Jun. 23rd, 2017

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I read Synners not long after it was published in 1991, but I don't remember what I thought of it. I liked it a lot the second time. It's a novel full of furious energy and lots of ideas. What surprised me a little bit was how much it's about a counterculture, but also how realistically the countercultural life is depicted. At time it reminded me of Delany's Dhalgren on that front, with free spirits squatting in utter squalor, eating badly in filthy surroundings. It's not a very romanticized portrait.

Cadigan is also more sympathetic to the corporate drones than I remembered, especially to Gabe, who is a mid-level corporate toady just ttying to get by as best he can, which is not actually very well. Of course the corporation he serves is an amoral profit-consumed machine that makes a bad situation worse by trying to capitalize on a new neural computer interface that threatens to integrate human brains into the internet and thus expose them to hackers who have nothing but chaos and viruses on (and in) their minds.

This is a novel of many characters that weaves back and forth between the members of the large cast. I had a hard time at first keeping track of everyone and their agendas, but eventually I mostly figured it out. After that the weaving of character points-of-view and ideas about consciousness and perception became hypnotic. This came out at a peak moment in cyberpunk history, and it is loaded with tropes and ideas of the era, practically an encyclopedia of the form.

Basically one character -- a video artist who wants to be a machine -- creates a video that goes viral and and starts to cause people to stroke out. The novel has a romantic resolution to this problem that seemed a little out of tone with the rest of the story. The other problem I had with it was the attempt to create a future slang -- e.g. "stone home" this and "stone home" that -- which sounded just as phoney as any attempt to create future slang. TANSTAAFL, anyone? For the most part, however, I found Cadigan's linguistic riffs to be rich and dense.

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