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Schismatrix Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1986
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Top Customer Reviews
The story follows Abelard Lindsay as he navigates the tumultuous sea of ideologies. Each chapter reads like its own short story. Abelard repeatedly reinvents himself to adapt to changing circumstances, sometimes changing so drastically that it’s hard to believe this is the same character.
The text itself is a good, challenging read. The story raises numerous questions about society and identity, but rarely lingers on any one topic long enough to reach any conclusions. Instead it is left to the audience to engage these topics further. It’s difficult to walk away with any real conclusions, and I believe that’s by design. It mimics the central challenge of the story, maintaining a sense of self in an ocean of ever changing ideologies.
And overall, much like other famous space adventure novels, the vast scope and plot of "Schismatrix" serves at least somewhat as a metaphor for our own present day world. It's the story of a society divided, and a series of covert wars among the different schisms, and the life of one lone maverick who tries to stand clear of all of them and find prosperity and greatness separate and apart.
As an aside, I think the genre Bruce has been identified with, "cy6erpunk," is more ephemeral than most fashionable genres, and is often just a trendy buzzword. There is little or nothing in this novel to identify as cyberpunk but plenty to describe it as traditional science fiction much like Asimov or Roddenberry would write. If Bruce ever wrote cyberpunk this wasn't it IMO.
Bruce is a high-energy writer who is well-known for his short stories. In fact, a few of them took place in this same Schismatrix universe, and were later included I think in the "Schismatrix Plus" collection. One of my very favorite shorts of his is one of these and can be found also in the collection "Crystal Express."
I found this to be a pretty easy read, and like much traditional science fiction, is not extremely emotional stuff, but focuses much on science and technology. It is not without some emotional depth, but anyway is focused on the loner protagonist, who is in fact pretty alien in his ways compared to us. I think Bruce empathized with him to some extent though.
I'd say if you like sf and want a good intro to Bruce, this is a great way to go. But I'd suggest the "Schismatrix Plus" instead, because the shorts included there, while not essential to this plot, are great reading also, and help fill out this universe a tiny bit. And besides, if you are some science-fiction-readin' weirdo like me, you will finish this book in a heartbeat and be ready for more.
Devotees of cyberpunk will almost certainly enjoy this novel, which moves at a frenetic pace, includes frequent references to prosthetic devices, and tries to fit a modest degree of real science into its outlandish space opera. Certainly the young Lindsay could be considered a punk, and not a particularly likable one, at that, although he seems to mellow as the (many) decades fly by.
But the problems with this book are many, and tend to undercut the positives, the biggest mistake being that Sterling just tries to do too much. There's a point in the novel where Lindsay has successfully dealt with the pirates, liberated the station, heard the news that the aliens have landed, and he's even got the girl, and this reader found himself thinking, "this would have been a good place to end the story - too bad it's only halfway through the book". The problem is that too many of Sterling's ideas get pretty short shift, lost in a cascade of characters and events and locales and discoveries and treacheries and escapes and suicides and lies and martyrdoms, etc... Sterling might have written a whole series of much better novels by approaching each piece of his tale as a separate work, rather than cramming it all into one volume. Admittedly, the scope of the whole is admirable, and serves to make Sterling's point if we concede it to be that "whatever happens life wins out in the end", but ultimately the pacing is too erratic, the plot too episodic, and the characters too unsympathetic to merit a real recommendation.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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