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The Shockwave Rider Paperback – March 1, 1995


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This book has always been popular with the techy-geeky crowd, but, since it was first published in the '70s, it missed out on the cyberpunk revolution of the '80s. It's too bad, because this is a compelling story of a future world tied together by a universal data network, a world that could be our tomorrow. It's a tense place filled with information overload and corporate domination, and nearly everything is known about everybody. Except Nickie Haflinger, a prodigy whose talents allow him to switch identities with a phone call. Nickie plans to change the world, if only he can keep from getting caught. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

A Science Fiction Book Club Selection

"When John Brunner first told me of his intention to write this book, I was fascinated -- but I wondered whether he, or anyone, could bring it off. Bring it off he has -- with cool brilliance. A hero with transient personalities, animals with souls, think tanks and survival communities fuse to form a future so plausibly alive it has twitched at me ever since."

-- Alvin Toffler

Author of Future Shock

He Was The Most Dangerous Fugitive Alive, But He Didn't Exist!

Nickie Haflinger had lived a score of lifetimes...but technically he didn't exist. He was a fugitive from Tarnover, the high-powered government think tank that had educated him. First he had broken his identity code -- then he escaped.

Now he had to find a way to restore sanity and personal freedom to the computerized masses and to save a world tottering on the brink of disaster.

He didn't care how he did it...but the government did. That's when his Tarnover teachers got him back in their labs...and Nickie Haflinger was set up for a whole new education! --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey (March 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345467175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345467171
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #398,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It is in my opinion one of the greatest sci-fi books ever written.
JW
Had a great idea that never came to fruition in the modern world; Public computer stations that resembled pay phones that he so named "V-Phones".
Al
John Brunner's very best and a mandatory read for those who liked Neuromancer.
mlshore@xtra.co.nz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 16, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The title comes from Alvin Toffler's "FutureShock." In the best of his books (Stand on Zanzibar, The Sheep Look Up, and Shockwave Rider), Brunner takes one problematic element of modern society and extrapolates into the future. In Stand on Zanzibar it is population pressure; in The Sheep Look Up it is environmental pollution; in Shockwave Rider it is the increasing rate of change and its effect on us. (BTW, the rest of his books are very different; and he's written some of the most depressing SF I've ever read; it might have been therapy for him but his "Total Eclipse" might send me into it!)

The increasing rate of change has sent most Americans into mental distress. The most obvious cause (i.e. the most identifiable thing with an increasing rate of change) is the internet (Brunner doesn't call it that, but he has it right nonetheless) -- everything one does is subject to scrutiny by the Feds and by anyone who can hack the net. The flip side is that oneself is rarely able to find out important information. In other words: there are those around one who know things they shouldn't, are improperly profiting from it, and one can't do anything about it. The protagonist is a goverment-trained programmer who becomes hacker extraordinaire.

The structure of the book takes getting used to, but is also the reason its a desert island book. Shockwave Rider is arranged in short sections, the shortest only a paragraph, the longest rarely more than a few pages. The scene jumps around and there seems to be no continuity. Stick with it! It will become clear soon enough, and it worth plowing on till it does. One hint: one type of section is commentary, not plot. Each section has a heading -- a quote or a reference.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Herr Frog on November 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
I remember buying all Brunner novels I could find as he wrote them back in the 20th C. His were among the few science fiction novels that were in the book racks at the grocery, back in the late 70's and early 80's. I guess I was about 14 or so when I got my little paws on this one. I was enticed and excited, much as I was by other sci-fi novels back then, but it was only when I began reading Gibson and Walter John many years later that I began to recall ... dated, of course, and Brunner's characters are all very much 1950-70's type characters, very neurotic and uptight. (People are not so much like that any more, of course ;-). They are now just whacked, or stupid.)

And it is amusing to see Brunner's future world where everybody logs into a massive mainframe for the entire continent. It's amusing to think maybe we could have gone that route technologically; a central monolithic network instead of a zillion anarchistic distributed networks. Then perhaps Windows would be the "good guys" and Nix would be the "Evil Empire!"

In this techno-dystopian novel, it seems the wrong people have been given root privileges. And although the word "hacker" had not been invented yet, our protagonist is indeed an anti-social computer whiz/underachiever, who devises a virus that ... well, enough spoiling for today. Read teh book!

And if you enjoyed this, consider looking at the "Future Shock" trilogy by Alvin Toffler, a major inspiration to Brunner, both intellectually and stylistically, and Brunner's "The Sheep Look Up," his other greatest novel -- one of very many, as Brunner was very prolific.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 27, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Little is to be added to the other reviews. This 28-year old book not only decribed the internet as it will become very soon long before its inception, but computer viruses (called "worms" by Brunner) before the first PC too, plus a few other things and issues not even mentioned yet.
Since a friend gave it to me to read many years ago, I've bought every copy of it I could find. I have kept one German and one English version and as I will not let them out of my bookshelf under no circumstances I gave all others away as gifts, still looking for more copies to give away.
It has been sold out so often and for such a long time, each time and in each of those two languages available to me, that if one were to be a follower of conspiracy theories, well, the fact that this book is not reprinted as often as some other books of Brunner are would be reason for suspicion.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 4, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm going to focus my thoughts on the visionary event that everyone seems to have missed in their reviews of this book. Certainly along with Vinge (True Names), this book predicts the rise of the Internet, but there is another prediction in there that people don't seem to be paying attention to.
The Plug-in lifestyle.
Corporations as a game, and not a source of all that is good. People leave and change companies and towns as easily as... you and I do today. Remember when switching jobs wasn't regarded as a smart career move and a chance at promotion?
It's easy to forget that even as recently as the 80's (ack. It's not recent to me, but it is in certain senses) the corporation was a place to spend life and retire with a pension and a gold watch. Since then, the concept of a pension is foreign to most of us, as is life-long employment. The early 90's took care of that.
The 50's and 60's were the time of the "organization man", not one who could or would switch places or jobs easily, and easily meld in with the newest grouping. It's a shallow lifestyle, but how many people do you know that are experienced at it. After Chainsaw Al (among others), how many people owe loyalty to a company?
A far-reaching vision. The book is worth reading to see how true it has become in certain senses. Predicting the future is a hit or miss proposition. This book is a solid hit. At least for me - in the Internet/Information Technology industry.
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