It’s the year 2044, and America has gone to hell. A disenfranchised U.S. Air Force base has turned to highway robbery in order to pay the bills. Vast chunks of the population live nomadic lives fueled by cheap transportation and even cheaper computer power. Warfare has shifted from the battlefield to the global networks, and China holds the information edge over all comers. Global warming is raising sea level, which in turn is drowning coastal cities. And the U.S. government has become nearly meaningless. This is the world that Oscar Valparaiso would have been born into, if he’d actually been born instead of being grown in vitro by black market baby dealers. Oscar’s bizarre genetic history (even he’s not sure how much of him is actually human) hasn’t prevented him from running one of the most successful senatorial races in history, getting his man elected by a whopping majority. But Oscar has put himself out of a job, since he’d only be a liability to his boss in Washington due to his problematic background. Instead, Oscar finds himself shuffled off to the Collaboratory, a Big Science pork barrel project that’s run half by corruption and half by scientific breakthroughs. At first it seems to be a lose-lose proposition for Oscar, but soon he has his “krewe” whipped into shape and ready to take control of events. Now if only he can straighten out his love life and solve a worldwide crisis that no one else knows exists.
Won Clarke Award in 200.
Nominated for Hugo, Locus, and Nebula awards in 1999.
Books of Big Ideas often polarize reviewers, and Bruce Sterling’s latest novel is no exception. Either the best SF book of this or any other year (Cory Doctorow) or “a mess of a book about the mess of the world” (John Clute), The Caryatids, at the very least, illustrates Sterling's ability to raise voices (in praise or protest) 30 years after he laid the groundwork for the cyberpunk movement, without which contemporary SF would be a much rockier—and much less diverse—landscape. Sterling’s complex, controversial vision of our future invites comparison to Neal Stephenson (, ) and William Gibson (). Love him or hate him, Bruce Sterling always has something important to say, and The Caryatids is worth a look.