Cyberpunk is dead. Long live post-cyberpunk! The editors attempt to foment, or at least describe, a new revolution, in contrast with classic 1980s cyberpunk as exemplified by Bruce Sterling’s innovative anthology Mirrorshades.
In the first of 16 tales, Bruce Sterling’s “Bicycle Repairman,” a ninja is dispatched by the artificial intelligence controlling a brain-dead senator. Gwyneth Jones shows us virtual reality as therapy, while Jonathan Lethem delivers a nightmarish tale modeled on Horace McCoy’s novel They Shoot Horses Don’t They? Greg Egan rails against medical big business’s greed. In Pat Cadigan’s post-collapse scenario, attempts to recreate past glories succeed in getting the details wrong. William Gibson’s series of descriptive non-narratives recalls Brian W. Aldiss’s Report on Probability A. David Marusek ponders the ethical conundrums posed by the existence of virtual people. Walter Jon Williams’s characters horrifyingly attempt to recreate their family in virtual reality. Michael Swanwick’s swindlers confront the multibrained, century-old Queen of England. Charles Stross’s KGB boss is an AI that wants to defect. Paul Di Filippo extracts comedy from old film noir. Elsewhere: Elizabeth Bear writes about New Orleans; Paolo Bacigalupi contributes an “agri-punk” story; Mary Rosenblum introduces a cyberpunk PI; and Cory Doctorow borrows from his recent collection, Overlocked. Individually the stories are OK, if lacking originality, despite Kelly’s and Kessel’s lumbering efforts to talk up the birth of a new movement. Too, the accompanying, introductory editors’ notes frequently give away more than necessary, and the story postscripts, extracts of 1980s correspondence between Kessel and Sterling, seem merely quaint and self-consciously literary.
Much ado, little going on.