I became interested in Bruce Sterling's writing because he co-authored a book with my favorite sci-fi writer, William Gibson, called "The Difference Engine" about an alternative history of Victorian England. Sterling's Schismatrix Plus shows that he is truly Gibson's equal as a science fiction writer, capable of inventing a complete alternate universe.
The Schismatrix novel, and the short stories that accompany it in this edition, take place in the future, where human beings have migrated to space stations and circumlunar colonies within the solar system. The schism at the heart of the universe is between two sects; the Shapers, who are genetic engineers; and the Mechanists, who believe in cybernetics. The Schismatrix novel follows the character Abelard Lindsay through his several hundred years of life, first starting out as a Shaper revolutionary, then after his exile becoming a pirate, and eventually the father of a new sect called Posthumanism. The book is reminiscent of Heinlein's "Time Enough For Love" -- we follow Lindsay through his several re-creations of himself much like we do Lazarus Long in Heinlein's work.
The book has an eery beauty to it; the posthuman universe, although melancholy, is not without charm. Central to the work is a distrust of ideology -- the blood feuds in the work between the various sects are extremely destructive of the characters' personal relationships; but Sterling's message is still positive -- all narrow sects are doomed in the end by the shock of the new future, and all old revolutionaries are outdone by their descendants.
The short stories that accompany the novel are also very good; and they are helpgul in explaining, in shorthand, the universe of the author. Sterling does not coddle the reader -- his universe is believable in part because he does not explain its cleverness in long narrative passages -- you discover it as you go. This makes the book's many turns seem as shocking as they are to the characters themselves.
An excellent work, a must for any modern sci-fi collection.