Killer apps outnumber the glitches in 20 short, bracing narratives of cyberpunk sci-fi.

Cyber World


An anthology of cyberpunk short fiction takes readers to a malleable world where advanced data technology and human interfaces create shifting realities, altered perceptions, and para-human intelligence.

There used to be a defiant rock-music catchphrase, “Punk’s not dead.” This anthology seeks to prove that cyberpunk’s not dead. The software and silicon-age subgenre of sci-fi, typified by direct interfaces between humans and data technology (be it cyborgs or virtual reality), burst onto the literary scene in the computer-hacktastic 1980s. But the once-buzzworthy trend was declared tiresome and defunct by its own godfather, William Gibson, only about a dozen years later. In his introduction here, Richard Kardrey sagely points out that if vinyl records and paper-making could make a comeback concurrent with tablet PCs and “Second Life,” then why not androids in the age of Android? These 20 compact stories exhibit the genre in its future-shock glory, as though Max Headroom never got canceled or Prodigy never went offline. The theme of body modification—especially the arbitrary, bewildering, and often desperate switching of genders—has particularly aged well (as in “WYSIOMG” by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro). The inherent multiculturalism of cyberpunk (telecommunications and powerful multinational corporations turning the world into a scaled-down global village) means many of the stories embrace diverse locales and beliefs. These include tales set piquantly amid the culture of war-distorted, futuristic Islam, where Allah possibly speaks through a veteran’s neural implant (“The Faithful Soldier, Prompted” by Saladin Ahmed); superpower-exploited Thailand, where nanotech is poised to execute the have-nots’ bitter revenge on the haves (“The Bees of Kiribati” by Warren Hammond); or denuded Nigeria, where biomechanical life forms are replacing humanity (“The Ibex on the Day of Extinction,” by Minister Faust). Many of the tales in this anthology, edited by Viola (Nightmares Unhinged: Twenty Tales of Terror, 2015) and Heller, are told in the first-person. As a result, they show off an argot of rich (if overused) cyberslang: “meatspace,” jokey Lord of the Rings references, and lines from Blade Runner. What may have changed since the 8088-processor days is that hardly anyone relies on “jacking in” to describe entering a virtual reality/online consciousness. “Diving in” seems to be the 2.0 version.

Killer apps outnumber the glitches in 20 short, bracing narratives of cyberpunk sci-fi.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Hex Publishers

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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