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Stations of the Tide [Paperback]

Michael Swanwick
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 2011
From author Michael Swanwick—one of the most brilliantly assured and darkly inventive writers of contemporary fiction—comes a masterwork of radically altered realities and world-shattering seductions.

The Jubilee Tides will drown the continents of the planet Miranda beneath the weight of her own oceans. But as the once-in-two-centuries cataclysm approaches, an even greater catastrophe threatens this dark and dangerous planet of tale-spinners, conjurers, and shapechangers.

A man from the Bureau of Proscribed Technologies has been sent to investigate. For Gregorian has come, a genius renegade scientist and charismatic bush wizard. With magic and forbidden technology, he plans to remake the rotting, dying world in his own evil image—and to force whom or whatever remains on its diminishing surface toward a terrifying and astonishing confrontation with death and transcendence.

This novel of surreal hard SF was compared to the fiction of Gene Wolfe when it was first published, and the author has gone on in the two decades since to become recognized as one of the finest living SF and fantasy writers.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In this highly readable, futuristic detective novel, a bureaucrat/agent tracks a bush wizard who appears to be using a restricted brand of high technology to work his magic.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, canny, and powerful April 10 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I finished reading STATIONS OF THE TIDE last week; I would have written about it sooner, but it's taken me this long to process and digest my thoughts about the book into something approaching a coherent whole.
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.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
The hero of this Nebula Award-winning book is a bueaurucrat. That Swanwick would choose someone with such a job as his hero, and then leave him unnamed for the entire book, is indicative of the nature of the narrative. It's at times quirky, fun, enjoyable, but also irritating, confusing, and silly.
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.
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1.0 out of 5 stars This was an award-winner? April 22 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Apparently most people think this is a fantastic book, including the Nebula Award committee. I was disappointed. The plot is somewhat tenuous, and the characters little more than empty shells around archetypal or symbolic ideas. There is an uneasy mix of about 30% future technology and 70% occultism, mysticism, and parlour magic tricks, which was not what I was expecting from an award-winning science fiction novel. Creative and thoughtful description is the hallmark of a good writer, but Stanwick often tries too hard. He sways from the mildly (and unnecessarily) distasteful [which I apparently can't quote in my review] to the outright pretentious "...docks more gap than substance, the idea of Dock a beau ideal honored more in the intent than the execution". Please. There are numerous ideas, places, people, and events mentioned in the book which peak your curiosity for more information, but it is never delivered. What is delivered is the impression that there was never any substance to support them in the first place.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Science fiction as it should be June 12 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
SF has never lacked for ideas, which is why it's such a good genre to read, because of that constant inventiveness. However, unless you like to read the equivilent of a physics thesis parade, most readers want a little more "meat" to their books, if not in terms of plot, at least definitely in charactization and layers of meaning. This book has that in spades. I've read once that it was based on Shakespeare's "The Tempest" which having not read that play I can't confirm but I am slightly familiar with some aspects of the play and I'd say it's a good bet. Nothing like some literary allusions to kick a good SF novel off, right? But it gets better, because this novel is heavy on the symbolism and the thinking stuff, though it never gets in the way of the interesting world and culture that Swanwick has developed. In a nutshell, a bureaucrat without a name comes to the world of Miranda to search for a man who barely appears, but apparently can do wonderful things. Why is that? Because he stole something he shouldn't. From there the novel jackknives wonderfully, as Swanwick unravels line after line of evocative prose that eloquently brings to life this water logged and doomed world, in all its grime and grandeur. By far the best part of reading this book is meeting the at first apparently bumbling bureaucrat and then slowly realize that not everything is what it seems and the man isn't so clueless after all. Read more ›
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