Books by Bruce Sterling

PIRATE UTOPIA by Bruce Sterling
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Nov. 8, 2016

"A kind of Ragtime for our time: provocative, exotic, and very entertaining."
Noted sci-fi maven and futurologist Sterling (Love Is Strange, 2012, etc.) takes a side turn in the slipstream in this offbeat, sometimes-puzzling work of dieselpunk-y alternative history. Read full book review >
THE ZENITH ANGLE by Bruce Sterling
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 1, 2004

"Despite Sterling's usual darkly illuminating undercurrents, this one meanders fitfully and uncomfortably: too much happens offstage, and the geeks don't come alive."
Geeks got muscles: Mainstream yarn about computer security and surveillance, from the leading SF writer and futurologist (Zeitgeist, 2000, etc.). Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Dec. 1, 2002

"Well above ephemeral trend-spotting, Sterling's high-IQ futurism is sure to be devoured by hackers and the remaining Silicon Valley CEOs."
Transforming hype into epigrams and forebodings into witty deconstructions of today's moral panics in a look at the near future. Read full book review >
ZEITGEIST by Bruce Sterling
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: Nov. 7, 2000

"An inspired and brilliant paean to the old millennium and harbinger of the new, brimming with wit, flair, and insight: Y2K's Catch-22."
Turn-of-the-millennium spectacular, from the estimable Sterling (Distraction, 1998, etc.). Impresario Lech "Leggy" Starlitz arrives in the impoverished Turkish half of Cyprus ("Houseplants had eaten all the homes. Feral lemons and oranges supported a miniecosystem of rats and stray dogs") ready to launch his girl band, G-7, at the Islamic world. The girls, known by their nationalities (the French One, the American One, etc.) can't play or sing, though Leggy knows it's not about music but concept. He has only one rule: it ends at Y2K. His new partner is Mehmet Ozbey, a handsome Turk with friends in the secret police and ways to launder money. To Mehmet, Leggy makes one further stipulation: none of the girls must die. Then Leggy discovers he has a daughter by his lesbian ex: 11-year-old Zeta loves G-7 and has telekinetic abilities—so long as there are no recording devices in the vicinity. And soon, despite his wheeling and dealing with Russian gangsters, Leggy's squeezed out by Mehmet. He decides it's time to disappear, so he smuggles himself and Zeta into the US in order to contact his father. The latter, having been at ground zero in the first nuclear bomb test, has become delocalized in time: he exists "anywhen" in the 20th century and speaks entirely in palindromes. Thereafter, Leggy turns straight, working in a 7-11, sending Zeta to school—until he learns that Mehmet intends to continue G-7 into the next millennium; worse, he has allowed some of the girls to die. Time for Leggy to intervene. Read full book review >
DISTRACTION by Bruce Sterling
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Dec. 15, 1998

In 2044, following the collapse of the information economy, America is run by permanent "Emergency committees": the government is so broke it can't afford to pay people in the Armed Forces, who put up road blocks in order to shake down travelers; a new Cold War is under way (against the Dutch); Anglos are a distrusted minority; privacy no longer exists (even banknotes are bugged); and cities are privately owned, outside of which nomad nation-gangs roam, building laptops out of grass. The campaign mastermind behind honest Massachusetts Senator-elect W. Alcott Bambakias, Oscar Valparaiso, has a "personal background problem": he's the adoptive son of a South American drug baron, and his laboratory-engineered genes aren't even entirely human. As a result, his body temperature runs higher than normal, and he sleeps hardly at all. Oscar's ambition is to save the US. Trading on Bambakias's connection with the Senate Science Committee, Oscar adopts a biological research center, intending to completely reorganize it, and soon embarks on a passionate affair with the center's director, neurology whiz Dr. Greta Penninger. But Oscar makes an enemy of a powerful senator, Green Huey, who, suspiciously, shows an intense interest in the lab's products. Greta and Oscar discover that Huey has tested a weird mind-altering agent on some illegal immigrants: they now have bicameral minds, and can do two things at once. Huey has dosed himself with the agent, which explains why he's so effective—but he's also crazy. Meanwhile, the President declares war on Holland, Bambakias goes loopy, and Oscar allies himself with a nomad gang to oust Huey. Huey gets his revenge, however, infecting Oscar and Greta with the same agent. After his ponderous Holy Fire (1996), Sterling, our former cyberpunk Svengali, is back with a bang with this uproarious, provocative, thoughtful, often hilarious, sometimes inspired medium-future deconstruction of politics, science, economics, and the American Dream. Read full book review >
HOLY FIRE by Bruce Sterling
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: Oct. 1, 1996

