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The Caryatids

3.30  ·  Rating details ·  836 ratings  ·  104 reviews
Alongside William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling stands at the forefront of a select group of writers whose pitch-perfect grasp of the cultural and scientific zeitgeist endows their works of speculative near-future fiction with uncanny verisimilitude. To read a novel by Sterling is to receive a dispatch from a time traveler. Now, with The Caryatids, Sterling ha ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 24th 2009 by Del Rey (first published January 1st 2009)
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 ·  836 ratings  ·  104 reviews

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Feb 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Sterling fans
Recommended to Terence by: Library New Book shelf
Shelves: sf-fantasy
“Brain candy” – I had Presidents’ Day off this year – i.e., a three-day weekend – and was looking forward to not thinking too much while reading a couple of SF I’d picked up from the library. I’d just come off of reading some pretty weighty tomes about religion and a couple of novels that deserved serious attention and my brain needed the rest. I like Sterling’s early work, especially the stories and novels set in the universe of the Mechanist/Shaper cultures. I haven’t seen anything recently of ...more
Jul 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
I really liked this book, after a slow start. Though I notice that most books I have read lately do not get going until 60-100 pages in.

What the other reviewers say here has merit-- the book is choppy, the main characters not so sympathetic, the ending weak or just not fleshed out enough, with either threads dangling or too hard to figure out, the dialogue very manifesto-like, the future rather bleak.

Not Sterling's best? That's fair to say. I'd recommend Distraction. But this is far superior to
Clay Kallam
Apr 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Bruce Sterling, like the statues referred to in the title of “The Caryatids” (Del Rey, $25, 297 pages), has broken under the pressure of expectations – at least in terms of producing quality science fiction.

Sterling is a competent writer, and he had some great moments way back when cyberpunk was new in the world, but his novels have declined into what reads like deadline-meeting efforts without much substance. “The Caryatids” is no exception, as the setup is fine, but then Sterling goes absolute
Sep 11, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy

Interesting in concept, but failed in execution. Classic sci-fi writing issue where the ideas overshadowed the people and character development was extremely weak. I skimmed the last third of the book, just to finish it.
Julie  Capell
Man-made ecological disasters, reality stardom run amok, super-rich businessmen empowered to make world-changing decisions . . . No, it's not the newest on the NYT non-fiction list, it's a scifi novel that is all about now. Holding up a near-future glass, Sterling's novel reflects back to the reader a vision of our current times. With wry wit and complex characters, the author draws a completely believable picture of what the world could become in a few short decades. What makes this picture dif ...more
May 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: dystopia
Bruce Sterling is the 3rd in my triumvirate of distopian, cyber-punk-ish authors, the others being William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. While I've read most if not all of his work he's never really grabbed me by the collar and shaken my mind as the other two have. Nonetheless, he has some merit.

This particular work is full of Big Ideas, as others have mentioned, but those ideas are presented in a way that distracts from the point. Perhaps the style is intended to reflect the condition of Sterling
May 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
all the usual Sterling goodness, which I read as an ode to Southern Slav women
Sep 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
One of those sloppy projects where the author has an idea and hasn’t any clue, at all, about how to write it in a clear and present way,
What the hell is going on for 90% of this book? No idea at all! Bunch of dumb gibberish, obtuse actions, vague concepts the author presumes you understand.

Whatever. This is some eco-punk, climate-scare apocalypse book; dime a dozen these days, and any other must be at least more readable than this dump.
It’s a 200 page book also, and it took me 3 months to. Get t
Mar 29, 2012 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book right up until the end, when it kicked me in the shins and laughed in my face.

