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Bruce Sterling – A Good Old-Fashioned FutureHow does one introduce an author as pre-eminent as Bruce Sterling? He's got (depending on how you count) 13 Novels, a good number of short stories (filling, to date, 5 collections), plus several non-fiction books to his name. He's been nominated and has won multiple awards, including a staggering 9 Hugo nominations (incl 2 wins, both for stories in this collection) and 7 Nebula nominations. He's one of the founders of the Cyberpunk movement as well as the newer 'Slipstream' genre.

This here is a brief review of his short story collection titled A Good Old-Fashioned Future from 2001, containing stories originally published between 1993-98, including the two (Bicycle Repairman and Taklamatakan) for which he received Hugo Awards.

 

Overall this is a rather high grade collection, containing 7 stories with an interesting structure of lengths (I cannot imagine this being accidental), only one of which didn't really capture me; which is rather good going for a story collection.

 

Below is a run-down of the individual stories, their topics and/or my thoughts on them; if you feel that this would affect your enjoyment of the stories (and I can thoroughly recommend that you obtain and read this book) then you might want to stop reading now.

 

 

Maneki Neko:

This displays a snippet, a slice of life, in a Japanese society centred around performing good deeds for each other – most to all of which is computer controlled and remotely guided. We see how people move through this ecosystem, but we also see the American's unease with this, and the controlling (or are they?) distributed AIs, which brought to mind Ian McDonald's River of Gods/Cyberabad books; although this take on this topic feels much more like a creepy version of Charlie Stross' Manny Manx...

 

Big Jelly, with Rudy Rucker

This is a caper between a Texas Oil Baron (or, rather in the meanwhile, Industry Baron) and a gay scientist with a Jellyfish fixation. It is fun, at least in parts. It is fluffy, insubstantial, in the end slightly underwhelming, and left a stale taste. A bit like Cotton Candy, really (no, there's no Cotton Candy in the story, that's just me). By quite a distance the weakest story in the collection, in my opinion.

 

The Littlest Jackal

A Leggy Starlitz story, containing, amongst a myriad other things, Suomi Anti-Imperialist Cells, with the cause to end the shameful injustice of Finnish Imperialism and liberate the Aland Islands, whilst installing an online money laundering service. Any story (and writer!) who can make Russian Mafia, US Far-Right Mercenaries, the international black weapons trade, Slave trade from countries in crisis regions, Terrorism cells, and IP scams concerning the Flüümins (read: Moomins) and their creator make this amusing and entertaining is, well, rather unusual and worthy of your attention. And I'm now in the market for Sterling's full-length Leggy Starlitz novel, Zeitgeist.

 

Sacred Cow

A blow-by-blow account of the tribulations of a Bollywood Director producing cheap serial films in England – an England decimated by the Plague (a variant of BSE come good, essentially) which killed 90% of the populace in the UK, and rather a lot overall across the West. Out on top came the countries which don't eat beef. Like India.

It'a s fun story, entertaining, slightly convoluted with insubstantial sub-plots, and like most run-of-the-mill Bollywood movies it's instantly forgettable.

 

Deep Eddy

He's from the Chattanooga Chapter of the Computer-Assisted Perception Civil Liberties User Group. He's in Dusseldorf, for an audience with the Culture Critic. And Dusseldorf is just going through a Wende, which is of great interest to CAPCLUG.

It took me a while to pin down what this reminded me of (in a very good way, to be clear), until I realised that it was Holy Fire. Which, as it happens, is also by Sterling, of course... and also very good.

 

Bicycle Repairman

The first Hugo-winning story in this collection, and a direct descendant of the above, this time playing in a Chattanooga after it's own Wende. The eponymous Bicycle Repairman squats in a law-free zone left behind by the Wende, and acts as a mail drop for Deep Eddy, who is off to Europe again. In this function he gets his hands on an apparently ancient piece of kit which gains the attention of the local Senator's Black Ops squad.... it's riotously fun. I think Deep Eddy deserves his own novel, too (but I don't think Sterling's written, or at least published that one. yet.).

 

Taklamakan

This is the other Hugo Award here – and the 3rd in the Chattanooga series of loosely linked short stories. This time we follow Spider Pete, a minor character from Bicycle Repairman, as he break into a top secret installation of the Asian Sphere (one of the major power blocks in this world) in the Taklamakan desert -  which turns out to be a Nuclear Storage Dump. Except for the deep cavern carved by a nuclear test, but now filled with a free-running experiment in self-configuring and self-replicating robots. And 3 Starships, on their fake 400-year trip to the next star system. Crewed by the losing side of an ethical cleansing. The story is, on one level, a trip. And on another one it feels like a sketch, a blueprint, for a full novel if not a series. Heady stuff...

 In summary? Great stuff, with only a few dull spots. A good introduction to newcomers to Sterling's work, and a must-read for fans. Dare to be entertained!

 

  

More Bruce Sterling

 

Title: A Good Old-Fashioned Future

Author: Bruce Sterling

Reviewer: Markus

Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net

Publisher:  Gollancz 

Publication Date: 2001

Review Date: 131225

ISBN: 9781857987101

Price: UKP 6.99

Pages: 279

Format: Paperback

Topic: SF

Topic: Short Stories

 

Peter Watts – Maelstrom

 

Tricia Sullivan – Occupy Me

 

Iain Sinclair - Radon Daughters

 

Doris Lessing - Shikasta

 

Thomas Pynchon – Gravity’s Rainbow

 

Sydney Padua - The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

 

Peter Watts - Blindsight


Andy Weir - The Martian

 

Doris Lessing – The Sirian Experiments

 

Ken MacLeod - Cosmonaut Keep

 

Liz Williams - Empire of Bones

 

Thomas Pynchon - Slow Learner

 

Charles Stross - The Atrocity Archives

 

S.P. Somtow – I Wake from a Dream of a Drowned Star City

 

Lavie Tidhar - Central Station

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