Stations of the Tide by Michael Swanwick

(discussed June 18, 1998)

On a ten-point scale (1=bad, 10=good), the people who read the book gave the following ratings: 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 9
Average: 7.3

This book was sponsored by Michael Sullivan. After last month's The Anubis Gates, it was suggested as another enjoyable book that mixes science fiction and fantasy.

Raja gave the book an 8, (though he would now give it a 9). He reread Swanwick's earlier novel, Vacuum Flowers, before just before re-reading Stations of the Tide, and thinks that Vacuum Flowers is a better book in some ways. (In fact, he now thinks Vacuum Flowers is one of the few works of cyberpunk that approaches Neuromancer.) While he and Gregory characterized Stations as a sequel to Vacuum Flowers, he would now hasten to point out that the connections are not as strong as he'd thought. The strongest connection between the two novels is the fate of the Earth -- references to which some readers of the newer novel found confusing or just unpleasant.

New member Peter pointed out that the book has a strong Jungian feel, and also is reminiscent of Arabic stories (in that there are many stories-within-stories).

John Gallman sent the following e-mail shortly before the meeting:

I'm not sure if everybody will get this but if not, Raja, please send it on.

I may not be able to get to the meeting tonight and will be quite late in any case. But I want to share a few reactions to Stations of the Tide. After reacting negatively at first--too much magic, electronic cloning, etc.--I became quite captivated. The book is ponderable. I might reread some of it. I'm sure I haven't gotten all of the references in a quick go through during a busy week. I liked it. The bureaucrat is good. The ending is really very moving, when the suitcase (a lovely touch throughout) is set free and is going to clone itself, and then the bureaucrat himself changing to become something new and different, achieving freedom (if there is such a thing). (As a bureaucrat myself who has had a very bureaucratic life of late I could relate to this guy.) Undine was wonderful. There are quite a few arresting scenes mixed in with all of the, well, speculation (isn't that what they call this kind of fiction, a mixture of magic and dreams of infinite possibility?) I take it that this is meant to be a kind of spiritual journey, the tides, like Noah's flood, will sweep things clean, and there will be a new beginning. Not sure I understand the role of Gregorian or the meaning of the bureaucrat's rather easy victory.

And this: Ararat is a mountain in Turkey. Some say it is where Noah's ark came to rest. Work on that for a while.

Thanks, Mike, for recommending this. Hope to see you all tonight.