Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A pair of punks -- cyber, that is

Over a recent business trip, I read two books that fit the post-cyberpunk model well, and perhaps even good ol' cyberpunk:

It's interesting to see how many themes crop up in both books -- I'll try not to give too much away, but definitely put both of these on your short list to read.

Radio Freefall is a first (and only) novel, and it's quite well polished for a first outing. It falls squarely post-cyberpunk if only because it's not a dystopian society, but it carries some important CP items: emergent AI and world-spanning AI, and the ethics of AI ownership, and hackers of computers, societies, brains and bodies... plus good ol' rock 'n' roll! Following the band "Snake Vendor," the book features excerpts of lyrics from that band, plus "Sex Lethal" and a couple others. Jarpe gets rock music and lyrics, the way few bands seem to today. I want to hear some of those songs. There's an interesting McGuffin: A virus so prevalent in every computer (cough) that the world economy depends on its side effects.

Implied Spaces is a bit less groundbreaking, more of an SF comfy old shoe. It opens reading like a heroic fantasy, except the protag is aware he's in a fantasy, making me think perhaps it's a Dream Park-like setting, and it is and it isn't. Where Radio Freefall was more of a Neuromancer-like near future, this is more of a far-future superscience story. Again, we've got AI rights, violation of mind, self and computer, but at a different scale. Worlds held in the balance kind of thing... and a talking cat and a magic sword. Could be trite but ends up far from it. Probably more nods to folks like Lieber than I'm picking up on.

Bottom line? Good to see old-fashioned Cyberpunk still being written. With folks like Bear (Quantico), Sterling (Zenith Angle), and Gibson (Pattern Recognition) getting out of the future and into maybe next week, there's a new guard picking up where the old left off a while ago.

And that applies to music too: Airborne Toxic Event sounds like Psychadelic Furs (if the Furs had clearer singing voices); MGMT's Electric Feel sounds a bit like The Clash's Hitsville UK.

Is everything old new again? Or am I just getting old?

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