June 25, 2008

True Names

Book Review By: Mr. Roboto

Author: Vernor Vinge

Year: 1981

Category: Cyberpunk Books


True Names

In the once upon a time days of the First Age of Magic, the prudent sorcerer regarded his own true name as his most valued possession but also the greatest threat to his continued good health, for–the stories go–once an enemy, even a weak unskilled enemy, learned the sorcerer’s true name, then routine and widely known spells could destroy or enslave even the most powerful. As times passed, and we graduated to the Age of Reason and thence to the first and second industrial revolutions, such notions were discredited. Now it seems that the Wheel has turned full circle (even if there never really was a First Age) and we are back to worrying about true names again.

This opening paragraph pretty much describes the premise of True Names. This novella, released three years before Neuromancer, gives us a cyberspace adventure that has influenced many a cyberpunk writer… possibly even Gibson himself.

 

Synopsis: Roger Pollack is a computer wizard who frequents the “Other Plane” as “Mr. Slippery” and has other wizard friends whose “true names” are kept secret, even from each other. He is confronted by agents of “The Great Adversary” (The US Government) who has reason to believe that another wizard named “The Mailman” is recruiting other wizards for some type of coup on the net that can lead to control of reality.

 

Everything you’d expect from cyberpunk… and then some. The “Other Plane” connects to many nets, nodes, and databases. Anyone who has the ability to connect and control them can become a virtual god, and when Mr. Slippery finds out who… or what… The Mailman is, you’ll understand why this novella is definitely cyberpunk.

Don’t believe me? Read it online. (BIG ACK signal to “The Rectifier,” though I have yet to find the zip file he mentions.) You can still find the story for sale by itself, mostly online, or as part of a collection like True Names & Other Dangers and True Names: And the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier.

Read it and see how cyberpunk it is!

This post has been filed under Proto-Cyberpunk Media, Cyberpunk Books by Mr. Roboto.

For those who missed it tonight, AFI has announced their top 10 movies in 10 categories, including animation, fantasy, and (need it be said?) science fiction. Of course, sci-fi was the main category to watch to see if movies like Blade Runner made the cut.

No longer keeping you waiting, here’s the cyberpunk films in sci-fi:

#8 - Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Sarah Connor kicking ass, Arnold turns the bad bot into a guardian angel, pioneering special effects, enough action to inspire a TV series… ‘Nuff said.

 

#7 - Alien

While its cyberpunk-ness has been called into question, its influence is quite apparent thanks the H.R. Giger.

 

#6 - Blade Runner

Android dreams of electric sheep and unicorns come true. This classic has earned its place in cyberpunk movie history, meaning more can enjoy Roy Batty’s farewell speech.

 

#4 - A Clockwork Orange

This bit of proto-cyberpunk fare will keep minds warped for years to come, with visions of fast-forward sex done to the William Tell Overture.

 

For the record, the #1 sci-fi movie was 2001: A Space Odyssey.

An incomplete picture. Again, it should be emphasized that AFI is primarily for American movies. That means movies like Metropolis, Tetsuo, and many anime movies are left out. What if the AFI did include foreign films? Better yet, is there a world motion-picture consortium (a world-wide AFI of sorts) that can come out with the top films of the world? Maybe we can fill in that picture (no pun intended) with our own listing of the top cyberpunk movies.

This post has been filed under Movie News by Mr. Roboto.

June 14, 2008

Altered Carbon

Book Review By: Mr. Roboto

Author: Richard Morgan

Year: 2002

Category: Cyberpunk Books


Altered Carbon cover 1

The next generation of cyberpunk has arrived… in 2002. Richard K. Morgan’s debut novel has brought forth a new era of cyberpunk literature that has already produced dividends from Ryan Span (Street: Empathy) and Mr. Morgan himself with two sequels and an unrelated book. JIVE Magazine has gone so far as to name him The New King of Cyberpunk Fiction. Even now, a movie is being made from this book (IMDb reference - Empty for now) due to be released in 2009.

Cyberpunk is said to have that “noir” atmosphere about it, borne of hardboiled detective tomes. Altered Carbon takes the noir factor and overclocks it to make it read like a detective novel. Or, maybe it’s a detective novel that takes the cyberpunk factor and overclocks it to make it read like a cyberpunk novel. However you want to look at it, Altered Carbon is a novel that needs to be read, then read several more times.

