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Schismatrix Plus

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  4,369 ratings  ·  186 reviews
Schismatrix Plus, is Bruce Sterling's new trade paperback. For the first time in one volume: every word Bruce Sterling has ever written on the Shapers-Mechanists Universe.

In the last decade, Sterling has emerged a pioneer of crucial, cutting-edge science fiction. Now Ace Books is proud to offer Sterling's stunning world of the Schismatrix--where Shaper revolutionaries stru
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 1st 1996 by Ace Books (first published January 1st 1995)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  4,369 ratings  ·  186 reviews

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Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
What a great read this was. I've never been much of a fan of cyberpunk and I'm not particularly a fan of the authors generally noted to be founders of the genre (William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, etc.), but I really loved this book and it has put Bruce Sterling near the top of my list for sci-fi writers. Sterling does an excellent job of melding his cyberpunk ethos with a space opera-ish background that is combined with the 'Grand Tour' of the solar system structure (cp. The Ophiuchi Hotline by J ...more
The moment I read in Galactic North that Alastair Reynolds acknowledged Schismatrix as a huge influence in developing his Revelation Space series, I knew I had to eventually track it down. Four years later, eventually finally happened.

So let me first of all clarify the difference between Schismatrix and Schismatrix Plus. The Plus edition has five short stories set in the Schismatrix universe along with the novel length title story. These short stories were enjoyable- especially Swarm which brou
A bizarre absurdist bourgeois epic set in the space kindgom of the posthuman con artists. Features hyperbole and sharp dark humor.

As scientific and technological advances shatter the limitations which define modern thought and sustain the existence of a single human community, rugged individualists and pretentious youths boldy reach for transcendance.
But as it turns out, it's bourgeois property relations which end up transcending the material conditions that sustained them. Commodity fetichism d
I had written Bruce Sterling off as a relic of the cyberpunk era, big mistake. The wow factor is pretty big on this. Mind mutating, WTF, idea per sentence science fiction with shades at time of Bester, Triptree jr. Delaney, Barrington J. Bailey(who blurbs it) William S. Burroughs, and Ballard. Dense, filled with absurd humor and grotesque surreal visions, as human future and form breaks and cascades into increasing odd shapes. I feel a little buzzed after finishing this. This and a couple of sho ...more
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Alastair Reynolds said, in one of his Revelation Space books, that Bruce Sterling’ Schismatrix had a huge influence on his works and recommends it as one of the best cyberpunk stories. Of course it piqued my interest and now, after I read it, I have to say he was right - at least about the influence part.

It is obvious that Shaper/Mechanist universe stands at the base of Conjoiners/Demarchists one and that the somber atmosphere is the one encountered mostly in Chasm City. But the similarities bet
Sep 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who don't mind good literary technique
Shelves: genre, scientific
Another goodreads reviewer wrote: "It is creative, but one of the characteristics of this book is that the author writes as if the story is happening in our present world, so he does not define words and key elements just as an author writing in the present wouldn't define terms they assume are collective knowledge." They gave this book one star. One star!

It's times like these I realize how crazy some people are. The above technique is one of the marks of good science fiction, as opposed to the
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction, epl
The only reason I finished this book is because it was my job and I was being paid to do it. I run a SFF book club for my library, and I try to come up with cogent questions to start the discussion and keep it moving if there are ever any lulls (which happens rarely, in a group of smart and opinionated SFF fans), but these were literally the first two questions I came up with to share with the group:


I agree wholehearte
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cyberpunk, sci-fi
I enjoyed this! Sterling's writing style hooked me int he first few pages. I appreciate his literary feel, and his use of drama, and non-typical sci-fi aspects in his novel. The story unfolds over the life of the main character. It's a future world hooked into computer systems, genetic manipulations and hybrids, aliens, inter-planetary issues, action, mystery, suspense. Although I found the writing difficult to adapt to, I found this a great pleasure. I like his characters. They have depth to me ...more
I don't normally like cyberpunk and given the choice, I never would have picked this up. But a book club chose it, so I had to read it. And then I actually...liked it? I can't even put my finger on what exactly I liked about it. It was a romp through space without a storyline. The characters did not do anything meaningful or memorable. I just enjoyed myself.

