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Crystal Express

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  876 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Short stories which depict worlds full of scientific advancement, genetic and surgical modifications of people, colonization of the solar system and alien contact. But they also show concern for the future of real people.


Swarm (1982)
Spider Rose (1982)
Cicada Queen (1983)
Sunken Gardens (1984)
Twenty Evocations (1984)
Green Days in Brunei (1985)
Spook (1983)
The Beautifu
Paperback, 278 pages
Published December 1st 1990 by Ace (first published 1989)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  876 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Jul 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I feel like reading Sterling's Mechanist/Shaper stories is like passing some sort of science fiction Rubicon: once you've read them you are officially a nerd, no backsies.

Crystal Express contains, among other short stories, all of Sterling's Mechanist/Shaper stories outside of the novel Schismatrix, and while some of the non-M/S pieces didn't quite do it for me, this collection gets five stars anyway--the quality of the far future M/S world is so vivid and compelling, the alien-ness so amazingl
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
"Spook" is just not up to professional standards, and "Twenty Evocations" fails as an experiment, but the rest of this book is delightful. "Green Days in Brunei" is the archetype of the cyberpunk short story, enhanced now by its technological anachronisms rather than diminished by them. In "The Beautiful and the Sublime" Sterling covers Ballard, quite well. The four fantasy stories make me wish Sterling had written more fantasy, and more historical fiction. And, of course, Cicada Queen is one of ...more
Michael Caveney
Mar 02, 2020 rated it liked it
An ok collection of misccellaneous storeis from cyberpunk pioneer Bruce Sterling. I was hoping for more, but this was fine.
A.M. Steiner
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A rock solid collection of short stories split into three sections. The first covers Sterling's own twisted SF universe, the second is more generic SF and the third is history-tinged fantasy.

His style is very sophisticated and intellectual. He manages to combine big ideas with human level interaction in a way few genre authors are capable of.

I didn't know Sterling before reading this, other than as the co-author of The Difference Engine, and I was blown away by how good it was. I will definitel
Kevin Knowles

-SHAPER/MECHANIST- Set in Sterling's science fiction universe of the same name, this volume contains all of the short stories from the Shaper/Mechanist universe. It leaves out only the novel, Schismatrix.

Swarm (1982) 5/5 Stars
Captain-Doctor Simon Afriel takes an alien ship out to a colony known as the Swarm. Within it, he meets up with Doctor Minry and they commence their study of the Insectoid Swarm. They hope to harness its power to elevate humanity's status in the universe.
A creepy tale of
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
It's important to me to not know what a book is about too much before I read it, and so I had no idea this was a short story collection! I was a bit surprised, but rolled with it. I was not feeling great about this book after the first ten pages, but the ending of the first short story was a delight, so I kept going.

The book is divided into sections, with the first part being stories that center around a collective world of Shaper/Mechanists/Investors. I would have been fine if the whole book ha
Peter Tillman
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Essential collection of early Sterling shorts. Complete TOC above, details at
Many of these stories have multiple reprints, and include such classics as
• Swarm • [Shaper/Mechanist] • (1982) • novelette
• Green Days in Brunei • (1985) • novella
• Flowers of Edo • (1987) • novelette
• Dinner in Audoghast • (1985) • short story

Check out this cool cover art for "Cicada Queen" (1983):
Tech-Medusa! I should reread it.
Aug 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-fiction
I had no idea Bruce wrote such great sci-fi! The reading is dense and challenging - the worlds he creates are very vivid and take some time to settle into, but you are rewarded for your diligence with mind-blowing glimpses of the future...
Twin Lovers
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found this collection of short stories at a second-hand book store following watching Sterling’s many lectures on tech art, new technology, and futurism. Despite his style having been labeled cyberpunk, these stories cover a wide range of genres. I enjoy his references to art and music. Also, many of the stories seem Transrealist. I feel as if I am present…suspending the narrative of now while still consciously observing the pushing operations of the present, formatting new interpretations in ...more
Durval Menezes
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Delicious short story collection. It's been a long time since I've read anything from Sterling, and it's good to read him again. I came originally for the ser of Shaper vs Mechanist stories, but the others are also very good. Will have to read more Sterling soon, he has something unique on his style which is very pleasing. ...more
Baronne Samedi
Dec 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I've read this too late: the themes covered are not original enough for me anymore, as I read a lot of other science-fiction before I met this book, to the point of having "déjà-vu" feelings. However the writing style is excellent and sensitive, so I might read a more recent book from the same author. ...more
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
A pretty good collection of short stories. As usual, some are mediocre, some are good and some are very good.
Earl Truss
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
There were only three stories in this book that I had not read before. They were OK, not the best though.
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Not very good value for money. I love the Shaper/Mechanist stories. The other SF stories varied in how much I enjoyed them (I skipped the last), and I didn't read any of the Fantasy stories. ...more
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good collection of short stories
Isabel (kittiwake)
Dec 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
The history of mankind in space had been a long epic of ambitions and rivalries. From the very first, space colonies had struggled for self-sufficiency and had soon broken their ties with the exhausted Earth. The independent life-support systems had given them the mentality of city-states. Strange ideologies had bloomed in the hothouse atmosphere of the o'neills, and breakaway groups were common.
Space was too vast to police. Pioneer elites burst forth, defying anyone to stop their pursuit of ab
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave this 4 stars based on the breadth of the author's stories and imagination. I liked the Shaper/Mechanist stories which were outstanding. One, Spider Rose, was one of the best scifi short stories I have ever read.

