Stations of the Tide, by Michael Swanwick

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Stations of the Tide, by Michael Swanwick

Postby Omphalos » Sun Mar 30, 2008 11:58 am

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Something is about to happen, Hal. Something wonderful!

-James C. Harwood, Science Fiction Writer, Straight (March 5, 1956 - May 25, 2010)



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Postby tanzeelat » Sun Mar 30, 2008 1:42 pm

This is what I thought to it after I reread it last year...

I last read Stations of the Tide over ten years ago. However, I'd forgotten very little of the plot - so the twist ending wasn't much of a twist. A bureaucrat visits the world of Miranda, shortly before its sole continent is inundated by the Jubilee Tides. He's hunting Gregorian, allegedly a magician, who has smuggled something proscribed, something apparently given to him by the avatar of post-human Earth, onto the planet's surface. The quest plot is interspersed with sections set in the Puzzle Palace, a Palace-of-Memory-like virtual reality in which the administrators of a galactic federation live and work. Swanwick never quite categorically presents Gregorian as a "magician" - it's not plausible in the universe Miranda inhabits; and various characters try and explain Gregorian's tricks, albeit never entirely convincingly.

One of the remarkable things about Stations of the Tide - and a great deal moreso when it was published - is its referentiality. Its narrative riffs off a host of science fiction works - not all of the references I claim to have spotted. In 1992, this was fresh and exciting. Fifteen years later, it's been done so often it's almost humdrum. One thing I hadn't noticed on previous reads was that the novel is a thinly-disguised Southern Gothic. Even down to the fat bed-ridden matriarch. The sections set in the Puzzle Palace also didn't work as well as I'd remembered them - I seem to recall the Palace of Memory idea was popular at the time, but Swanwick's use of it as a metaphor for a VR sensorium is mostly just confusing. For the time-being, the jury's still out on this book.
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Postby Omphalos » Sun Mar 30, 2008 4:09 pm

Hmmm. Good point about Southern Gothic. That setting was well described and may as well have been a separate "character" too.
Something is about to happen, Hal. Something wonderful!

-James C. Harwood, Science Fiction Writer, Straight (March 5, 1956 - May 25, 2010)



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