- Mass Market Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Ace (March 1, 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0441374239
- ISBN-13: 978-0441374236
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,067,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Islands in the Net Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 1989
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Slightly dated science fiction about the near future can be fun, especially when it evokes a strange, chaotic, and dangerous world that's uncomfortably close to our present one. Bruce Sterling's 1988 book, Islands in the Net, is a thrilling blend of high tech and low humanity. The glue that binds together this world of data pirates, mercenaries, nanotechnology, weaponry, and post-millennial voodoo is the global electronic net. You'll find jarring references to pre-Microsoft Windows computer technology, the Soviet Union, and that fancy new wonder machine--the fax. But this book has enough cool stuff to keep even a jaded cyberpunk interested. The characters are far more than mere constructs used to show off the technology, and the plot is fast, complicated, and mysterious. Veteran Sterling fans will enjoy this taste of his pre-fame style.
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Scop. Self-driving vehicles. Data piracy. Watchphones. Live-streaming being the norm. How the ascendancy of multinational corporations impacts citizenship. The global decline of the sovereign state. These are some things Sterling depicts in his version of 2023. Several items on that list have already come to pass and others are tracking to be in place by the end of the decade. Remarkable. Sobering. A bit frightening, as well.
Some quotes for context:
"They made a business of abstracting, condensing, indexing, and verifying-like any other modern commercial database. Except, of course, that the pirates were carnivorous. They ate other databases when they could, blithely ignoring copyrights and simply storing everything they could filch. This didn't require state-of-the-art computer expertise. Just memory by the tone and plenty of cast-iron gall."
"Also less chance that the fascist Army might accidentally shoot us on purpose, la."
"The Man, the Combine, the Conspiracy. You know. The Patriarchy. The Law, the Heat, the Straights. The Net. Them."
"Oh," Laura said. "You mean 'us'."
"Your doctor friend may have a carrot instead of a stick, but the carrot's just the stick by other means."
TLDR: a good read, especially if you're looking for perspective on modern development. It certainly helps clarify where we might be going. It also serves as a powerful reminder of how long these advances have been in the works. Many of the issues discussed in the book have been on the table for more than thirty years, yet we still seem unready to address them. Let's keep our fingers crossed that there's not an errant submarine prowling the oceans of the world, working for a militaristic state that may be a rogue nuclear power.
Applying filters in my mind to shift the book's events further ahead in time and ignore the other historically dissonant factors, this is still a helluva read and a helluva ride. And the amount of stuff Sterling nailed about the reach and impact of the Web is astonishing.
I choose this book for the birthday of my grownup son who likes this kind of literature and gave me a list earlier of the books he would like to read. The condition of the book was described as used but very good and though more expensive I choose a hardback edition
The condition is not up to "very good". The binding is a bit loose and the dust cover has already been repaired by scotch tape on the inside. That is why I rate it four stars.
As to the book itself, I am not reading it myself but my son enjoys the story and the style it is written in. He was happy to receive this book for his birthday.