Stations of the Tide Critical Essays

Michael Swanwick


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Michael Swanwick’s Nebula-winning Stations of the Tide is a many-layered, complex, and imaginative future detective story. Along with Swanwick’s other works, including In the Drift (1984), Vacuum Flowers (1987), The Griffin’s Egg (1991), and The Iron Dragon’s Daughter (1993), this novel explores how humanity survives and forms a continuing culture under difficult circumstances. In Stations of the Tide, the Mirandans survive the Jubilee Tides by evacuating to higher ground and starting over; the bureaucrat survives by using advanced technology and shape-changing.

Swanwick began writing during the 1980’s, the era of cyberpunk in science fiction. The constructed reality Puzzle Palace, the technologically sophisticated briefcase, and the generated surrogates reflect awareness of computer possibilities. This novel takes on added dimensions and rises above a mere computer romp through the use of illusion and allusion. In Stations of the Tide, the unnamed bureaucrat must work through the magic and the illusions he encounters to find reality and arrive at the truth about Gregorian and himself.

Swanwick’s many literary allusions in the novel enrich the reading experience. The name of the planet, Miranda, and its solar system, Prospero, come from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611), similarly concerned with illusion, reality, and the ways to distinguish between...

(The entire section is 460 words.)