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Vacuum Flowers [Hardcover]

Michael Swanwick
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Hardcover, 1 April 1988 --  
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (1 April 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671655353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671655358
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,595,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


In the distant future, a suicidal woman is given the artificial personality of a revolutionary and sets out on a dangerous quest for survival that will change humanity's future. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars psychedelic cyberpunk 9 Oct 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In 'Vacuum Flowers' - the title refers both to the genetically engineered blue flowers which grow in vacuum on the surface of asteroids and to the many societies which have flowered in various exotic habitats within the Solar System - someone is keen to retrieve the persona of Rebel Elizabeth Mudlark. Personas (or personae) are wetware programmes with which users can augment, supplement or overlay their personality. Persona bums (such as Eucrasia Walsh) are hired to test the personas before they go on the market, but in this case Eucrasia liked her persona so much that she ran off with the original copy still in control of her mind.
Rebel escapes again and again, while in the meantime undergoing personality disorders because of the battle going on in her mind between the new Rebel personality and the repressed Eucrasia.
Meanwhile, we discover that Earth has been subsumed by the Comprise, a gestalt human cyborg organism, 'comprised' of billions of individual human units forming a single consciousness.
Rebel teams up with Wyeth, a tetrad; his mind divided into the four separate aspects of Warrior, Leader, Mystic and Clown, and their journey takes us on a fabulous journey through the Solar System in which Swanwick throws out inventive wonders, marvels and biological impossibilities seemingly effortlessly.
The pace is relentless and Swanwick's style is so full of poetic if sometimes bewildering terms, it becomes redolent of Burgess' 'A Clockwork Orange' or Hoban's 'Riddley Walker'.
Wonders abound and there is a restless energy which permeates the book urging the reader and the heroine on.
Swanwick is a very individual writer. Although employing elements of cyberpunk and hard scientific premises he extrapolates some elements to the heights of the fantastic.
Although fast-paced and light-hearted in tone there is a depth and a sophistication in the intricate background detail which raises this well above the norm.
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5.0 out of 5 stars one of the first truly cyber punk epics 6 Dec 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Although somewhat old now (first published in 1987)vacuum flowers is still as fresh as the day it came out. Moving away from just the play of hardware, this book's focus is more on the use of technology to change personalities, in extreme forms of behaviour and personality modification.
It explores with some verve the idea of a skills bank (literally).
Swanick crafts a likeable (although somewhat conflicted) heroine, who has a group of weird/wired and somewhat wacky friends. The book has a fair helping of humour to gloss the very different approach that is taken.
If you are bored with mech warriors and new gadgets take a look at vacuum flowers and gain a new perspective.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the finest science fiction novel of the past two decades 4 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I first read this book as a junior-high student and have returned to it every year or two since then. I discover something new each time. The prose is stripped to the wire - practically poetry. Deliciously minimalist, its bare-bones surface hides a wealth of ideas about society, technology and the nature of human personality. William Gibson poses hard questions about the fate of individuals in a technocratic future. Michael Swanwick poses even harder questions about the fate of _individuality_ itself. A love story, an action flick and a sociological treatise rolled into one, "Vacuum Flowers" is the author's finest achievement save perhaps "The Iron Dragon's Daughter."
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ashamed that I hadn't read this one earlier 20 Sep 2000
By Kim Unertl - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I only purchased this book because of Swanwick's 1998 short story "Radiant Doors" which was such an amazing story that I knew I had to see if he had written any longer sci fi. I was pretty amazed when I did a search on him and saw how many novels he has written. I have a lot of friends who read sci fi and NONE of them ever mentioned Swanwick.
I am very happy to have stumbled onto this book. What a great read! It has something that you don't always see in sci fi: exploration of thought provoking issues PLUS a fun side that makes the book really enjoyable to read. One of the things this book does best is to put you in it's world and proceed with telling it's story. It doesn't try to explain everything in it's world upfront and doesn't use any cheesy narrative techniques to explain everything. Rather, you learn about how this world is set up through the story itself. Everything fits into place and as I was reading it, I was constantly saying "Ahhh, well that explains that!".
Since this book was written in 1987, many of the topics discussed in it (ie hive mentality, integration of technology into humanity) have been discussed to death in other novels. However, this book stands out in two ways: it was ahead of the rest AND it's better than the rest. This book has elements of Neuromancer, Ender's Game, and even Star Trek (the Borg). But it uses all of those items in such original ways that it stands on it's own. Great sci fi novel, highly recommended.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. 8 May 2000
By Pat - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I first read this book years ago - it was one my father hadbought, but not enjoyed. I loved it. It took another couple readingsto realize why I loved it, though. It's because you have to work to read this book. Terms like "pierrette" are used but never explained; if you don't figure it out from the context, you don't figure it out. No spoon-feeding. No "convenient idiot" (the character that is used in most SF by the author to explain things to the readership).
The lack of the convenient idiot makes the book feel less like SF, and more like a piece of literature that just happens to have been written a couple hundred years from now.
Read it. Then read Swanwick's best (and, in my opinion, one of the greatest SF novels ever), Stations of the Tide.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional book! To be treasured 12 Jan 1999
By - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Seldom does one find such invention, such superb writing, and such command of the narrative in one writer. In addition, Swanwick's ideas on how technology may shape society are inspired. The characters are acutely drawn, the imagery beautiful, inspiring, scary. A jewel. I admit that the narrative technique might leave the less literate a little confused, but if you don't need everything spelt out for you, you really will get a lot of pleasure from this book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A complete delight to read. 14 Dec 1998
By RW - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I don't know how he does it. I mean, you start this book and , BOOM, suddenly you're in the middle of a complex story that is completely out of context to both culture and consciousness as we know them, and you can follow it. Swanwick feeds you just enough info so you can stay with the story. But never too much info, so you don't get a sense that you're reading something different that needs to be explained. It's an amazing balancing act.
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