Bruce Sterling is a good writer--the prose is excellent at times, and there are a lot of clever and wry observations. The dialogue can get a little weird (and exclamation-point heavy) but it is pretty good most of the time. Sterling's ravaged future earth is fascinating and well-realized. The characters are all crazy--every one of them--but it fits, because their world has gone completely off the ra
Baal Of
Aug 17, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: eggplant
Hopelessly muddled hash of dull, inconsistent, irritating characters, a plodding storyline that meanders in a disjointed, stuttering pace, and a conclusion that dribbles to its end. I have enjoyed a lot of Bruce Sterling's other books. This one left me cold, and was a chore to finish. ...more
Mar 28, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sci-fi, dnf
I got to page 55 and gave up. I'm sure this is a good book and there are people out there who would really like it, but it's not grabbing my interest. ...more
Shiftless McKenney
Oct 15, 2009 rated it did not like it
Four ladies screwing around saying NO! Bad for the environment! Then a horrible, bland ending that makes no sense at all.
Peter Goodman

“The Caryatids,” by Bruce Sterling (Del Ray, 2000). In a near future where most of the world has been ravaged by climate change and other environmental disasters. There are three warring powers: The Dispensation, purely capitalist, based in the remnants of Los Angeles; the Acquis, a green collective that uses invasive neurogical technology to create a networked utopia; and China. In this world, a mad scientist created seven cloned sisters, and scattered them around the world. Three have already
Oct 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
I did not finish the book. I stopped around 2/3 (audio). There was not enough dramatic arc to keep me interested. There are a lot of descriptions of the future world (some of them, like augmented reality, have aged badly) which can be interesting for a while, but not much "happened".
Also, the main characters are sisters and they hate each other (this is explained early in the book), but the reason of this hate was not clear, at least to me.
So I gave up.
I compare this with William Gibson and nota
Shane Moore
May 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
There were a ton of great big ideas in this book, but the story wrapped around them was hard to follow. Each section was difficult to get invested in, and then it switched perspective to a new character. I was never quite sold on any of the characters by the time their section was done, and even with the book completely finished I still have a lot of unanswered questions. I feel like I could really love a TV or film adaptation, but as it stands I feel ambivalent about this one.
Ariel Cummins
Eh, this book just felt like such a SLOG for me. It took me forever to get through it, and nothing about it was enjoyable? It wasn't terribly written, but I also didn't find myself marveling at the prose at any point. Also, for a book where so much happens, it felt like nothing never really happened. ...more
Scott McKenzie
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Five word review: Not my cup of tea
Apr 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Sterling had me at the title - I was eager to pick up this book. But... it's disjointed. Jittery. Fragmented. And far too given to exclamation marks in dialog. And grim. Did I mention grim?

There's nothing wrong with the future-building, unfortunately. The outlines of Sterling's scenario are all too plausible; climate change has drowned and dislocated 21st-Century civilization until there are no countries left. Well, there's one - China still has boundaries, and about half of its population, by d
Nikki Knox
The best scifi book by Sterling that I've read yet. I believe it is set in the 2060s, after a global environmental disaster destroys the economy and most nation-states. The world is not subdivided into three main categories: The Dispensation, The Acquis, and China. The Dispensation is a network based out of Los Angeles (the capital of the world, primary refugee city) and focuses on business and profits. The entertainment sector is still dominant however it revolves around live stage performance ...more
The Caryatids: So... I'm still thinking "what?" the characters seem a little retarded.. It's making me think of Paranoia -where each successive clone is a bit dumber than the last. the world so far seems post literate and peopled by brainwashed floozies controlled by pre-programmed self loathing.

Why do the sisters hate each other so much? What was with the obsessive fear of non-manmade global catastrophe? Was the weird stilted dialogue just supposed to reflect the sisters nationality?

I suspect
Jul 26, 2016 rated it liked it
I like and dislike this book. As a narrative, I dislike it. There isn't really a plot, though for the first section it sure seems like there will be one. This is a book about its characters, and what brings them together...which isn't so much the events going on in the story, the pseudo plots we're given, as it is John Mary Sue Montalban. YMMV, but I hated this guy from the introduction. Thought I was supposed to, but I suppose not. Regardless, his presence is tolerable and seems like it may be ...more
May 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
(8/10) It's almost hard to know where to start with The Caryatids -- it's a big messy novel, overflowing with ideas and characters, and one could quickly get lost in plot recap. Bruce Sterling offers up a vision of a post-apocalyptic, almost post-governmental future, set in a ruined but not wothless world.

