Alongside William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling stands at the forefront of a select group of writers whose pitch-perfect grasp of the cultural and scientific zeitgeist endows their works of speculative near-future fiction with uncanny verisimilitude. To read a novel by Sterling is to receive a dispatch from a time traveler. Now, with The Caryatids, Sterling has written a stunning testament of faith in the power of human intellect, creativity, and spirit to overcome any obstacle–even the obstacles we carry inside ourselves.
The world of 2060 is divided into three spheres of influence, each fighting with the others over the resources of fallen nations and an environment degraded almost to the point of no return. There is the Dispensation, centered in Los Angeles, where entertainment and capitalism have fused with the highest of high-tech. There is the Acquis, a Green-centered collective that uses invasive neurological technology to create a networked utopia. And there is China, the sole surviving nation-state, a dinosaur that has prospered only by pitilessly pruning its own population. Products of this monstrous world, the daughters of a monstrous mother, and–according to some–monsters themselves, are the Caryatids: the four surviving female clones of a mad Balkan genius and wanted war criminal now ensconced, safely beyond extradition, on an orbiting space station. Radmila is a Dispensation star determined to forget her past by building a glittering, impregnable future. Vera is an Acquis functionary dedicated to reclaiming their home, the Croatian island of Mljet, from catastrophic pollution. Sonja is a medical specialist in China renowned for selflessly risking herself to help others. And Biserka is a one-woman terrorist network. The four “sisters” are united only by their hatred for their “mother”–and for one another.
When evidence surfaces of a coming environmental cataclysm, the Dispensation sends its greatest statesman–or salesman–John Montgomery Montalban, husband of Radmila, and lover of Vera and Sonja, to gather the Caryatids together in an audacious plan to save the world.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: The Caryatids|
|Release Date: 02-24-2009|
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|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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|Parent title||The Caryatids|
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Poisons, pumped down here at enormous pressure, had oozed deep into the water table. The seamy stone was warped and twisted. All around her, toxin miners scuttled like crabs.
The toxin miners pried the poisoned rock apart, slurped up toxins with busy hoses, then deftly reassembled the stifling walls in a jigsaw mess of glue. In their exoskeletons and filter suits, the miners looked like construction cranes wrapped in trash bags.
The miners were used to their work and superbly good at it. They measured their progress in meters per day. They were subterranean bricklayers. Cracking blocks and stacking blocks: that was their very being.
Vera thought longingly of glorious light and air at the island’s sunny surface, which, from the cramped and filthy depths of this mine, seemed as distant as the surface of Mars. Vera had made it a matter of personal principle to know every kind of labor on the island: forestry, reef restoration, the census of species . . .
These miners had the foulest, vilest redemption work she’d ever seen. The workers were a gang of grimy, knobby ghosts, recycling sewage inside a locked stone closet.
Her helmeted head rang with a sudden buzz of seismic sensors, as if her graceless filter suit were filled with bees. Tautly braced within their shrouds and boneware, the miners studied the tortured rock through their helmet faceplates. They muttered helpful advice at each other.
Vera loaded the mine’s graphic server. She tapped into the augment that the miners were sharing.
Instantly, the dark wet rock of the mine burst into planes of brilliant color-coding: cherry red, amber yellow, veins of emerald green . . . A...