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Vacuum Flowers

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,063 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Among the vanguard of today's boldest writers, Michael Swanwick presents his world of plug-in personalities, colonized asteroids, and a daring fugitive named Rebel Elizabeth Mudlark, a high-tech criminal seeking refuge on Earth's orbiting settlements--where all human evils blossom in the vacuum of space.
Paperback, 248 pages
Published January 1st 1988 by Ace (first published 1987)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
A Persona Bum decides she likes the new personality she just uploaded to her brain so much that she decides to keep it. Unfortunately the corporation that owns the rights isn't too pleased and from there on in we follow Rebel Elizabeth Mudlark (or is it Eucrasia?) on her adventures across a solar system populated by bizarre societies transformed by the inovation of wetware technology and the loss of earth to a hivemind decades before. On the way we get to visit her world as she experiences much ...more
Apr 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Swanwick has been an amazing writer for a very long time. I've just reread this after 15 years or so and it's just as fresh as the day it was written. It seems wrong to describe it as cyberpunk as it's got so much more creativity insight and breadth than pretty much anything else in that genre. It reminds me of Samuel R Delaney's work more than William Gibson's.

On the other hand it does all kind of hang on the classic SF trope of the person who has had their memory blasted and so gets a guided t
Peter Tillman
Vacuum Flowers is a grand tour of the inhabited Solar System, set in a medium-term future. The book opens in Eros Kluster, one of many asteroid-based settlements that form the bulk of Human space, after all of humanity on Earth was absorbed into the Comprise, a world-wide AI- and net-mediated group-mind. The Klusters are frontier-capitalist polities, more or less, with advanced biotech and neuro-engineering -- most people spend their workday wetware-programmed by their employer, a (+/-) reversib ...more
Aug 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
What a ride! I've read a smattering of short stories(of note the absolutely menacing "The Very Pulse of the Machine" unsettling) by Swanwick which people claim are his strength but that seems dismissive of his novels..and on completing my first one..I think he might be dynamite novelist, one of our best. Called cyberpunk or space opera but really this is indescribable, a full on plunge into white hot imagination and political outrage tackling ideas of identity(most characters have several),g ...more
Jan 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Dear Vacuum Flowers,

I will not miss reading your pages, as far fetched, right on and eco-cyber-futurist as they may be. I guess if an abridged graphic novel version comes out I'd read that, but you were a bit of a slog for me.

So why'd I keep reading?

What i liked: imagery, futurist scene setting & plot devices, kick-ass female lead (except when not) , promiscuous female lead who faces few negative consequences for casual hookups, characters who move fluidly between socio-economic strata

Roddy Williams
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Earth is a hive-mind, police forces are press-ganged criminals, and aboriginal hunting parties can reside inside a single head. These are a few of the quirks and inventions in this 80s sci-fi. Along with the conceptual creativity, one of the best aspects is the seamless ecology of the asteroid worlds & the gradations between their gravities and cultures. It becomes a rich backdrop to the breakneck race for survival our heroine takes us on. I felt a genuine claustrophobia & disorientation ...more
Swanwick has constructed an impressive world in this book, but he does it without acknowledging the reader's unfamiliarity. From the very beginning, it's written as if the audience is contemporary to this world; details are included to enhance the picture, but not all details are explained. Just like someone wouldn't feel the need to explain how a telephone call works in a story of our time, he assumes the reader knows (or will figure out) what is happening. At times it made for slow, muddy read ...more
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This doesn't feel like a cyberpunk novel, because most cyberpunk feel very much of their time, whereas this has a freshness to its exuberant vision that seems to disdain such strictures.

