Sunday, February 02, 2014

"Hardwired" by Walter Jon Williams

This cyberpunk novel is one for fans of Neuromancer, the 1984 novel by William Gibson. Here's an excerpt from this review of "Hardwired".
"Hardwired is the story of two people fighting against the impersonal forces of their time. Cowboy is a former Delta Jockey. Born before the Rock War, where the Orbitals used Kinetic Kill weapons on the earthbound corporations the war was fought with, he was a pilot when flight was still possible. Smuggling drugs, weapons, mail from one part of the former United States to another. As time passed, the deltas (jet planes) ended up being ground based hovercraft called panzers (similar to the armored tanks of Germany in World War II), where he fulfills the same functions, smuggling food, drugs, weapons, what ever from one part of the country to another.

"Sarah is a former prostitute turned killer / bodyguard for hire. Her brother Daud is still in the flesh trade business, and early in the book is injured and ends up under medical care, the hook that is used by the author to have her life, and Cowboy’s, interest. From that point on it is a running battle on the streets, in corn fields, in computer databases and in person for the two of them.

"They both have been surgically augmented the better to survive in their damaged and dangerous world. Cowboy modified to interface directly with the vehicles he drives, Sarah with chemically activated enhanced reflexes and one of the most innovative weapons created for all of Science Fiction, the cybernsnake, which is named Weasel.  They both have skills relating to their career fields that complement each other, and in the course of business they are paired together, the relationship comes into existence, the partnership that with help will bring about lasting change in their world.

"Hardwired is a great read. It has some excellent fight scenes that are realistic in their depiction. The computer hacking is more believable than the interface style of the Neuromancer styled books, more akin to modern day hacking and data retrieval than surfing brain first into a computer. Along with believable characters and a plausible societal and world setting this raises the book into the Top 10 of the Cyberpunk genre in the view of this reviewer.

"This novel is one of the most influential on the genre. Along with the Neuromancer novels from Walter Gibson and the works of Rudy Rucker, this reviewer feels that Hardwired has had almost the greatest impact on the development of Cyberpunk during the mid to late 1980s, the heyday of the movement."
I go along with this about 90%. Walter Jon Williams writes good descriptive prose, creates believable characters and has a fine tactical sense of action. What lets him down is his strategic plotting: too easily we get carried along by the in-the-moment excitement without much of a sense as to where this is all going.

More seriously, we can end up bored, not caring too much about the eventual resolution and just drop out of the book. A shame because invariably the ending is a well-crafted surprise.


In other news:
  • Our new solar PV panels generated over a kilowatt peak power in today's sunshine; we observed the electricity meter running backwards.
  • After five days without a mobile phone (still stranded at my mother's house where I forgot it) my IQ has dropped by around a third as I can no longer google on random whims. I also read the paper less and pay more attention to those around me. A complete negative then!
  • Having now seen the final episode of The Bridge I'm in total awe of writer Hans Rosenfeldt. Series 3 has been commissioned; how on earth will he get out of the Sherlockian cliffhanger with which we were left?