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.