The Long Tomorrow

June 8, 2010

Review By: Mr. Roboto

Authors: Dan O’Bannon & Jean “Moebius” Giraud (Illustrator)

Year: First appeared in Metal Hurlant, 1976

Category: Cyberpunk Books; Graphic Novels; Proto-Cyberpunk Media


Another piece of the proto-cyberpunk puzzle is found. So far, proto-cyberpunk media has dealt more with the themes of cyberpunk. But what about the look, that Blade Runner-esque future with stratosphere busting skyscrapers and flying cars? Did Ridley Scott have that vision in his head all along?

NOPE.

As it turns out, there was a major influence that would spark the future visions of Scott and Gibson: A short comic about a private eye (or “nose” as the main character called himself) who is hired to retrieve a package. The story itself isn’t much (too short to call it a novel), but the artwork is what influenced Scott and Gibson.

(From Blade Runner Movie site) “Years later, I was having lunch with Ridley, and when the conversation turned to inspiration, we were both very clear about our debt to the Metal Hurlant [the original Heavy Metal magazine] school of the ’70s–Moebius and the others. “

The Long Tomorrow page 2

Problem: Metropolis had these city scenes some fifty years earlier! Did Gibson and Scott ever see Metropolis? Apparently not, since they give their props to Moebius:

“So it’s entirely fair to say, and I’ve said it before, that the way Neuromancer-the-novel “looks” was influenced in large part by some of the artwork I saw in ‘Heavy Metal’. I assume that this must also be true of John Carpenter’s ‘Escape from New York’, Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’”, and all other artefacts of the style sometimes dubbed ‘cyberpunk’. Those French guys, they got their end in early.”

Fritz Lang and the Germans beg to differ.

My advice: Check both out and see who had the future first.

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

The Shockwave Rider

October 23, 2008

Review By: Mr. Roboto

Author: John Brunner

Year: 1975

Category: Cyberpunk Books; Proto-Cyberpunk Media

The Shockwave Rider

“First we had the legs race. Then we had the arms race. Now we’re going to have the brain race. And, if we’re lucky, the final stage will be the human race.” – Angus Porter

Cyberpunk before cyberpunk. Before the word was ever coined, John Brunner created a world so close to what we now consider to be ‘cyberpunk’ that it needed to be read to be believed. It has a computer network that virtually… and literally… permeates American society, while secret government projects try to squeeze the best minds for all their knowledge to try to monitor a society uprooted by a massive west-coast earthquake. About all that’s missing are the cybernetic implants, although there are bio-engineered people and animals that seem to behave almost human.

What you have is THEE definitive blueprint of cyberpunk, even though nobody knew it for another decade.

 

Synopsis: The Pacific coast finally experiences “The BIG One” that kills millions and displaces millions more leaving them with nothing to live on except welfare. Meanwhile, the rest of the nation is experiencing their own kind of “overload” as varying levels of data access has left some without a permanent residence while the “privileged” live in their own kind of haven. To help cope (or, more like, to exploit) this flux, the US Government, under control of criminal elements, began programs to identify potentially “gifted” students to cultivate their “wisdom” to further the Government’s cause.

Nicholas Kenton “Nickie” Haflinger is the product of this program. His talents were being wasted in a failed education system where intelligence made you a target of gang violence. At the novel’s start, Nickie is back at his old academy at Tarnover where he is about to undergo a form of interrogation where his memories are replayed on a data-analysis system while he is unconscious. When Nickie was awake, he was subjected to further questioning and moral arguments with Paul T. Freeman, who is another of the program’s “graduates” from a place called “The Electric Skillet.”

Between the regression flashbacks and the moral point/counterpoints, we see how Nickie managed to elude the authorities while making a living (several, actually) using the skills he learned at Tarnover… and why he ran away to begin with.

 

Now for the good stuff! So, how did Nickie manage to elude capture for so long? Among his skill-set is the ability to program the data-net using nothing more than a touch-tone phone (PHREAKY!). That, and a high-level access code he stole. With these tools, Nickie was able able to quickly change identities to avoid being captured by creating… wait for it…

WORMS!

That’s right, worms! Those self-propagating programs that hog bandwidth are the result of this book. Nickie programmed his worms to erase all traces of his old identity and to create new ones when needed. He also creates a “super worm” that discloses information that the government has been trying to keep secret.

 

Another proto-cyberpunk classic for your bookshelf. Make some space next to True Names in your library. The Shockwave Rider is a book that must be in your collection.

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

True Names

June 25, 2008

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.