The stories in Crystal Express are grouped into three sections. The first five stories belong to a future history in which the human race has gone into space and contacted other intelligent life-forms. The alien species that appears most often is a reptilian one called the Investors. They are interstellar traders. Humanity itself has split into factions, the two most important of which are the Shapers and the Mechanists. They are similar in that they insist that human beings must change. The Shapers practice genetic engineering, especially on their own offspring. The Mechanists change themselves surgically, substituting prosthetics for natural limbs and organs.
There are two recurring characters. Simon Afriel is a minor character in “Twenty Evocations” and the main character in “Swarm.” He is a member of the Shaper faction and is genetically engineered to have no appendix, along with other improvements. In “Swarm,” he travels to another star system to investigate a nonintelligent spacefaring species. Arkadya Sorienti first appears in “Cicada Queen” as a Mechanist living in the space colony Czarina-Kluster. At some point between the end of that story and the beginning of “Sunken Garden,” she defects to the Regal faction. She then goes to live in Terraform-Kluster, a space station in orbit around Mars and tethered to its surface. The main work of the Regals on that planet is terraforming, or physical transformation of the...
(The entire section is 446 words.)