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Stations of the Tide

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  2,317 ratings  ·  183 reviews
When a strange magician and renegade scientist steals the secrets that could save a distant planet from being annihilated by its own oceans' tides, a man is sent to Miranda to retrieve those secrets before it is too late. Winner of the Nebula Award. Reprint.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 1st 2001 by Eos (first published 1991)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  2,317 ratings  ·  183 reviews

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This was some kind of amazing. The main character, who was never referred to as anything but Bureaucrat, was hardly my definition of a bureaucrat. He was part outcast, part superspy, part magician's apprentice, and part avenger. He wears so many hats during this superb little gem that I never slow down and even consider why. The plot is also so damn interesting and the pacing so fantastic that I almost miss exactly how wonderfully crafted the writing is.

Am I a fan of Swanwick? I have read a few
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Stations of the Tide" by Michael Swanwick is the story of an unnamed Bureaucrat and the urgent investigation he’s tasked with.

The planet he lives on, Miranda, is subject to major tidal flooding every 200 years, and with the tide due to arrive in a week’s time on what’s called Jubilee Day, it’s imperative that he locate and apprehend the man Gregorian to avert disaster beforehand.

The populace under tight control, the government believes Gregorian has come into possession of proscribed technolog
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very beautifully written and imagined novel, full of magic and menace, mystery and madness.
The plot, although it does mostly come together in the end, is secondary to the experiential and visual aspects of book. If you're unable to follow everything that's going on or visualize some of the scenes and items he's describing, don't sweat it.
Kat  Hooper
Mar 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

It’s the Jubilee Year on the planet Miranda. Every 200 years the planet floods and humans must leave until Miranda’s continents are reborn. Miranda used to be the home of an indigenous species of shapeshifters who, during Jubilee, would return to their aquatic forms until the waters receded, but it seems that humans have killed them off.

Gregorian, who lives on Miranda but was educated off-planet by a rich and distant father, now styles himself a magician a
Aug 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of surrealism
Despite the sci fi suit this book sometimes wears, this is a full on plunge into surrealism. A story of shape changing, clones, virtual reality, a decaying dying planet, a pastiche of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and other things told in explosion of images straight from the magic realism camp(minus most pretense of "reality"). A paranoid stacking of incidents like Pynchon and diseased and demented characters like Kafka. This is one very literary and mind blowing novel, kind of "Crying of Lot 49" ...more
Actual rating: 2.5 stars

What an odd little novel! Not my usual fare at all, and I wouldn’t have picked it up or persevered if it wasn’t on my project reading list (and if it wasn’t so short). I can see where many people would find it interesting and intriguing. I merely found it all confusing, so it’s not my cuppa tea.

The main character never even gets a name—he is merely “the bureaucrat.” When I first started the book, I thought, “Oh good, this is a sci-fi mystery!” And it kind of was, but it a
Feb 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the books that I described as: good beginning, tedious but necessary middle part, good ending.

It has interesting ideas: planetary romance, and conflict between Miranda people needs and rule of forbidden technology share, to name two of them. But the execution is too slow for my personal taste.

What saved this book to make me like this book: the foreshadow clues are good and the climax ending used the clues well to burn my excitement. What an ending! (Argh! I need to restrain myself
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, science-fiction
A man known only as 'the bureaucrat' searches for an elusive wizard on a planet plagued by catastrophic tides. In this universe a vague domineering organization housed in a labyrinthine structure known as the Puzzle Palace regulates access to technology among planets. When a society is deemed to have been irresponsible, its technology is revoked and its development stage is regressed. Puzzle Palace staff utilize 'surrogates' to travel safely in zones where their presence may not be welcome or to ...more
What a long, winding, complicated road one must travel to come to the end of this journey. At worst it was very confusing, at best it was quite interesting.
On the whole, it was just compelling enough, despite the fits of frustration, to keep me coming back - reading word by word until the very end.
Oct 23, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: scifi, 1paper, 2fiction
I got halfway through & just didn't care if I read another page or not. I'm not sure if the writing wasn't up to snuff or it was the plot - maybe it was the characters. I think it was. I didn't like the hero much & there wasn't a single supporting character that was more than a caricature. The hero was a self absorbed bureaucrat. There were also some sex that just seemed to be put in there to add interest. They didn't. Everything about the book seemed slightly out of place & phase. Anyway, it di ...more
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Swanwick is one those rare authors who - I believe - deserves more recognition than he gets. He is certainly not for everyone (yes, yes, I realize I'm balancing precariously on the very edge of eternal hipsterdoom here); Stations of the Tide lacks that solid straightforwardness which popular books usually possess. The pacing is uneven, and the story often stumbles and walks in circles, and sometimes I got the feeling that the author and I are equally confused as to where we are heading.