The titular Caryatids, a set of identical clones, are the viewpoint characters that allow us to see the different aspects of this society, but they're also more than that. Each character is dev
Andrew Willson
Jul 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
Overall I find myself glad that I'm finished with the story and not unglad that I read it. It would be difficult to say that I enjoyed this book though. The story, even after the afterword of the novel attempts to frame it in a certain way is simply disjointed and feels very much unfinished. The characters are all feel like paper dolls being moved around in some charade of reality. Many reviews discuss the big ideas contained in this novel. I for one, found nothing particularly new in this novel ...more
Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
With the world undergoing disastrous disintegration from man-made causes, who better to bring together the man-made solutions than three female clones as damaged and traumatised and dysfunctional as the world they're supposed to save? Most of their sisters are dead, their mother/sister is out of reach from the forces of law and order in orbit and the four surviving clones are scattered over the world, engaged in various morally dubious projects of reclamation, amelioration, sterilisation and ter ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Apr 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: may-june-2009

Books of Big Ideas often polarize reviewers, and Bruce Sterling's latest novel is no exception. Either the best SF book of this or any other year (Cory Doctorow) or "a mess of a book about the mess of the world" (John Clute), The Caryatids, at the very least, illustrates Sterling's ability to raise voices (in praise or protest) 30 years after he laid the groundwork for the cyberpunk movement, without which contemporary SF would be a much rockier -- and much less diverse -- landscape. Sterling's

Leonardo Etcheto
Aug 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Super duper great. Highly recommended.
I was completely immersed in the world and characters. He has a gift for the yin/yang competing ideologies - Aquis and Dispensation in this one. Literally could not stop reading until I got to the story breaks. The book even had cliffhanger section endings, but a nice little wrap up at the very end. I love how he combines the global with the personal, but also adds the perspective that in the end all our striving and building can be easily undone by an act o
Jun 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
I consider myself a science fiction aficionado. Bruce Sterling is one of the greats in the genre, but I had a tough time with this one and felt guilty for not liking it.

The story takes place in the future. Earth has seemingly become an ecological disaster. The book is broken into three sections each told from the perspective of three cloned sisters describing there lives and circumstances. Unfortunately, fifty pages in and I couldn't identify a central plot and I had trouble get invested enough
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: scifi-fantasy
There are very few authors out there who write incredibly original works, and fewer still whom I will purchase, in hardcover, when their books are released.

Bruce Sterling is one such author, and I've been hooked on him ever since Involution Ocean.

One thing that I like very much with Sterling is his strong emphasis on the social sciences in his novels. This one is no different,

He also has much to say about the environmental sciences; true again here.

But where this book fails to hold me is in the
J.T. Therrien
Aug 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
I loved The Caryatids. I found the editing a bit rough at the start, but I guess the editor found their red pen and fixed everything else up.

I mostly enjoyed the big concepts at play in this story - and the title, of course. I thought Stirling efficiently reduced the world into three major political ideologies at odds with each other and the fact that he represented those ideas using clones (so many clones) shows his creativity and mastery of craft.

I found the story engaging and the stakes as hi
Jun 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Almost done with this one, reminds me most of Islands in the Net, describing a post eco-disaster world where nation-states have failed, and what takes over are more like diametrically opposed mega-corporations, both centered on human elements of the workforce. Sterling comes at the reader with a Swiss Army Knife of futurist gadgetry and the epitome of biometric monitoring. One of the mega-corps reminds me of those "teamwork" posters taken to the Nth extreme, the other one is like Hollywood if it ...more
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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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