The "fantasy" stories were my second favorite. They were all interesting and covered the ground from alternate history to plain supernatural. The Little Masgic Shop was my favorite. Could have easily been a Twilight Zone episode.

I liked the non-S/M scifi stories the least. Don't ge
Glen Engel-Cox
This book would be worth the price alone for gathering together the Shaper/Mechanist stories, the fiction that, along with William Gibson's Sprawl stories and John Shirley's "Freezone," codified a movement. These stories were the cattle-prod to SF in the 80s, and, while they weren't the only good work being done, sparked more interesting fiction and discussion than anything else. Cyberpunk has waned, and will continue to in spite of the imitation work that it spawned which is now hitting the sta ...more
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good collection of stories with a few weaknesses. The shaper/mechanist universe of Sterling is fascinating. I would have enjoyed to get to know this universe in more depth with the exception of the pseudo-philosophical garbage he's introducing in Cicada Queen.
The three science fiction stories are the most interesting stories of the book as each one of them has a unique idea. The extreme environmentalism of Green Days in Brunei isn't as much science fiction anymore as it was at the time of wri
Byron  'Giggsy' Paul
Jul 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: cyberpunk
the stories in this collection are separated into 3 categories: Shaper/Mechanist (Sterling's cyberpunk universe), Science Fiction, and Fantasy. The Shaper/Mechanist stories were great, breaking the boundaries of generic cyberpunk. The Science Fiction and Fantasy groupings were decent. Both where a little less sci-fi and fantasy than typical stories labeled in these categories, and show Sterling's ability to include history, ancient cultures, and lesser known cultures to the Western reader, and t ...more
Scott Holstad
Sep 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi
I know I'm one of the few people to feel this way, but I really didn't like these short stories by Bruce Sterling (and I loved Islands in the Net!), so I didn't even finish the book. I couldn't. It was a strange combination of both the writing being dense and overly challenging, yet the subject matter being boring beyond belief. If I have to read anything else ever again on terraforming, I think I'll puke! I couldn't get into the characters, I thought there were too many in some stories, and not ...more
Benjamin Farlow
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've read a lot of the stories herein before in 'Schismatrix Plus,' but was delighted by both old and new. That said, let's focus on the new. 'Green Days in Brunei' and 'The Beautiful and the Sublime' were two interesting counterpoints of attainable futures; Green days is a bit more now, the Sublime might be what we could look forward to (having met Jen on the matrix, I can already see it's appeal). 'The Little Magic Shop' was a hilarious re-imagining of the old 'gotchya' stories involving faeri ...more
Sep 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Posthumanists
Contains the short stories that form the bulk of Sterling's Shaper/Mechanist universe (which Alastair Reynolds has blatantly, if brilliantly, ripped off). Very good stuff here, anchored in the kind of dense philosophy and social criticism that can elevate sci-fi above pulp. Strangely, lacks the wild sense of humor and madcap adventure that I have so loved in Sterling's novels. Still worth reading. ...more
Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
I didn't finish it. I haven't really liked Bruce Sterling in the past but thought I'd give this a try (it was sticking out in a "Favorites" section at the library). The short stories just weren't very compelling -- particularly when compared to Iain M Banks or Ballard. ...more
Oct 12, 2012 rated it liked it
The Shaper/Mechanist stories were both fascinating and horrifying. I don't understand why these people wouldn't embrace both genetic modification and mechanical implants, though; the two practices aren't mutually exclusive. ...more
Aug 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a mixed bag, as many such collections are. The stories ranged from excellent, to interesting, but meh. Certainly the best here are well worth reading, and the ones I liked least were at least OK.
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Great short story collection.
Sep 17, 2007 rated it it was ok
I had a hardcover edition of this
Scott Bridgewater
Apr 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
And, of course yet ANOTHER printing of "Dori Bangs".
Aug 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite collections.
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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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