db johnston
Jun 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Stations of the Tide is full of symbolism and allegory dressed up as a cyberpunk detective story. Sections in the middle of the novel are disjointed and elusive, but the surface plot is quite easy to comprehend: the bureaucrat (he is never named) is sent to a planet, Miranda, to investigate whether a self-proclaimed wizard, Gregorian, has smuggled contraband technology onto the planet.

The planet Miranda has three moons and an eccentric orbit about its sun: every two-hundred years there is an ins
Oct 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Think_galactic for its issues re technology/society
Shelves: sci-fi
More coherant than Dragons of Babel, less emotionally wrenching than The Iron Dragon's Daughter, but just as stuffed with innovation and imagination as all of Swanwick's work. An unnamed bureaucrat is sent to a Miranda to investigate possible stolen technology. Miranda is a colony world, forbidden to have any advanced technology, which has led to intense resentment and a thriving subculture of bush wizards. ...more
4.0 stars. A very original novel with a smart blend of science fiction and fantasy elements that make an excellent story.

Nominee: Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Nominee: John W. Campbell Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Nominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Winner: Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Sep 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Hmm - not sure how I feel about this one entirely. It was good overall. It had Gene Wolfe's tricky paw prints all over it: oblique events, rambling dialogue that means something maybe, obscure aliens you never really meet, some dodgy gender politics (ok Swanwick is not as bad Wolfe in this department - not every female is out to sleep with the main character or is otherwise a psycho bitch).

As to the plot - an agent guy lands on a planet to investigate the illegal appropriation of technology by a
Jun 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is one of those obvious classics of SF, if not for anything but the sensation of transportation it gives me. It is a story about sufficiently advanced technology wearing a cloak of magical realism.

Miranda and its people, the avant garde of now banned technology, is facing a winter in which the land is overcome by a great flood in which the dimorphic flora and fauna will burst forth in dazzling transformation. Everything unable to be transported offplanet or secured will be utterly destroye
Vinnie Tesla
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Gene Wolfe and other literary SF
Wow, that was gorgeous.

I'm still digesting as I write this, and it's going to take multiple re-readings to begin to unpack the payload of symbolism and reference in this slender volume. And, unlike most novels that aim for those kind of effects, it's very good SF as well, with a rich and consistent vision of a future human civilization, packed with gorgeous, dazzling images and ideas.

I would love to read a book about this book, that chases down the referents, traces the story-within-a-story of t
Dec 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
A science fiction re-telling of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." The unnamed Bureaucrat plays the role of Marlow, who travels to the planet of Miranda to find the enigmatic figure known as Gregorian. Authorities suspect Gregorian is using banned off-world technology to pose as a magician in the decadent and half-pagan culture of the Tidewater. Add in the threat of the Jubilee tides, natural cataclysmic floods that are due to drown the Tidewater underwater, and the hunt for Gregorian becomes a race ...more
Deborah Ideiosepius
Took me several tried to get into this one. I am glad I kept trying because it was worth the effort. It was recommended to me by someone on the Roger Zelazny group, and I had loved Vacuum Flowers by the same author so I bought it sight unseen.

