Grand-daddy of all cyberpunk, November 16, 2005
Reviewer: Herr Frog (Washington DC area)
I remember buying all Brunner novels I could find as he wrote them back in the 20th C. His were among the few science fiction novels that were in the book racks at the grocery, back in the late 70's and early 80's. I guess I was about 14 or so when I got my little paws on this one. I was enticed and excited, much as I was by other sci-fi novels back then, but it was only when I began reading Gibson and Walter John many years later that I began to recall ... dated, of course, and Brunner's characters are all very much 1950-70's type characters, very neurotic and uptight. (People are not so much like that any more, of course ;-). They are now just whacked, or stupid.)
And it is amusing to see Brunner's future world where everybody logs into a massive mainframe for the entire continent. It's amusing to think maybe we could have gone that route technologically; a central monolithic network instead of a zillion anarchistic distributed networks. Then perhaps Windows would be the "good guys" and Nix would be the "Evil Empire!"
In this techno-dystopian novel, it seems the wrong people have been given root privileges. And although the word "hacker" had not been invented yet, our protagonist is indeed an anti-social computer whiz/underachiever, who devises a virus that ... well, enough spoiling for today. Read teh book!
And if you enjoyed this, consider looking at the "Future Shock" trilogy by Alvin Toffler, a major inspiration to Brunner, both intellectually and stylistically, and Brunner's "The Sheep Look Up," his other greatest novel -- one of very many, as Brunner was very prolific.
An intriguing foray into government corruption by manipulating public opinion with misinformation. Sound familiar? Brunner wrote this book in 1975 and I can't believe how many things he got right - internet (called Data Net), phones as computer terminals, information overload, bribes and kickbacks hidden by executive privilege, etc.
The protagonists are likable, but not infalable and the plot moves along at exciting pace to a satifying conclusion.
The only reason I didn't rate this book higher was due to the sometimes confusing futuristic jargon Brunner used in sections of the book.