Rebel wakes up in Eucrasia's body. Rebel is an artificial persona that has come to life, though she is marked for death by the corporation that owns her. Literally of two minds, she escapes and goes on the run with Wyeth, a friend of Eucrasia's with an interesting mind-state of his own, and they jaunt across the
Nelson Minar
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
An amusing book: the ideas are great, but the execution isn't very convincing. In the future humans are split into various societies, a cultural divergence because of isolation brought on my different space colonies. We've got hive-mind humans at the service of a new consciousness that spans Earth, a bunch of socialists building a worker society on Mars, and lots of free thinkers and personality reprogrammers hanging out in various small colonies. The interesting idea here is the manipulation of ...more
May 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I don't remember "cyberpunk" book that was more unsettling than this - pure in-depth horror of our future where the very essence of humanity will become completely and routinely correctable. This book gives more perspective on that subject than any dystopian book I read or heard of. Because author creates not simple story to tell some warning, send a message or paint a bleak picture, he creates absolutely balanced and self-contained normal world where people live and prosper, going forward and s ...more
Kevin Conod
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
A cyberpunk classic. It takes place in a far-flung future where humans have colonized the solar system and can be programmed like computers. Even though it was written in 1987, it still holds up. Though in some spots the author plops in items without explanation (not everyone knows what a dyson tree is).
Jun 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is an overlooked cyberpunky gem. It features interesting tech that asks the question: if you could change your personality at will, who would you be?
Mar 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Vacuum Flowers has a lot of things going for it, but I enjoyed it less than the sum of its parts. Immediately upon starting this book it reminded me of When Gravity Fails by Effinger, a book published a year earlier than Vacuum Flowers that also has downloadable personalities and skill sets as its central sci-fi premise. When Gravity Fails, however, botched that premise by not fully engaging with is, such as by having the main character be against ever using the technology (a virtual luddite, gi ...more
Donovan Hastie
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some spoilers here, I don't go into great detail, but beware.

I think any rating/review must take into account that this book was first written in 1987. With that in mind it truly is an amazing book. For me it's right up there with William Gibson's Neuromancer series (although I consider those to be better).

The concept of vacuum flowers all by itself is completely original, but the way he uses wetware technology here is just plain cool. It makes having multiple personalities not just cool but a
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An early blend of Cyberpunk and Space Opera that relentlessly introduces new ideas several times a page, bizarre cultures residing all throughout the solar system, crazy organic space habitats of multiple variety, programmable minds, devious Ai and characters you probably can't trust. A story that disorients as often as entertains. Which I’ve come to expect from good, classic Cyberpunk.
Michael Burnam-Fink
Dec 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, 2014
Vacuum Flowers is brightly burning science fiction, half cyberpunk and half space opera, but it's very much style over substance, and while Swanwick is good enough as a writer, he's no master wordsmith a la Gibson or Sterling.

The story starts in Eros cluster, with a woman waking up in the hospital about to have her identity erased by an evil and mysterious corporation. It turns out that her personality as space adventuress Rebel Elizabeth Mudlark is an artificial construct, designed for entertai
Juliana Rew
Mar 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In Michael Swanwick's now-classic 1987 cyberpunk novel, "Vacuum
Flowers," Rebel Elizabeth Mudlark wakes up to find herself in the body
of Eucrasia Walsh, a recently deceased cyber expert. Her "persona" has
been sold to a megacorporation for use as an entertainment
personality. The concept of uploading yourself into other bodies was a
precursor to other great SF novels, such as David Brin's "Kiln
People." But Rebel is worried that the strong personality of Eucrasia
will overwhelm her own.

Rebel escapes f
Apr 10, 2013 rated it liked it
One frequent basis for SF is to imagine a disruptive technology and explore a story in that environment. In this story the disruptive technology is mind control, which is used on a frequent and everyday basis. Need a lawyer quick? Grab someone and mind-program them with a legal-code personality. Need a doctor? Need a bodyguard? Etc. The technology is based on "wetware", some kind of viral or genetic something or other. That's left pretty fuzzy. Regardless, the author does a great job of explorin ...more
Wil Howitt
Dec 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the most seminal cyberpunk book you've never heard of. Along with Neuromancer, it spun off pretty much all the ideas that made cyberpunk a movement.

