Jun 20, 2008

The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner

The Shockwave Rider

I enjoyed The Sheep Look Up so much that I had really high expectations for this novel. But where Sheep was a sort of free form, bloody, experimental warning about the USA's impact on the global ecology of Earth, Rider is more of a standard cyberpunkish story. Don't get me wrong - there are some very cool, bleak moments, especially those involving "therapy" for children. But it just didn't live up to Sheep's promise.

I think my favorite concept Brunner brings into this book is that of "Hearing Aid", a free number one can call to rant, rave, cuss, complain to with a promise that it is not recorded and no one but the person on the other end of the line can hear them. In these days, when our every keystroke is recorded and our phone conversations are easily dipped into, I sort of wish we had something like that available to us as a regular thing. Some stuff you don't even want to blog about.

By the end, the story just wrapped up too neatly. It was a happy ending all around (something, I'll admit, I haven't seen much these past 6 months). All the mutant dogs do their noble best. The revolutionaries pull one over on the government and manage to put out a powerful computer worm (this book is here the term comes from) that exposes all the secret data hidden from view, effectively bringing about a sort of socialist drive for freedom and love. But, see, I don't think that the average US citizen would actually care much who we've been torturing or why. I think we would find it interesting for ten minutes and then go back to their daily routine.

final thought: I'm too cynical for this novel, but it wasn't a half bad read. If you want true dystopian horrifics, though, go for The Sheep Look Up instead.


JRSM said...

I know I have this somewhere, as yet unread. I must seek it out--your reviews of Brunner's books have reminded me how much I enjoyed 'Stand On Zanzibar'.

downtown guy said...

That's one I haven't got my hands on yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

Lantzvillager said...

I know I read this many years ago and had intended to revisit it. I reread The Sheep Look Up recently and have to agree with your assessment. Great book.

downtown guy said...

Thanks. These two were the first I'd read from Brunner, and I'm glad I ran across his writing.