- 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: 25 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,004,105 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.
From Library Journal
A war between data pirates involves a young woman and her husband in a desperate search for a new kind of international terrorist. The author of Schismatrix ( LJ 6/15/85) explores the gulf between the high-tech haves and have-nots in this fast-paced novel of 21st-century techno-intrigue. Recommended for all collections.JC
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.
But read further in and you'll see that it's about the essential cyberpunk issues. Corporations consolidating power and those who don't get any. The impact of instant world-wide communication and what happens to those who aren't included. How technology and society change one another and how the morals of those involved matter. Whether the masses can threaten a global social order. What kind of crimes, if any, can be forgiven for the sake of technical or social genius.
The major action of the book is completely relevant today: global terrorism and the questions of social and economic breakdown in Africa. What is likely, what is preventable, how do they affect the rest of the world, and does anyone have both the power and the will to affect the issues?
The book is written in Stirling's slightly-dry style and the setting changes back and forth in ways that may large sections of the book less interesting to some readers. It's worth it and it's far from a slog, but be aware going in that it's best to either do it in one quick read or spread out over many days.
The story follows Laura Webster. She is a high-flyer rising in Rizome Corporation, a multinational megaconglomerate. (The pun on "rhizome" is no doubt intentional.) At the beginning of the book she's starting up a new subsidiary, a Lodge in Galvaston the company uses as a combination retreat, vacation spot, and meeting place for the most discrete business. Her architect husband designed the place and now spends a lot of his time playing Worldrun, a sim game of modern politics. Like most players he can't master the art of keeping Africa stable.
Laura and David--and their baby--become involved in Rizome business with offshore data pirates, learning the ins and outs of international banking crime. Along the way they meet other people sheltering offshore, criminal scientists and artists. As her involvement deepens she finds herself stuck between Rizome, the newly-recreated Church of Isis, terrorists, rogue states, African nationalists, American nationalists, rival multinationals, and the interests of her own family. Terrorist acts threaten the almost-one-world government, a meltdown of African societies threatens to both her safety and her morals, and the implications of the gulf between Net-haves and Net-have-nots, whether by reason of location, income, or literacy, rises to the world stage.
This is one of the few cyberpunk books written from the suit perspective, and it's a pleasure to see genuine idealism alongside power-plays in the zaibatsu.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Nuff Said: Indiana ED
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.Read more