 

They wear their stacks on their sleeves. To better understand the premise of the novel, a quick overview of the key technologies featured…

First, you have “sleeves,” cloned bodies for when you die. For the sleeve, there’s the “stack,” a recording device that’s implanted at the base of your brain when you’re born. The stack records and stores your every thought, emotion, sensation, memory, etc. Your digitized brain can then be uploaded to virtuality, or transmitted (”needlecast”) across the galaxy, where a new sleeve awaits your arrival on another planet.

If your meat body dies, the stack is removed and “re-sleeved” (implanted into a new clone body) so you can continue your existence. That’s IF you have the insurance, loving relatives, or a sleeve-fund ready to pay for the new bod. Otherwise, you go into storage, possibly for centuries. Also, the stack itself can be corrupted or outright destroyed, resulting in “real death.” Some are fortunate, and rich, enough to have their stacks backed up like you would back up your hard drives. Backups are done every couple of days, so if your stack is destroyed, the backup is re-sleeved and you loose a day or two of memories. For someone who has the cash, they can have several sleeves at the ready along with a backed up stack, theoretically enabling them to live forever. Those who have lived through several sleeves are known as Methuselahs, or simply “Meths.”

One such Meth is Laurens Bancroft. Bancroft recently had his head destroyed, along with his stack. Because he had a backup of his stack done a couple of days before, he was able to be re-sleeved, but has no memory of the events leading up to his “death.” The police said Bancroft committed suicide, but he doesn’t believe them and hires an outsider to conduct his own investigation. That outsider’s name: Takeshi Lev Kovacs.

 

The universe through Kovacs’ eyes. Kovacs is a former U.N. “Envoy,” a form of super-soldier who undergoes special spiritual/psychological training to prepare them to adapt new new bodies quickly for interstellar deployment. Often these new bodies are augmented with neuro-chemical implants to enhance their sleeve’s senses and abilities. Because of their training Envoys are banned from holding government jobs on any world and tend to turn to a life of crime upon leaving the corps. Kovacs was serving time in storage for an unspecified crime when he gets needlecast to Earth and re-sleeved as Elias Ryker, a Bay City (San Francisco) cop, to investigate Bancroft’s death.

From the prologue, where Kovacs is killed, to the end of the novel, we get to experience Kovacs’ adventure through his senses. In a way, this book may actually be Kovacs’ stack transmitted back from 500 years in the future. During his investigation, we see how his Envoy training serves him, especially during a particularly nasty torture in virtuality.

 

Catholics… or How religion poisons the future. An interesting thread in the novel concerns Resolution 653, a case in a U.N. court where a dead Catholic is going to be subpoenaed and made to testify by re-sleeving. The Vatican has decried re-sleeving as blasphemy, claiming that a human soul is not saved on the stack but goes directly to God upon death. About the only good news about this is that Catholics are easy targets for murder, since they won’t be re-sleeved to testify against their attackers.

 

This book needs to be imprinted upon your stack. If you preferred to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? over watching Blade Runner, Altered Carbon is something to put on your “must read” list. Just like reading cyberpunk novels? Here you go. Want to see what the next generation of cyberpunk fiction is like? Take a look. Prefer detective novels over cyberpunk? You’re at the wrong site, but Altered Carbon is definitely noir enough for you.

 

Page 2: Quotable quotes from Altered Carbon –>>

 

This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Books by Mr. Roboto.

Reboot crew

Bob: I’m I reading this right? Someone’s actually writing scripts for three movies about us?
Dot: Maybe we should read the rest of this blog. It might explain what’s going on.

 

Word coming down the wires from The Hollywood Reporter has news of scripts for a ReBoot movie trilogy currently being written by Jon Cooksey. Carolyn Giardina (Hollywood Reporter):

Jon Cooksey has been signed to write the script for the first feature based on “ReBoot,” one of the earliest computer-animated episodic TV series.

“ReBoot” is being redeveloped as a trilogy of feature-length films by Rainmaker Animation. Originally produced in 1994, the series was created by MainFrame Entertainment, which was acquired by and renamed Rainmaker in 2006.

The news comes as part of a relaunch that includes a comic series and a marketing campaign to “engage the fans.”

This has to come as good news for fans of the CG TV series; The prospect of three more ReBoot movies to add their collection of the series and three movies (Daemon Rising, My Two Bobs, and The Ride) is going to have fans looking to make more room. There’s already a page on IMDB waiting to be populated once the first movie is released.

The movies is currently scheduled to be released in 2010, so you’ll need to fill the time by checking out the ReBoot website and staying tuned for the latest from the project.

This post has been filed under Upcoming Movies by Mr. Roboto.

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