It vaguely reminded me of the Culture series by Iain M. Banks. If you are looking for something to fill the Banks shaped hole in your life,
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[somewhere at the bottom of a well]
"Steve! Steve, wake up! Come on, Steve, we got work to do. Steve!"
"Senhor, is that you shouting? It's two in the morning. I was sleeping. Who died, where is burning?"
"Nonsense, Steve. It's two in the midnight. Come, we have work to do. We're back in business, I have a review to write and you're staring in it. I'll tell you the plan on the way, come, come."
"Senhor, you're an asshole."
"I know it, the Queen gave me a medal for it, that's why I'm a sir."
Steven Shaviro
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
SCHISMATRIX PLUS is one of Bruce Sterling's early novels, long unavailable, and now back in print as an ebook. (The "Plus" indicates that the book also includes a bunch of short stories set in the same future world as the novel itself). This novel has much more of a far-future setting than the bulk of Sterling's subsequent work. It follows the adventures of the main character, Abelard Lindsay (though at times he uses many other names) from being a 20-something rebel to being the 200 years old or ...more
Dec 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Humanity has moved out into the solar system... and schismed, with different factions employing different philosophies to endure and thrive in the harsh environment. The Shapers rely on genetically engineering themselves. Mechanists rely on cybernetic enhancement. They aren't the only factions out there, just the biggest, in the ongoing quest to determine humanity's destiny. Abelard Lindsay is an assassin, a diplomat, a con artist, a political exile, an entrepeneur, and someone who finds himself ...more
A. S.
Mar 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
The huge issue with this book is the fact that the story is told as if the reader is present and infinitely familiar with the social, political, and technological developments in the Shapers/Mechanists universe. Sterling occasionally has a a moment where another character talks about what's going on on the various planets (like when Ryumin or Greta Beatty gives him a quick tour of their world), and those parts read smoother than the rest of the novel. In sci-fi and fantasy, world-building is inc ...more
Aug 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Futures geeks and adrenaline junkies
Recommended to Chloe by: Colin
This was the science fiction odyssey that I've been longing to read all summer. I'm glad that I finally found one that captivated me from start to finish as I was starting to think I might be burnt out on the genre- a frightening thought.

Sterling's book collects a number of stories all set within his Shaper-Mechanist universe, with his first novel Schismatrix forming the backbone of the story. Following humankind's ascent into the stars, Sterling creates two competing directions for our evolutio
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book based solely on Alastair Reynolds insane props:

"I owe an equally obvious debt to Bruce Sterling, whose 'Shaper/Mechanist' sequence blew my mind on several levels. Sterling's future history, even though it consists of only a single novel and a handful of stories, still feels utterly plausible to me twenty years after I first encountered it. Part of me wishes Sterling would write more 'Shaper/Mechanist' stories; another part of me admires him precisely for not doing so. Read
Oct 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: only people who like cyberpunk or who dress like their in the Matrix
The cyberpunk movement is one I will never be able to get into. It is creative, but one of the characteristics of this book is that the author writes as if the story is happening in our present world, so he does not define words and key elements just as an author writing in the present wouldn't define terms they assume are collective knowledge. It bored me.
McGrouchpants, Ltd.
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading. Fucking unbelievable.

Even more useful in the Age of Trump, considering the adjustments you have to do every day. The parallels are that far afield, and little else will thusly stretch your mind.

You'll be better off.

(Buy it, and share with friends! This is banding together; this is sharing resources.)

This book includes not just Schismatrix, but also a handful of short stories set in the same universe.

Schismatrix itself I'm going to review separately, because there's so much to talk about, so in this review I will focus on the short stories and what they add to the experience of reading Schismatrix.

There are five stories: "Swarm," "Spider Rose," "Cicada Queen," "Sunken Gardens" and "Twenty Evocations."

