Stations of the Tide Hardcover – Feb 1991
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From Publishers Weekly
Swanwick ( Vacuum Flowers ) takes a fascinating mix of nanotechnology, magic, the vagaries of human nature (including the dynamics of office politics, transmitted to a higher plane) and an accidental genocide, and creates a futuristic detective novel with believable, motivated characters and a tight and exciting plot. Employees of the Division of Technology Transfer live in space and conduct their business through electronic doppelganger. These meet in the agreed-upon dataspace called the Puzzle Palace and work to restrict the level of planetside high technology. The unnamed protagonist (he is called "the bureaucrat") is assigned to travel in person (rather than via mental communication) to the planet Miranda in order to track down an ex-employee of the division named Gregorian, who has set himself up as a bush wizard in the Tidewater region, currently in chaos because of the approaching date of its once-a-century flooding. In an atmosphere of urgency and tension, the bureaucrat/agent must discover whether Gregorian is using proscribed high-tech for his magic, and if he is willing to kill to keep it. Swanwick's fluid prose is enriched by symbolism that add to the maturity of this highly readable work. Science Fiction Book Club featured alternate.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
As the planet Miranda slowly drowns under the weight of its own tides, a bureaucrat from the Division of Technology Transfer conducts an investigation into the life of a local celebrity, a "magician" who possesses proscribed technology and whose personal powers hold much of the dying planet in thrall. Swanwick ( Vacuum Flowers, LJ 2/15/87) demonstrates his mastery of understated drama in a novel that brings a surrealistic approach to "hard" sf. Recommended for medium to large libraries.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book's plot feels like nothing so much as an SF take on Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS. Like that book, its protagonist is a nameless functionary (he is called simply "the bureaucrat" through the entire length of the novel) sent to a backwards hellhole (here, a decaying colony world) in search of a dangerous renegade. The world, called Miranda, has an erratic orbit that causes its ice caps to melt every couple of centuries and drown every inch of dry land; the native life has evolved to thrive under these conditions, but the human settlers have not. As the inept and corrupt local government tries to evacuate the populace in the last few weeks before the flood, the renegade - a man called Gregorian, who claims to be a wizard or magus - gains a following by offering to remake the Mirandans into amphibious creatures capable of surviving the deluge, for a price. The offworld authorities aren't sure if Gregorian is a simple fraud, murdering his followers for money, or if he's employing forbidden offworld technology; either way, he must be dealt with.
The book is difficult to get into at first, and part of this is because Swanwick respects our intelligence enough to throw us into the deep end right from the beginning. As with Mamet's movie Spartan, rather than giving us exposition, he expects us to follow along and patiently assemble the facts of the story by picking them up in context. Once we get over not having everything spoonfed to us, the sense of discovery as the text progresses is intoxicating.Read more ›
This future world has that the galaxy colonised by humans (and one other intellegent race) who have enormous technological abilities. However, much of the tech is proscribed, especially from the peoples of the colonial planets. This leads to resentment on these colonial worlds, one of which is Miranda. It is this planet's fate to suffer a planet-wide flood (due to a shift in its axis of roation). A 'magician' named Gregorian has appeared, apparently with access to proscribed technology. He appears (to the tech controllers) to be murdering people in the guise of "metamorphosing" them into sea-dwelling creatures. Thus, the bureaucrat is dispatched to investigate.
We follow as the bureaucrat tries to track Gregorian down. There are some neat touches, especially his sentient briefcase/matter transformer, a 24/7 soap opera that everyone is watching (that we see in parallel with the characters), and a system of "surrogates" - remote controlled robots that project the image of the person they are representing. Unfortunately, the system of surrogates leads to a great deal of confusion because the characters (and author) treat each surrogate as the real thing, and multiple surrogates are possible. This leads to a number of unnecessarily confusing passages of "himself talking to himself, while his real self listens in".
Another unfortunate characteristic of the book is to leave interesting ideas dangling.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Here you have a far-future tale which doesn't use Wolfe/Vance medievilism nor shiny hard-SF like A. Reynolds. Read morePublished on July 17 2004
In one tiny little volume, Swanwick takes on technology, alien races, witches, oceans, and the nature of time. Read morePublished on March 6 2002 by frumiousb
This far future cyberpunk detective story is only a thin mask for the underlying speculations on the emptiness of life, existentialism, and mortality. Read morePublished on Nov. 2 2001 by kankan