This collection brings together most of Bruce Sterling's best work from the 80's. In tandem the stories establish Sterling's preeminence among the cy-punks in terms of intellectual range and historical sensibility. If William Gibson's the major poet and literary stylist of the crew, Lewis Shiner its primal psychologist and John Shirley its master of guerrilla street theatrics, Sterling's for certain its brightest social critic.
Sterling projects a near future characterized above all by fractionalization and factionalization. The high technological, multinational corporate order of our late 20th century is largely fissured and decomposed in the world(s) Sterling sketches. The profusion of technological, demographic and environmental transformations has engendered a radically decentralized, politically chaotic early 21st. Social conflicts are organized around tribal units based on totem technologies (e.g. the "Shapers" favoring genetically engineered breeding, the "Mechanists" prosthetics) and "colonized" states of neurochemically produced consciousnesses.
Inside this canvas, Sterling creates fascinating portraits of future dissident intelligentsias on the relative margins of their respective social orders. Unlike most cy-punks or post new wave SFers, Sterling's stylistic forte is vivid, high detail reportage. His narrators monitor the ideological battlefields of the future like George Orwell did the Spanish Civil War.
Ace, 1990, 279 pgs.
Graphic from Verbum Magazine
Here is the TEXT POPUP for Crystal Express
The deadliest bullshit is odorless and transparent.
- William Gibson quoted in "Crystal Express"
"Again you miss the point. Knowledge is power! Do you suppose that fragile little form of yours - your primitive legs, your ludicrous arms and hands, your tiny, scarcely wrinkled brain - can contain all that power? Certainly not! Already your race is flying to pieces under the impact of your own expertise. The original human form is becoming obsolete. Your own genes have been altered, and you, Captain-Doctor, are a crude experiment. In a hundred years you will be a relic. In a thousand years you will not even be a memory. Your race will go the same way as a thousand others."
"And what way is that?"
"I do not know." The thing on the end of the Swarm's arm made a chuckling sound. "They have passed beyond my ken. They have all discovered something, learned something, that has caused them to transcend my understanding. It may be that they even transcend being. At any rate, I cannot sense their presence anywhere. They seem to do nothing, they seem to interfere in nothing; for all intents and purposes, they seem to be dead. Vanished. They may have become gods, or ghosts. In either case, I have no wish to join them."
"Intelligence is very much a two-edged sword, Captain- Doctor. It is useful only up to a point. It interferes with the business of living. Life, and intelligence, do not mix very well. They are not at all closely related, as you childishly assume."
- from "Swarm" in "Crystal Express"