Swarm - a suspenseful tale in the classic tradition of "hunter becomes prey" stories; it f
David B
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
A sweeping history of man's future in space, a time when humanity has reworked itself in dozens of different ways at the fundamental levels of thought, biology, and technology in order to adapt to its new environment. These scattered, interrelated communities exist within two general, mutually antagonistic factions: the Shapers, who rely on genetic manipulation, and the Mechanists, who rely on advanced technology. Bruce Sterling is an inventive writer with a lively intellect, but his novel often ...more
Nihal Vrana
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
This book slowly grew on me. Honestly, I didn't like the first 100 pages of so; it was too cyber-punky (and I have read enough of that). But then it got weirder and weirder and it started to grasp me very deeply. It is a mad difficult book to write (and due to that, it is quite obscure in places; but that's alright). The rivalry developed between Lindsay and Constantine over a very long time span in environments which are joy to imagine was wonderful. It is not a wonder why nobody ever touched i ...more
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really thought I was going to like this. I was wrong. Just not my thing.
August Bourré
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
There is so much here that there is nothing here at all.
Bryan S. Glosemeyer
This book leaves me with a lot of conflicting reactions. There were several times where I was a hair's breadth from just giving it two stars and putting it down in favor of another read. But I really hate doing that with books, and the novel within the book was just a little over 200 pages, so I decided, again and again, that I would just deal and get through it. (This version of the book also includes about another hundred pages of short stories which take place in-universe. Full disclosure, at ...more
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This has got me scratching my head at the definition of cyberpunk. The picture everyone has is pretty much console cowboys navigating some virtual reality dreamscape from a gritty rough and tumble noirish realspace. If that's cyberpunk, then Sterling has taken the pretension way past its defined forms.

Schismatrix is centrally about a political and violent conflict between two general factions of humanity, one of whom prefer genetic alterations over the cybernetic modifications of the other. Our
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a most difficult read. If you're considering reading this book, be forewarned - information overload is the name of the game. This is not confusing in a modernist stream-of-consciousnessness Joycean sort of way; it's just confusing in that the information and exposition are delivered so quickly, in so few words, you may have to reread several paragraphs numerous times before the facts finally "click."

But when they do, and you suddenly understand, your brain will glow with new knowledge,
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best examples of a stitch-up job in science fiction (the other best one, off the top of my head, is the first volume in Asimov's Foundation series). A stitch up job is when a bunch of short stories are Frankensteined together into a single 300-page-ish volume. Most of the good 'Great SF books' at least started as stitch ups because that was the way to establish yourself in the market (sell short stories, turn those stories into your first book/series).

In Schismatrix, Sterling
Alexander Veee
"Knowledge was power. And in seizing knowledge, humanity had gripped a power as bright and angry as a live wire. At stake were issues vaster than any before: the prospects were more dazzling, the potentials sharper, and the implications more staggering than anything ever faced by humanity or its successors.

Yet the human mind still had its own resources. The gifts for survival were not found only in the sharp perceptions of the Shapers, with their arsenals of brain-stretching biochemicals, or th
 Reading Reindeer

Collecting the original novel (SCHISMATRIX) plus 5 short stories and the author's Prologue, SCHISMATRIX PLUS constitutes the sum total of what author Bruce Sterling intended to write of the Shaper/Mechanist Universe. What I came away with (this being my first reading of Mr. Sterling, one of the founders of "Cyberpunk") is an impression of a universe where, like ours, hard heads and stubbornness prevail, and where two opposing ideologies butt heads like t
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
The novel itself is the bulk of this volume, a complex winding story that works somewhere between world-building bravado and humanist parable. Some moments are sloppy and confusing but the story is powerful and sweet and catches some truth I don't often expect to find in fiction. Wish I knew more about the what the author had in mind for the theater here, there's something beyond the obvious that I haven't quite grabbed.

The attached stories would be weak on their own, but add interesting color t
Dee Maselle
May 10, 2016 rated it liked it
This was my third attempt at reading Schismatrix Plus over the past 15 years: I tried one more time because a respected writer-friend adores it. I made it through this time, and eventually it grew on me--especially the diverse, colorful, textured short stories following the strange decades-hopping Schismatrix novel. I can't get past the fact that some of the dialogue is oddly manifesto-like and unnatural, even between sexual/romantic partners, so three stars rather than four.
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Bruce Sterling is an author, journalist, critic and a contributing editor of Wired magazine. Best known for his ten science fiction novels, he also writes short stories, book reviews, design criticism, opinion columns and introductions to books by authors ranging from Ernst Jünger to Jules Verne. His non-fiction works include The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier (1992 ...more

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