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Posts Tagged ‘Cyberpunk’

sf sitemoxylandIn Moxyland, the gap between the haves and the have-nots has spread to a Grand Canyon sized gulf. Set in the near future of South Africa, it follows the interweaving story of four very different kinds of people. This was a great book to read, I once referred to it as cyberpunk-chic and I stand by that tag. I’ll be interviewing the author, Lauren Beukes, in a couple of months for Author of the Week so check back for more information about Moxyland.
nekropolis
Matt Richter is good at doing favors for people. A former cop, he’s good at finding things out and making people talk. He’s also very, very dead. Nekropolis was an okay book. There were definitely some rough patches in the story, places that didn’t line up quite right. But there was a lot of potential in Waggoner’s book, and I’m hoping that as he gets more practice, Matt Richter will become a permanent figure on the Urban Fantasy landscape.

To read the full reviews, head over to SF Site. Just click on the book covers.

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neuromancer_bookNeuromancer by William Gibson
Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Ace (July 1, 1984)
ISBN-13: 978-0441569595

Henry Dorsett Case, known simply as Case during the story, is a washed up console cowboy. Once a top hacker, he crossed his former crime boss employer, but instead of losing his life, they burned out his ability to neurally connect to the web. Now a middle man in the slums of Japan, he’s stuck doing drug deals and fencing electronic gear. Case has become a suicidal addict, desperate for a cure that will reverse his mutilation, but beyond all hope of ever finding one. This is where Molly finds him. She’s a street tough working for a man named Armitage, a mysterious character that neither Molly nor Case knows much of anything about.

Molly and Armitage clean Case up, repair his neural damage, and add a little incentive to the mix to force him to work for them. This comes in the form of poison sacks hidden in strategic places inside his body that will slowly dissolve over time, putting him back in the same debilitating state they pulled him out of. Unless he is given the final antidote at the end of his work for them, he’ll be back in the gutter. The job? The preliminary run is just a basic smash and grab, stealing a unique program from a mega-corporation. But the ultimate goal of their little team is unclear, the only clue being a name; Wintermute.

The name Wintermute is revealed to be that of an AI, an artificial intelligence with a strange and perhaps dangerous agenda. It’s up to Case, Molly, and the rest of their team and friends to decide whether to help or hinder the AI. They’ve got to manage this somehow, while trying to stay alive, stay out of jail, and stay connected to the web. The meaning of the title isn’t revealed until well into the book, and it is truly astounding when it is.

Characters are diverse but all have a recurrent theme, that of some kind of social outcast. Case is a hacker, someone who makes a living by breaking into computers and selling what he steals, but he’s also an intelligent and thoughtful man, with a penchant for falling in love. Molly is a woman with a past, and a desperate need to protect her future. Her physical adaptations make her an ideal strong arm, but they came at a heavy price that still haunts her, and brings to mind some of today’s social injustices. The other characters are all equally memorable, and have equally difficult or heart breaking pasts.

This book is the definitive cyberpunk novel, the founding work and the place where the rest spring from. The most amazing part of the book is the fact that it came out in 1984, years before easily accessible personal computers, cell phones, or serious genetic manipulations were available. Gibson correctly imagined technology and innovations that wouldn’t happen for years, and wrote well using them. Not only was it visionary, it was a first novel. Gibson managed to create something amazing and genre-creating on his first publication. A good point for first time writers: Don’t be afraid to use your imagination; no species, technology, or characterization is too bizarre if done right. Gibson did it right.

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Check out William Gibson’s site or follow him on twitter @GreatDismal

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Other Reviews of Neuromancer:

SF Reviews.net
Book Geeks
Booklore

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LGFrontcover_website_800pxw_jpgLooking Glass by James R. Strickland
Paperback: 308 pages
Publisher: Flying Pen Press LLC (June 1, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0979588901

When I first started reading Looking Glass, I was immediately reminded of cyberpunk classics by William Gibson and Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson. Similar settings: our near future gone totally tech crazy, new lingo, new lifestyles, corporations run amuck and the United States split up into multiple smaller, meaner countries. But Strickland manages something other cyberpunk authors haven’t, in my experience.

We are introduced to Dr. Catherine Farro, screen name Shroud, a woman who thinks she’s past her prime, stuck in the corporate world playing guard dog for OmniMart’s internal communications network. Relatively easy work for someone with her elite computer skills, but it’s the best she can get. The corporate grind is slowly wearing her down day by day, sapping her vitality and life, giving her excuses not to stretch herself any more, but she’s trapped in the life. That is, until some unknown but very powerful hacker cracks their network and kills her team of guard dog colleagues, including the woman she loves.

Thus begins the rebirth of Shroud, as she hunts down the people responsible for her friends’ deaths and her own exile from the company she has served well for eight years. As each lead is followed, and Shroud takes more and more dangerous risks to track down the killer, we are shown a world of technology, software, and hacker culture that most of us will never understand. She must fight against her own inner bitterness and physical limitations as well as the outside forces trying to stop her investigation.

The thing that Strickland does so well that other authors in the genre have failed at, is heart. Shroud is a complex woman of middle years, with many quirks and foibles that come off as natural and endear the character to the reader. Her relationships are as fraught with uncertainty and misunderstandings as those of the people reading along, and it’s very easy to root for her and understand her need for vengeance.

This is a woman that many of us could easily meet and know in real life, with her own imperfections and personality flaws. She’s more of an anti-hero than a super-hero. Another plus: the main love interest of Shroud throughout the book is Latino, although the book does suffer from an overabundance of nerdy white guys.

The two things that caught my attention quickly, beyond the likability of the character, were her physical ability, and her bisexuality. Shroud does all her work from the confines of a wheelchair, were she’s been bound since birth. She’s also very casual about her sexual preferences, although not negatively. She strikes me as very evenly bisexual, with equal desire for men and women. The scenes in the book with women are tasteful and well done, as are those with men. Strickland also doesn’t shy away from her paralysis, either, incorporating it into Shroud’s physical awareness freely and naturally. The problems with access that Shroud runs into in her world will translate very easily to those readers who deal with the same difficulties in their everyday lives.

Another aspect I liked very much was the easy-to-read story. Oftentimes when dealing with cyberpunk books, the author relies heavily on metaphors and the surrealism of working in a digital world, making the story hard to follow and the storyline difficult to grasp. Strickland incorporates all the elements of cyberpunk without losing his audience in a tangle of electrical descriptions and overdone jargon.

The story isn’t perfect, there are some of Shroud’s quirks that quickly got on my nerves, such as her endless literary quotes, although both Strickland and Shroud have an English background so I can see where that comes from. There is also a moment towards the very end of the story that struck me as very much a deus ex machina, no pun intended, and I feel like that scene was rushed just to get to the end of the book. I also think it detracted from the character of Shroud, as one of her big weaknesses was “magically fixed”. These minor hangups definitely didn’t kill the story for me, though, and I think as Strickland grows as a writer we’ll continue to see more and better work such as Looking Glass.

I’d highly recommend this book to any cyberpunk fans, and to any speculative fiction fans in general. The easy flow of the story makes for a great introduction to the cyberpunk genre for those who might otherwise be put off, and is a quick and fun read for those already indoctrinated. Pick up a copy from Flying Pen Press or your local independent bookstore. You’ll come away wondering which of your memories are real and which are merely false data.

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You can also check out James R. Strickland’s blog.

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