Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Vacuum Flowers” as Want to Read:
Vacuum Flowers
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Vacuum Flowers

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,312 ratings  ·  67 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. ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published January 1st 1988 by Ace (first published 1987)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,312 ratings  ·  67 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Vacuum Flowers
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
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
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
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

what i d
Dana Cameron
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
This book is so good I could have sworn it was written by a woman. The lead female protag is very real and believable—she even manages to be *sexual* without being *sexualized*, which can be a hard line for some authors to walk.

I was thinking how this might be the best 80's era cyberpunk/scifi novel I've read yet, and then Swanwick referenced Kobo Abe, my fav surrealist author.

Like, this book isn't tinged with the misogyny and racism so many other books from this time are, that we try to overlo
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... :( ...more
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: calibre-finds
This type of scifi really isn't my cup of tea. To quote another reviewer on goodreads:

"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."

This is pretty much how I felt for the first half of the book. In the
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 at time ...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
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
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
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?
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
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a future where personalities can be temporarily written to brains in a short time, the practice is used in law enforcement, espionage, and even entertainment. Exciting personalities are big business, and when Rebel Mudlark, the hot new personality marketed by a major corporation is tested for the first time, the tester breaks out of the facility, determined to stay Rebel... but the personality is copyrighted and she's got the only clean copy in her head, and the corporation will do anything t ...more
Cesar Felipe
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
The problem I had with this book is perhaps something that others may like: a unique bizarreness in its settings, its characters, its scenes, and its general plot.

The heart of this book lies in the solar system it presents. But it was often difficult to wrap my head around what exactly it was portraying about it, simply because it uses a language of made-up concepts that aren't explained, ambiguous wording that can be imagined in different ways, and obscure and archaic terms, all of which are u
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the book that introduced me to Michael Swanwick in the early nineties, and I have read it several times. A few years ago I decided that since I loved this novel so much I would work my way through Swanwick's entire oeuvre. After reading every novel and almost every short story still in print (and quite a few out of print), I have circled back around to Vacuum Flowers. I was curious whether my feelings about this novel would change after reading so much Swanwick but while I have loved man ...more
Aug 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, cyberpunk
While generally cool and fun to read, there were parts that were a bit confusing to follow, moving from one scene to the next without much connection. But generally really cool sci-fi and cyberpunk ideas. Mainly the personality and skills programming from the idea of the tetrad and the balance on four different personalities in one person, to Rebel being the Library of an army unit, and the difference between programming the mind and "wetware" to bio-engineering. The idea of programming a person ...more
Feb 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
Swanwick, Michael. Vacuum Flowers. 1987. Open Road, 2016.
Michael Swanwick is a writer who should be better known than he is, despite one Nebula award for his novel Stations of the Tide and three Hugo awards for his short fiction. He caught the cyberpunk bus early on, and in Vacuum Flowers he extends its reach into the kind of space opera I usually associate with John Varley’s Eight Worlds series. The story is set in a solar system that is inhabited all the way to the Oort Cloud with “cannister h
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, cyberpunk
Swanwick has such a creative mind! This was mind blowing in the same way as Snow Crash or Neuromancer. I am shocked that he's not mentioned in the same way that Gibson or other stars of the cyberpunk genre are.

The wetware and personality conflicts and world building around this is pretty great and novel.

The way he envisions the colonization of our solar system is also fascinating. There is an Earth vs the rest, along with an outer planets vs inner - 20 years before James SA Corey wrote it. Howe
Micah Horton hallett
What a terrible cover for an otherwise good book. What is with that? Why are science fiction editors compelled to rifle through soft porn magazines for the covers of male targeted SF, and "women's" magazines for aspirational figures to stick on female targeted SF? Aren't we past the age of pulp? Can't we let this go? Why is this apparently targeted at males anyway? There is a strong and complex female protagonist getting down in some old school cyberpunk action full of wetware, rogue AI's, gesta ...more
Kat La russe
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This was very fast-paced, and I went in expecting to love it, since it's written by Michael Swanwick. This book resisted my loving it. It sort of repulsed me at first, with the fast pace and the seemingly uncomprehensible mishmash of technology and nature, unlikeable protagonist, and, and and...

I still loved it. This is not really a plot book, it's more an ideas book. There is a plot, and characters, and it all ties together so well in that tried and true Swanwickian way, but I found the worldb
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 botched that premise by not fully engaging with it, such as by having the main character be against ever using the technology (a virtual luddite, given the se ...more
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
A love story and self-discovery tale strung together with manic, glittering concepts swiping the pages by. Who are you?, we watch the story ask its protagonist in as many ways as it can, from sensual contact to tinkering with programmed personalities to a lover with four personas in one body, through fringe societies living in secret jungles and canisters. Overstimulation jerks and wheels like a high-octane performance specifically to entertain a desensitized audience, and to give a beating to t ...more
Scott Campbell
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Back in the golden age of SF, it was believed that you couldn't introduce more than one innovation in a story. Swanwick breaks that rule at least 5 times on every page of this novel. This is world building at its finest. It's also a little overwhelming. Swanwick explains very little, expecting you to pick it up from the clues he drops. The novel has a steep learning curve and honestly, I almost gave up about a quarter of the way through. I'm glad I did because the novel intensely gratifying. I i ...more
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Extremely beautiful imagery, striking and original ideas. Plus a few that were original in 1986, but are everywhere in scifi now.

The plot isn't very clear, nor especially interesting. There are a few character moments meant to be surprising that don't land, because we know too little about the characters to be surprised. But the atmosphere and scenes are excellent, and Swanwick's vision of a culture where people buy and sell personalities to layer over their own is compelling.
Brown Robin
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite sci-fi books. It has everything I want and nothing I don't. It partakes of cyberpunk, but because Swanwick was kind of already there material-wise yet not a "club member," it is also different enough to be its own thing. It still feels fresh after a third of a century.

If you like fast-paced info-dense futurology of an inhabited solar system with no violations of plausibility, combined with depth of humanity at the personal and species scales, this is your cup of tea.
« previous 1 3 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
How to Find How to Buy Best Portable Vacuum Online 1 2 Aug 02, 2017 07:22AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Look to Windward (Culture, #7)
  • Spook Country (Blue Ant, #2)
  • The Final Programme
  • Orbitsville
  • Rogue Moon
  • Wherever Seeds May Fall
  • Infidel (Bel Dame Apocrypha, #2)
  • The Last Days of Christ the Vampire
  • To Open The Sky
  • Kentucky Ham
  • Rum Punch
  • Dhalgren
  • White Light
  • The Female Man
  • All Tomorrow's Parties (Bridge, #3)
  • Conventions of War (Dread Empire's Fall #3)
  • The Steerswoman (The Steerswoman, #1)
See similar books…

Related Articles

This May, as we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we wanted to take an opportunity to shine a light on some of the...
249 likes · 44 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »