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Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century Paperback – August 5, 1997

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A high-speed tour through the high-tech underground and its denizens. Dery introduces us to those who embrace computer technology, figuratively and literally -- cyberpunks, cyberhippies, cybersexers, and would-be cyborgs who believe the body is mere meat, and await the day when man-machine union is much more than mere science fiction. Dery draws heavily on academic theorists such as Bataille, Foucault, Baudrillard and McLuhan, yet his writing style makes for a highly accessible book. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Freelance cultural critic Dery takes readers on a strange, unsettling, often provocative tour through fringe computer subcultures. We meet cyber-hippies and "technopagans" who use the personal computer in New Age mystical rituals via echomail, a technology that links discussion groups into a communal conference. California roboticist Mark Pauline stages spectacles in which robots and humans are menaced by heavy machinery or remote-controlled weaponry, while Chico MacMurtrie's puppet-like robot musicians, acrobats and warriors enact ecotopian dramas. Australian cybernetic body artist Stelarc, plastered with electrodes and trailing wires, embodies the human/machine hybrid all of us are metaphorically becoming. Dery also profiles online swingers hooked on virtual sex, cyberpunk rockers, cyberpunk novelist William Gibson and D.A. Therrien's performance ensemble Comfort/ Control, which dramatizes popular anxieties over the autonomy of intelligent machines and the nightmare of humanity's obsolescence. Dery closes this adventurous inquiry with an appraisal of the "posthumanist" visions of novelist William Burroughs, techno-mystical SF author Vernor Vinge and Carnegie-Mellon roboticist Hans Moravec. Illustrated.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (August 5, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080213520X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802135209
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,088,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
His thesis hangs in mid-air, not fully articulated, but if you relax, it should wash over you. Well-written, flows nicely. Excellent job defining buzzwords/key concepts others don't bother to. I found his book to be the best on the topic I've found so far and invaluable in my own studies.
However, he does get a bit redundant and didactic, keeps resorting to catch-all phrases to explain what people are trying to escape from, e.g. economic inequality, environmental pollution, yah-dah-yah-dah. I wish he had drilled down a bit here.
Also, his groupings seems a bit forced, he seems to have dug himself a hole in his overall design. But it was probably a difficult project, so you have to forgive him that.
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Format: Paperback
"Escape velocity is the speed at which a body...overcomes the gravitational pull of another body," begins Mark Dery in his non-fictional amalgamation of the current state of computer culture, Escape Velocity. Dery uses the concept as a metaphor for what is happening to the many memes--concept viruses--of the on-line and turned-on and their relation to the greater society (mainly American, although some service is given to Japan and Europe). Like the emergence of the Internet (and the 'net concept of on-line connectivity) into the mainstream, the ideas of body sculpting, merging with machines (either virtually or prosthetically), and transhuman growth, among others, are just below the cultural surface, according to Dery.
To be a cultural historian to the fast-paced world of computers is a difficult one, because the cyberculture, far more so than any subculture before it, is as varied in its parts as it is separated geographically. It exists on change. In ways, the myriad differences in the cybercrowd is what makes it a culture rather than a cult--it encourages the free range of expression from left to right, and all the fringes top and bottom, and there is no single authority to consult. Mark Dery's job, therefore, was to piece together a picture of a living community that is less than 30 years old and is more malleable than one of his favorite images, that of the T-2000 liquid-metal android from the movie Terminator 2. He assembled this jigsaw by grabbing at the outward manifestations of the culture--its art--rather than focusing on the nuts and bolts of how it came and stays together. Dery's goal was to achieve a focus on where cybernauts and cyberpunks are headed, rather than where they have been.
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Format: Paperback
I read this about 3+ years ago and I was just discussing it last night. This book presents "cyber-whatever" in a way that is not bound by your typical Newsweek-esque angle of "Boy genius makes millions, blah blah" or by the approach of overwhelming the reader with senseless techie watchwords and jargon that are made up to confuse and confound the reader into thinking that the subject is important because they don't understand it. Escape Velocity presents real people doing wierd things with more esoteric aspects of our accelerted culture. A man who attached his computer to the nerves in his arm to invoke spasms of thrashing and flailing, all the while injuring himself in the process of making performance art is a whole other realm from Bill Gates' pedestrian spreadsheet programs. Don't read this book expecting "Pirates of Silicon Valley" or "the Road Ahead" or whatever drivel Bill wrote. But DO read this book.
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By JFE on December 14, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is like some postmodern Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test about the birth of internet culture and posthumanism and all that stuff, still relevant over ten years after publication and now providing a sort of gonzo history of the period too. Ballard, William Gibson, Virtual Reality Sex Gloves, Burroughs, and so much more. One of the funnest books I've ever read, honestly. And one of the most intellectually exciting.
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