintentional).The setting is really fascinating and has a few wellchosen details that really add to the immersiveness of the book. I reallyenjoyed it!.

4-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, somber adventure
Sterling's first novel, written almost a decade before cyberpunk became a household word.
The setting is a desolate world with a single habitable crater, which is itself filled with a sea of near-fluid dust.This bleak, deadly place sets the tone for the story, which follows an addict trying to restablish a source for his drug of choice: "Flare," which is distilled from the oil of whale-like creatures which swim in the dust. He signs up for a berth on a whaling boat whose crew includes a captain obsessed with what lies beneath the dust seas, and an insane alien woman.
Somber, gripping, modestly awe-inspring.END ... Read more

20. Thinking Robots, an Aware Internet, and Cyberpunk Librarians: The 1992 Lita President's Program : Presentations by Hans Moravec, Bruce Sterling, and (Last Quarter Century)
by R. Bruce Miller
 Paperback: 200 Pages (1992-09)
list price: US$22.00 -- used & new: US$188.06
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0838976255
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (1)

3-0 out of 5 stars Good at the time, but...
I remember reading this book circa 1994 as a graduate student at Rice University.It was very interesting, and I found Bruce Sterling's praise of librarians & libraries and the importance of freedom of information very eloquent and uplifting.Hans Moravec, on the other hand, I find to be one sick puppy and scary to boot.He's most famous for wanting to be able to download his consciousness into a computer and attain "virtual immortality".Having read more recent works, such as Theodore Roszack's critical study _The Cult of Information_, I can see that Moravec's ideas are just idle fantasy now...probably never realizable.David Brin also had some very sensitive, cautious words, which I deeply appreciated. I think this book was a rare convergence of librarians & SF writers in the time of the early 90s when Cyberpunk was all the rage (it's not dead yet, but it's not as BIG as it was then, either) and it was easy to be giddy about technology, etc.The internet was still young then.I think we've learned a great deal more and are much more realistic now than when the summary of this conference was put together in book form...This book is now pretty much a historical document more than it is anything useful for a 21st century contemporary reader. ... Read more

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