Cyberpunk guru Sterling's latest (Heavy Weather, 1994, etc.) is set in a 2095 whose pervasive but light-handed government allows everyone to do mostly as he or she pleases—food, shelter, education, health, and transportation are free—although we're given no indication of how this situation came to be, or how it all works. ``Post-humans''—ancient people rejuvenated by advanced techniques—pretty much run things; religious inspiration has been reduced to the effects of specific drugs; and it's illegal to feed vegetables to kids—in California anyway. Ninety-year-old medical economist Mia Ziemann attends the death of a former lover who bequeaths her a virtual-reality palazzo and a talking dog named Plato, whom Mia rejects. She decides to undergo a dramatic new rejuvenation that will turn her into a beautiful 20-year-old woman. But the new Mia also has a rebuilt brain and, calling herself Maya, rips off the medical monitors her doctors have emplaced in order to evaluate her treatment, and disappears. She ends up in Prague, there plunging into a bohemian whirl of sex, philosophers, designer drugs, artists, cliques, programmers, immortals, and young aspirants. And that, plotwise, is about it: We're watching people we don't care about do unsurprising and unedifying things amid interminable pages of chat. Some flashes of wit and some good ideas here and there, though nothing that Sterling hasn't touched on before, but the overall mood's difficult to evaluate: Intended maybe as a sly, wry joke, it's turned out merely earnest, ponderous, and elaborate. Read full book review >
HEAVY WEATHER by Bruce Sterling
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 15, 1994

Everybody talks about the weather; but Jane Unger and her band of Storm Troupers hack the weather. In the late 2030s, as a legacy of the greenhouse effect, millions of people have died or been displaced due to heavy weather. A renegade band of meteorologists and computer experts, the Storm Troupe, prowls the Texas plains, chasing funnel clouds, gathering data, and waiting for the meteorological equivalent of the Big One: an F-6 tornado, a twister so big that it could mean the end of civilization. Using flying robots, cross-terrain vehicles, virtual reality, and raw courage, the Troupe risks life and limb for the sake of scientific knowledge (and for the attendant thrills). Into the somewhat unstable society of the Troupe comes Jane's younger brother Alex, professional invalid and family ne'er-do-well. To everyone's astonishment, Alex thrives and brings a perspective on loyalty, family, and sacrifice that helps pull the Troupe into the solid team they will need to be if they are to survive an F- 6. Lucid and tremendously entertaining. Sterling (The Hacker Crackdown, 1992, etc.) shows once more his skills in storytelling and technospeak. A cyberpunk winner. Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: Oct. 15, 1992

Thoroughly researched, this account of the government's crackdown on the nebulous but growing computer-underground provides a thoughtful report on the laws and rights being defined on the virtual frontier of cyberspace. First-rank sf novelist Sterling (coauthor, The Difference Engine, 1991; Crystal Express, 1989, etc.) reports that, following the 1990 crash of AT&T's long-distance switching system, a coalition of telephone companies and state and federal agencies struck back at what the public perceived as bright, playful kids. The crash was actually a glitch, not sabotage, but it scared authorities and spurred the nationwide series of arrests and seizures known as Operation Sundevil. The high-profile police actions were intended, in part, to teach the public to think of hackers—from petty vandals out joyriding to real Tom Paines—as genuinely dangerous, and to let the hackers know that, henceforth, they'd be treated as criminals. Chronicling Sundevil (including the unprecedented confiscation of computers, disks, books, and games from some never accused of a crime), Sterling includes a concise history of the communications industry and a perceptive ethnography of the sometimes flamingly puerile hacker underground, and profiles both the first generation of cyberspace cops and the glamorous civil libertarians battling them for access to their beat. An enjoyable, informative, and (as the first mainstream treatment of the subject) potentially important book; though occasionally obtrusive, Sterling is a fine and knowledgeable guide to this strange new world. Read full book review >
THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE by William Gibson
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: March 4, 1990

In their first major collaboration, sf heavyweights Gibson and Sterling spin an exquisitely clever filigree of Victorian alternate history, sparkling densely with ideas, moored by a challenging subtext of chaos theory and the lessons of recent paleontology. In London of 1855, Lord Babbage's steam-driven Engines (mechanical computers roughly comparable to Univac) have transformed the world, blueprints thanks to Victorian paradigms of science and order. England's hereditary lords have been replaced by merit-lords (Darwin, Huxley, etc.); Lord Byron's Industrial Radical party rules. Behind the mask of progress, 20th-century crises brew: Babbage Engines and Citizen Numbers are creating a police state; the pollution of a hyper-accelerated industrial revolution makes London sporadically unlivable; political propaganda is deconstructionist. When rising paleontologist Edward Mallory chances into possession of a stability-threatening Engine program (it's Godel's Proof, a theorem demonstrating that mathematical systems can never be consistent), he's thrust into a shadowy world of politics, spies and revolutionaries. With the help of a ames Bondish "dark lantern man" and a dedicated cop, he threads his way through London's demimonde and defeats Captain Swing, a Marxist/Luddite intent on a new social order. Despite the authors' proficiency, their message is perhaps too subtle even for sf readers (a major epiphany is an oblique reference to Stephen J. Gould's Wonderful Life, and thus the random nature of life); mainstream readers will see brilliant extrapolation (the kinotrope is a new art form, motion pictures by way of programmed arrays of changing, clacking tiles), clever details (Disraeli's a Grub Street hack; Shelley's a Luddite exiled to Elba; hackers are called "clackers") and an adequate cops-and-robbers plot, and miss the point completely. Read full book review >