21 December 2007
Great place to start investigating this smart science fiction writer
A Good Old-Fashioned Future
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.
(This review was originally written on January 9, 2007.)