Michael Swanwick
Vacuum Flowers (1987)
Reviewed: 1998-02-08

A cyberpunk novel, set in an indeterminately far future. The solar system is fragmented into various large and small communities separated by different technological specializations, cultures, and politics. There are the corporate-ruled clusters of settled asteroids and surrounding habitats in the Belt, "Dyson worlds" beyond the Oort cloud, the People terraforming Mars, and old Earth is ruled by a dreadful hive mind called the Compromise. It's a bizarre universe populated with bizarre characters. People's minds can be programmed like computers. The practice is commonplace and Swanwick explores some of its consequences.

The central character is Rebel Elizabeth Mudlark, a mind of mysterious origin in a stranger's body. Disoriented she escapes from the grip of the faceless corporation whose property she is, but this is only the beginning of her troubles. Hunted and manipulated by several enigmatic forces, Rebel must also reconcile her pair of psyches, locked in a deadly struggle for dominance over one another. Her flight is assisted by Wyeth, a tetrad, i.e. a single mind with four personalities, to whom she has a mysterious link from a common past.

Rebel's travels take us on an expositionary tour through a slice of the solar system: the Belt, Mars (where Swanwick adds some biting political satire on the People's communism), the cislunar habitats, and Terra herself. For the most part, Vacuum Flowers is a fierce confrontation with a grotesque future, quite creative, barely held together by the story of Rebel's fate.

Home Page | Review Index | Latest Reviews

Generated: 2006-04-26

Christian "naddy" Weisgerber <naddy@mips.inka.de>