The main character seemed flat and the events obscure to an annoying degree, but a couple of days ago I realised that I did not want to put it down and knew I was hooked. There are a number of underlying themes that it holds in common with vacuum flowers (m
Aug 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
Interesting idea, poorly executed. The book was written haphazardly, often it was difficult to follow what was going on; characters who were only briefly introduced later become pivotal for no reason, and the book's setting was so dimly explained as to leave the reader wondering what was going on. It just didn't make sense for about 80% of the book. Don't waste your time with this one....
Jan 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was weird where it creates a really interesting planetary system and teases at there being a huge mystery, but then it all kind of falls flat for me. It had some interesting bits but I felt myself rushing through it just to get it finished.
Garlan ✌
Did not finish. Barely got started. For a Nebula Award winner, this book/author fell FAR short of my expectations. I only managed about 45 pp, but I could tell this one wasn't for me. With the end of year looming, I need to move on to books that motivate me to read more than a few paragraphs at a time...
Sep 16, 2011 rated it liked it
In some place, this book was very interesting, and in some wasn't. In particular, one of the things I find interesting about science fiction is the universe-building -- are we reading about a near-future Earth setting, or a universe where interstellar travel is commonplace? While it became quickly clear that this was not set on Earth, the setting was only slowly and not very fully disclosed. I'm OK with describing things up front, and I'm OK with slowly peeling back the curtain -- as ...more
Mar 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had to come back and rate this story again.

I should have waited until I was done in the first place. Instead, I rated it half way through, giving it three measly stars no less. I'll never do that again. Boy, was I being miserly with my rating. It deserves five stars, and much more than that.

Stations of the Tide is a fantastic story. It was told in an original way, and it heightened my imagination. A story like this deserves awards. Michael Swanwick deserves applause.

In Stations of the Tide,
Jun 10, 2011 rated it liked it
As much as I tend to find numbers and stars a little silly when reviewing things, Goodreads encourages their use and as such I agonize when it comes to this sort of thing. Three stars feels insulting, but I just handed The Player of Games, which I liked a heck of a lot more than Stations, four stars. I did like Stations of the Tides, but found it to be uneven both in pacing and in tone and while the world of Miranda is well realized, much of the story is grounded in the world beyond Miranda whic ...more
Mar 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf, 2008
"Stations of the Tide" is set on Miranda, a planet on the verge of yet another periodic global drowning, where a bureaucrat equipped with a talking, tracking, ultimately-capable-of-making-decision briefcase is tasked with the hunt for a shaman slash fraud slash technology pirate. Threatened by the imminent great flood, hampered by suspicion of treason, subjected to poisoning and murder attempt, the bureaucrat went from one evacuated city to the next, struggling to find his quarry.

Swanwick poetic
“His eyes ached with the effort of seeing and not comprehending.”

This terrific quote from the book accurately sums up my reading experience. Although written beautifully, Stations of the Tide’s kafkaesque endeavours feels too ambitious, as if not even Swanwick himself knows what’s going on half the time. There's prescribed technology, artificial intelligence, witches and wizards, clones, mythical creatures and surreal geography – all of which I would normally dig, but in this instance falls
Nov 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Swanwick for a local convention a few months ago, having only read his brilliant comedy Chasing The Phoenix. Today, I finished his award-winning Stations Of The Tide, a book just as wonderful but in almost opposite directions. Sci-fi elements aside, this is a noir story. A man known only as the beaurocrat (evoking the Pinkerton Agent of classic noir stories) is investigating a criminal in a corrupt little world on the brink of environmental cataclysm. H ...more
May 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Having reread this for the first time in 8 years, and remembering some intense images but very little else, I'm VERY glad I did so . This book is weirdly flat emotionally, not least because of the cipher main character that is the Bureaucrat, or the wisp of a motivation we see in the antagonist. But the universe is fantastic, the pseudophilosophizing is lovely and engaging, the references and hints of the occult are copious, the carnivalesque atmosphere is hard to top, and this skinny little vol ...more
Elizabeth Hunter
Feb 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf, kindle
The problem with telling stories that involve different layers of reality is that it can be hard for the reader to track which set of rules the story is playing by at any given time. Rich with imagery, fetid with ambiance, this is an interesting story in a fully imagined world, but one that never fully engaged me as a reader. The early chapters had too many lists and throughout the book the choice to devote creative powers to the dark and mucky views made me impatient. While not being quite on t ...more
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