the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘cyberpunk

About the size of the 4th Harry Potter book, but w/about 300 more pages.

Last weekend I got Neal Stephenson’s Reamde out of the library.  It’s been a busy week, so I’m only maybe 300 pages into this 1000+ page monster, but so far? I am LOVING it.   A book this long and involved deserves more than just a “review” post.

The gist of the plot so far is Richard owns a software company that runs the biggest MMORPG to hit the interwebs since WoW. His neice, Zula, does some work for his company as well. When Zula’s boyfriend does something incredibly stupid,  Zula and stupid (ex)boyfriend find themselves “guests” of the Russian mafia, and “invited” to China. And when I say guest I mean hostage and when I say invited I really mean abducted.  You see, a virus has broken out in Richard’s MMO, T’Rain.  This is a bad thing because it has compromised some sensitive info belonging to the Russians. They wanna find the hacker who started the virus and kill him.  Richard wants to find the hacker and hire him.

All that in only the first 150 pages.  I feel like I’m reading the incredible end bit of Cryptonomicon (if you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about) with the breakneck pace of Zodiac.

Because this is a Stephenson, it is jam packed with detail.  And not those boring details about what color someone’s hair or clothing is, but the good kind of details, like how Richard and his buddies built the back story of T’Rain, of how his programmers are geologists who literally built the world up from planetary accretion disks, plate technonics and where volcanoes and gold and ore deposits would naturally occur on an Earth sized planets.  How they hired fantasy writers (one of Tolkien-esque quality and the other of well, not) to create their own mythologies and histories  of elves and dwarves and such.

And that’s just the beginning of the glorious infodumps.

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Eastern Standard Tribe, by Cory Doctorow

Published in 2004

where I got it: library

why I read it: I like all things Doctorow

 

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Meet Art.  he’s smart, he’s loyal, he’s naive, and he’s sitting on the roof of a mental institution thinking really hard about suicide.

Let’s back up a bit, and find out how he got there, shall we?  In this near future, the time zone in which you live defines your friends and your employers. Business never stops, and who wants to be doing conference calls at 5am because that’s when your employer is up? it’s so much easier to just work with the hundreds of millions of people who already populate your time zone and whose circadians already match yours.

An Industrial saboteur of sorts, Art spends his days offering bad advice to Western Europe, while at night developing software to be used for the benefit of his home tribe, the Eastern Standard Tribe.  To Art, his Tribe is more than just employer. To him, they are motherland and family. If only everyone was so loyal.
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Moxyland, by Lauren Beukes

first published in 2008

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it: I really enjoyed Beukes’ Zoo City

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in a not so distant future, connectivity is everything. Not only does your cell phone connect you to your friends and family (not to mention the internet), but the government and local police use it as a tracking device, and when necessary a punishment device. Disconnectivity by government order can equal a death sentence for some, as your phone is also your public transit pass, your pass to get into work, and your pass to get through certain city checkpoints. It also screams tech-based apartheid. May sound shocking to you and I, But to the youth and 20-somethings of South Africa, they grew up with this – to them it’s completely normal.

ahh, taking technologies and the social order and making their uncomfortable side effects feel normal, that’s just one thing Beukes excels at. All of our characters, Kendra,the art school drop out turned PR guinea pig; Toby, the LARPer  with dreams of taking down the government; Tendeka the children’s charity organizer whose getting sick of losing funding; and Lerato, the programming genius who thinks she knows it all.
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Infoquake, by David Louis Edelman

Published in 2006

where I got it: Library

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“trust me”. . . “what could possibly go wrong?”  I love it when a story starts out with phrases like that. Means I’m in for a fun ride, because having characters utter phrases like that is akin to leaving a gun on the table.  You know everything that could possibly go wrong will, in ways you could never imagine.

On this future Earth, “bio-logics”, biological software, similar to nanobots, runs through your blood, through your brain, through your guts,  allowing humanity to work smarter. Governments are organizations you sign up for, not live under.   Thanks to  bio-logics programming and the Multi Network, business transactions and personal meetings are done virtually.  This isn’t quite a Neuromancer future, but it’s a stop on the way. Most certainly not a world I ever want to wake up in, but it sure is a blast to read about!

The bio-logics industry is massive.  A million little fiefcorps write programming all day long, hoping to make it big, make it to number one on Primo’s (sort of a cross between a stock exchange, Consumer Reports, and an uncorruptable search engine). Natch, the charming and brilliant master of the Natch Personal Programming Fiefcorp has a plan to make it to number one.  He could become very rich very fast, or he could crash the entire system.  If only he trusted his employees enough to tell them what the hell he’s up to.

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Aztechs by Lucius Shepard

published in 2003

where I got it: library

why I read it:  Author came highly recommended, this was the first title of his I came across.

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I first heard the name Lucius Shepard a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve learned he’s been writing award winning scifi and sci-fantasy since the 1980’s, and is apparently once of science fictions best kept secrets.

Although much of his discography is out of print, much of his shorter works are available online, including Aztechs, available here  for free. Hit up your local library (like I did), or start doing some downloading.

In this near future Mexico, a deadly laser fence locally known as El Rayo runs the entire US / Mexican border, sharing it’s name with the poverty stricken border town that runs it’s length. When he isn’t co-starring on his girlfriend Lupe’s loosely scripted and continually filming reality show, Eddie Poe makes his living running a security company. With Samurai drugs running rampant, there’s no shortage of brawlers, known as “Sammy”, and in a semi-lawless region of Mexico, there’s no shortage of contracts for Eddie.

In the last 10 years, a tech company called Aztechs has shown up, offering cheap tech to anyone who visits them. With offices in bizarre monuments out in the desert, the rumor is that Aztechs was founded by an escaped US born AI, who goes by the name Montezuma. Eddie’s latest contract is to escort the Aztechs representative, known as Zee, to meet with a local gangster family. Zee arranges for Lupe to film the entire thing, guaranteeing her a ratings boost when the world learns what Aztechs is willing to offer the right business partner. Montezuma is interested in creating a new country between Mexico and the US, putting the right family in charge of the whole thing, and throwing in immortality to sweeten the deal. Who could possibly refuse? Why would you want to? Imagine the possibilities!

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I wrote this review quite a while ago, but the book came out quite a while ago as well. So everything might be a little dated.

What images would we choose to define our lives? Or a moment in our life? A couple embracing? A bird flying? The face of a parent, or of a child?  An empty plastic bag floating on the wind, just grazing the ground?

As the only Gibson book that I’ve come across to take place unmistakably now, Gibson works his usual ubersleek cyberpunk magic, however in a somewhat tempered manner. Missing is the plethora of Often dripping with amusing similes, this is a sleek and polished piece of intellectual science fiction.

Has Gibson (gulp), gone. . . . normal?? Read the rest of this entry »


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.