A True Tale of Lust, War, and Betrayal on the Electronic Frontier
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A strangely fascinating exploration of the dark side of cyberspace, where virus writers, porno peddlers, and fantasy game fanatics have created an anarchic subculture that blurs reality and imagination. Sinha, a former London advertising copywriter, became addicted to the Internet in 1984 when he was asked to create ads for a modem manufacturer. Although his online addiction nearly destroyed his life, it also brought him into a strange new world of cyber-relationships. There’s the unforgettable Jarly, who like Sinha, is obsessed with Shades, a multi-user fantasy game inhabited by evil knights and fair damsels. Jarly spends 16 hours a day playing Shades and, in one hilarious incident, even pisses his pants at the keyboard. Jarly has no job or human relationships, and every penny he can beg or steal goes toward his astronomical telephone bills. Calypso is another Shades addict. She meets men playing the game and sleeps with them so they’ll pay her bills. Geno is a virus maker who taps into government computers and wreaks digital havoc. He lands in federal prison after trying to break into the FBI’s computer system. In the book’s most comically surreal episode, a group of Shades players throw a house party where “two worlds, the one we call “real’, and the cyber-world of Shades, collided and became entangled.” Like a crack addict, Sinha is a genius at self-delusion, telling himself that his habit is under control. Meanwhile, as he spends all his free time in cyberspace, his marriage is falling apart. His narrative is nonlinear, experimental, and at times disorienting, especially when he’s trying to capture the murky “feel” of cyberspace. Like his cyber-pals, he often loses touch with reality, transcending into new realms of consciousness. Sinha brings the reader along for the often harrowing ride. Part Dante, part Bill Gates, part Jack Kerouac” however you categorize this bizarre book, it’s worthy of attention.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-670-88630-0
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999


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