Like all good SF, the story is not about science, but the effect of science on people. The premise is simple -- a technology that reprograms human wetware. The effects are profound and varied. Lots of different types of societies spring up. (view spoiler)
Aug 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
I first read this in the early 90's and have reread it numerous times since. It never gets old! The interesting thing is that this is a book that makes you work for your picture of the world he so casually constructs. There's no skimming allowed here! Small details are layered upon innocuous sentences that enlarge your comprehension of exactly what the heck kind of society is going on here! The story-line smoothly facilitates opportunities to add to the knowledge sum, if the reader pays attentio ...more
Carol Spears
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I made some mental mistakes while reading this book, had I not discovered the one mistake in particular I might have given this tale 5 stars. The big mistake was that I would see the word "Comprise" and I would read it as "Compromise". Before I had finished the book, I had the thought to globally search and replace "Compromise" with "Consensus" -- and thus, this tale became a good if not perfect metaphor for wikipedia and those problems which are peculiar to that environment. Up to and including ...more
Brian Smith
Quite a wild, complex world that's hinted at here, but as a story it has a tough time holding itself together. There were several awesome wow-filled moments, but just as many jarring transitions as it rapidly explored too many ideas for its length.

Also the number of times the main female lead has casual sex is grating and laughable. Not to mention the author's copious references to breasts and nipples. There was even a time where this lead was thinking about how much she loved one man while havi
Michael Whitman
Nov 29, 2014 rated it liked it
The concepts and ideas in this book are outstanding. Equally, the world building is wonderful. However,any of the characters (aside from Wyeth and Rebel) are two dimensional. The book is short and could have benefited from some additional time exploring each scene and character.

As a read it was unsettling and confusing, which may have been the whole point. If it was it didn't fly perfectly for me, and cried out for slightly cleaner execution.
Bill Glover
Jan 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, sf
This is one of those books I've meant to read for literally decades. It's thoroughly enjoyable, relatively hard science fiction which really holds up to the years. Unlike the other cyberpunk novels of the time, Vacuum Flowers is set in a different enough world that the technology changes of the past twenty-three years have hardly touched it, but it still has that noir edge, corporate dystopianism and triple-cross plot that made the genre what it was.
Ayala Sela
הרעיון מצויין, והיו כמה רגעים שהרגשתי שהספר ממריא, אבל בסופו של דבר, זה היה בעיקר המון פוטנציאל לא ממומש.
מוח-הכוורת האנושי, השתלת האישויות וגם רבל עצמה- כולם היו מעניינים אבל לא מפותחים ולא מנוצלים כראוי.
קראתי, אבל אני לא מרגישה שהבנתי מה קרה שם בדיוק, וכל הקשרים בין הדמויות היו כל כך שבלוניים שזה כמעט כאב.

אם זה לא מספיק, התרגום היה בינוני,ודרש עוד איזה מחזור של הגהה.

חבל פעמיים. גם על התרגום הלא-מספיק-טוב, אבל בעיקר על הרבה רעיונות טובים שנכתבו די רע.
Suzanne Rooyen
I give up. DNF at 50%. The world building is just so chaotic that I don't really know how anything works or why or where the characters even are half the time. As for the characters, I'm seriously struggling to care about them. Just when I think I understand what the story is about and where the plot is going, random stuff happens that makes me all confused again. Sadly, I've reached the point where I just don't care anymore. Time to move on... :(
Jan 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I am giving this a 4 star, despite reading it many years ago. It has really stuck in my mind, and at the time I really enjoyed it. I should really put it in the to be re-read pile.
Re-read this recently and the mists created by the length of time between reads have lifted. It was even better this time hence the upgrade to 5 stars. I think maybe age and experience are at play in my enjoying it that star more.
Erik Graff
Jan 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cyberpunk fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
This is a cut above the usual sf cyberpunk, though it didn't leave me with much or introduce anything that was really original. I note, however, that the bibliographical card for this title bears the note: "rather good sf novel", so I must be forgetting something and will give this four stars.
Sep 10, 2010 marked it as to-read
Shelves: sf-fantasy

transhuman future

*note to self. Copy from A.(different cover,1989 Legend books. scan later
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