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Bruce Sterling – Global HeadGlobal Head is/was Bruce Sterling’s first published collection of short stories (he’s published 4 more since) – these are stories written between 85 and 92 and, in retrospect (don’t we all love hindsight!) show his departure from the Cyberpunk/Steampunk stories he was writing (or, rather, selling!) at the time. It contains 12 stories of varying length, and, as usual for such collections, spanning a substantial range of topics and approaches; most of which I rather enjoyed.

Our Neural Chernobyl: This is a pseudo-review of a fictional book by Dr Felix Hollom, an ‘Open Tower Scientist’. Er, populist science? How very Daily Mail. Anyway, it discusses Gene Hacking gone wrong and viral, and resulting in a world where animals develop intelligence. Fun, and thoroughly tongue in cheek.

Storming the Cosmos: this is a collaboration with Rudy Rucker, describing a Tunguska Expedition by the KGB, early in the space race, to obtain a sample of the Alien technology which crashed there. It’s got plenty of cold war paranoia, party and love politics. And the artefact is not what they expected. Or is it? Delightful, to say the least.

The Compassionate, The Digital: A despatch by the Union of Islamic Republics concerning a technological breakthrough. The style of this piece didn’t really work for me, but it’s an interesting take on a rather different (and not completely impossible) future.

Jim and Irene: a story about a chance meeting, and a road trip/grafter story, providing an interesting human angle. Didn’t work for me at all – considered the low point in the collection, IMHO. Point taken, though.

The Sword of Damocles: a strange, associative, mixed-approach, knowing, meta-retelling of the classic tale. It felt forced, and not as interesting/funny/stimulating as I suspect he tried to make it. Full points for effort, though.

The Gulf Wars: a dual view story, contrasting ancient Assyrian wars in the area with ‘modern’ (or not) contemporary ones. Plus ca change…
Fun! And Clever!

The Shores of Bohemia: a post-singularity story, describing an old-fashioned, individualistic settlement in the midst of an Earth which is a nano-tech enabled hive mind. Strange, interesting, compelling in parts. This could have made a good starting point for a novel in the same universe – the closest I think he came, in feeling at least, was Holy Fire.

The Moral Bullet: a collaboration with John Kessel, playing in a world where civilization has broken down after the invention of a rejuvenation and life extension drug. There are some rather profound questions being exposed on responsibility for one’s own actions, safeguards for research in regards to social implications, and if two wrongs actually do make a right? All too realistic, scarily so.

We See Things Differently: a journalist from the United Arab/Muslim Caliphate retells the story of his trip to the USA to write a story on a political agit-Rockstar. This is completely believable near future stuff, set in a world where the global power has shifted away from the West. Intelligent and very clever, the high point of the book for me.

Hollywood Kremlin: Gorbatchev-era Soviet story about graft, corruption, and ‘getting by’. Fun, if not very essential.

Are You For 86?: story of a lesbian/feminist underground movement in the US, pushing RU486 pills (women’s liberation agenda) and computer/credit-card crime; they are up against Christian Fundamentalists, and themselves, of course. Yet again fun but not essential.

Dori Bangs: hypothetically – what would have happened if Lester Bangs (the original Rock journalist) and Dori Seda (underground cartoonist) would not have, individually, perished from flu, but had met and connected? Realistic, even if I didn’t like the metaphysical ending.

Overall a collection for fans and completists, unless you’re into Muslim based SF, in which case this is essential for the two stories indicated.

More Bruce Sterling

Title: Global Head
Author: Bruce Sterling
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL:
Publisher:  Phenix (Orion)
Publication Date: 1996
Review Date: 101207
ISBN: 1857994442
Price: UKP 5.99
Pages: 301
Format: Paperback
Topic: SF
Topic: Short Stories


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