(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Sterling is one of the leading figures in cyberpunk science fiction, which includes such writers as William Gibson, Rudy Rucker, and Lewis Shiner. As with most science fiction, one of cyberpunk’s concerns is with the interaction between humans and technology. Sterling, in his introduction to Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology (1986), notes that certain central themes spring up repeatedly in cyberpunk. Among these is the theme of bodily invasion, illustrated by such technological innovations as prosthetic limbs, implanted circuitry, cosmetic surgery, and genetic alteration. The theme of mind invasion appears in such technologies as brain-computer interfaces, artificial intelligence, and neurochemistry, all of which radically redefine the nature of humanity and of self.

These themes mentioned by Sterling are explored in Schismatrix. Lindsay, at one time or another, partakes in almost every type of technology available, from his Shaper training that allows him to control his psychological persona and his physical appearance, to his prosthetic arm, to his final evolution in the Posthuman phase of his life. Most important for Sterling, though, is what happens to the world and to the humanity of the people who use these technologies.

The Schismatrix is proposed as “a posthuman solar system, diverse yet unified, where tolerance would rule and every faction would have a share.” In theory it may seem viable, but in practice...

(The entire section is 518 words.)