The Caryatids - Bruce Sterling “Brain candy” – I had Presidents’ Day off this year – i.e., a three-day weekend – and was looking forward to not thinking too much while reading a couple of SF I’d picked up from the library. I’d just come off of reading some pretty weighty tomes about religion and a couple of novels that deserved serious attention and my brain needed the rest. I like Sterling’s early work, especially the stories and novels set in the universe of the Mechanist/Shaper cultures. I haven’t seen anything recently of his that I was interested in but I was hoping that this novel would pass an enjoyable afternoon of mental somnolence.

The Caryatids - It’s 2065 and Earth is attempting to recover from the excesses of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Most nation-states have fallen by the wayside (with the exception of China) and the world is divided between two states of mind (rather than states of nation): The Dispensation, which is centered round Los Angeles and is a parodic extrapolation of Hollywood’s entertainment culture, and the Acquis, centered in Europe and focused on restoring the planet’s habitats. Our story is centered round “the Caryatids,” originally seven sisters and one brother cloned from the widow of a Balkan dictator (herself something of a Lady Macbeth, though we never see her or get any real idea of her atrocities before her orbital St. Helena is fried by a solar flare). At the time our story opens, only four of the girls survive and their brother, George, an up-and-coming businessman in Vienna. Vera works with the Acquis on the island where she was born, Mljet, restoring it. Radmila is a major star in Los Angeles and married to one of the Dispensation’s premier diplomats and troubleshooters, John Montalban. Sonya is a Chinese soldier. And Biserka, the other surviving sister, is a sociopathic terrorist, who kidnaps Radmila and attempts to take her place.

Meh…I may just be losing (or have lost) my interest in this particular flavor of the SF genre. I still like particular authors – Walter Jon Williams, Alastair Reynolds, Tony Daniel, for example – but I couldn’t muster much interest in this story. I didn’t care for nor was interested in any character, there wasn’t any new technology on display, and Sterling’s extrapolations of present events fell flat.

If you’re a Sterling or cyberpunk fan (post-cyberpunk? – I’m not up on what the latest genre this type of story falls into), you’ll probably like the novel.