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Schismatrix Plus: Includes Schismatrix and Selected Stories from Crystal Express

3 Ratings: 3.7
A book by Bruce Sterling

A collection containing Sterling's classic novel SCHISMATRIX and each of his short stories linked to it. Together, the novel and stories comprise an exhaustive history of revolution set in a future of interplanetary conquest, and detail the centuries … see full wiki

Author: Bruce Sterling
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Ace Books
Date Published: December 01, 1996
1 review about Schismatrix Plus: Includes Schismatrix and...

Posthumanist Universe

  • May 12, 2008
Pros: Engaging characters, good dialog, interesting concepts.

Cons: Story is convoluted at times.

The Bottom Line: There is original content. The author paints vivid pictures. The images are not fleeting.

The author Bruce Sterling had this to say about his own book. "Schismatrix is a creeping sea-urchin of a book -- spiky and odd. It isn't very elegant, and lacks bilateral symmetry, but pieces break off inside people and stick with them for years".

This was not an easy book to read. It's another random tome I picked up off the "discard" pile. As a bookseller, there are quite a few books that are not cost effective to list, but still look interesting. Schismatrix Plus is one such.

This novel is set in not so distant future and spans 500 years. Here is one of those pieces of sea urchin. . . There are people that are based on humans but have diverged in different ways. Planning offspring based on genetic qualities is commonplace. Raising clones is common as well. I wonder how "out there" such practices will become in the near future.

"Humanity" has gone beyond earth, forming communities that exist in orbit around different worlds. The relocation to another neighborhood does not end the human qualities of racial or societal prejudice. In this book the prejudice has gone way beyond skin color. The two basic factions are the Shapers and the Mechanists. The shapers want to use genetics to enhance the human condition in contrast to the "Mechs" who use hardware to gain an edge. Much of the conflict in the book involves these groups.

Keeping up with the ever-changing alliances in this book is maddening. The main character, Abelard Lindsay is involved in solar system machinations that defy reason. EVERYONE has an agenda and these agendas change with the solar wind. Lindsay is perhaps the most altruistic. He seems to stay a step ahead his competition, but is not always unscathed. His foil, Constantine is self-important and bent on revenge--all over the love of a woman who dies at the beginning of the novel. Often profit is motivation and becomes more so with the advent of contact with the first known "alien" race, the Investors.

Often sordid, Schismatrix Plus displays extreme hedonism. This goes as far as a flesh-covered world tied into the persona of Kitsune, a former prostitute. Using hormone-tinged inhalers or running a jack for direct input, the inhabitants of these worlds enhance every physical sensation that this reader can imagine.

The dialog is good in this novel. It furthers the story line as much as any description. The conversations seem genuine and not stilted. The characters sound like regular folks talking.

The characters retain every human vice but few of the virtues. Most people are very selfish and shallow and willing to sell out their dearest friend for very little. Loyalties can change on a whim.

It seems apparent that the author researched some real science for this work of science fiction. Both of the Shaper and Mechanist enhancements seem feasible. One reads something in the news often about a new prosthetic device, or the further study of gene-related conditions. The space bound technology deals with real issues that a community in outer space would face such as pollution, oxygen production, food production and more.

I've read a lot of science fiction over the years. I love the genre. This book makes me wonder what humanity will become. What qualities will define us when we are beyond human? Schismatrix will leave the reader with those pieces of sea urchin that poke and prod and visit with an uncomfortable feeling that nags after the book goes back in the pile.


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