Science Fiction Though the Decades

Sunday, October 30, 2011

1999: Good Old-fashioned Future (Sterling, Bruce)

Internet boom inspired geekiness (3/5)

This collection definitely has a mid-90s internet boom feel to it. Bruce Sterling is a futurist so his writing style is embedded with loaded terminology, peripheral technologies, acronyms, gadgets and slang. Sterling takes an idea, runs full throttle with it, dragging along an arm full of other odd concepts and usually ends up swerving all over the place when he SHOULD be slowing it down and enjoying the scenery a bit. It's all a bit rush-rush with these stories. Maybe one or two rush-rush, get-things-done, wham-bam sort of stories in the collection would be interesting, but I guess you really have to be into this sort of thing to actually enjoy it.

His prose isn't very creative. He writes stories around ideas, not stories around words or people. Sterling likes to throw in paragraphs of technical explanation, either in narrative form or in (eek!) the middle of dialogue. It's like he took footnote information from a journal and pasted it into the story. It makes the story flow very herky-jerky.

It's all a bit too geeky for me, as if Sterling is merely writing for himself, as if he's just playing with the ideas in his head for his own amusement and putting it on paper. If zaniness is what you're craving then Adam Johnson, is his collection Emporium (2002), did much of the same thing but it was much better honed than what Sterling here has produced. If futurist ideas is what you're after, then Gibson's Burning Chrome (1986) would be a better purchase.


Maneki Neko (1998) - 5/5 - International ring of a social network of gift-giving/tax evasion catches the eye of an American assistant federal prosecutor. When Tsuyoshi,  a digital video converter by trade, finds himself involved in the prosecutor's arrival, it's discovered that the gifts aren't the only thing the network shares. 19 pages

Big Jelly (1994) - 2/5 - An artificial squid scientist sends a sample to an oil tycoon who joins forces with him to create an exotic range of transparent squid for commercial retail. Unfortunately, the helium that the squids ingest is causing a problem or two. 48 pages

The Littlest Jackal (1996) - 2/5 - A Finnish island separatist group hires an old terrorist to head a scheme revolving around the exploitation of a senile cartoonist and her intellectual rights in order to sue the producers of merchandisers in Japan. The cash will then be laundered through digital currency exchange on the to-be fledgling island nation. 54 pages

Sacred Cow (1993) - 3/5 - Bollywood mega-producer filming movies #127-130 is in England where 90% of the population had perished from Mod Cow disease decades ago. 19 pages

Deep Eddy (1993) - 3/5 - An American travels to Germany to deliver a book to the Culture Critic and is assigned a pretty female bodyguard with a savvy mind for security. With the city in anticipation of a destructive orgy, security and anonymity are essential for the delivery of the package. 47 pages

Bicycle Repairman (1996) - 3/5 - Sexually uninterested bicycle repair guy living off the grid becomes the center of attention of a female government agent after receiving a fairly innocuous-looking cable box in the mail from his ex-roommate Deep Eddy. 41 pages

Taklamakan (1998) - 4/5 - NAFTA Black Ops Pete and Katrinko should abandon their mission after their contact in the remote Asian Sphere desert dies in a crash. With punctual curiosity, the two investigate the huge domes finding that the ones they break into are just the usual nuclear waste dumps; except dome #13 which is home to two corpses and a deep, deep well which is, itself, home to as many mysteries as a 100-megaton nuked out subterranean bubble can hold. 51 pages

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