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Neon Leviathan Kindle Edition
- ASIN : B082MQ8RSP
- Publisher : Grimdark Magazine (February 15, 2020)
- Publication date : February 15, 2020
- Language : English
- File size : 535 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 266 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #472,970 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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The video games WATCH_DOGS and WATCH_DOGS 2 take place in the present-day of Chicago and San Fransisco while otherwise being classic cyberpunk tales of hackers versus the evil rich. There's still cyberpunk tales in the near and far future, though, like the BBC's BLACK MIRROR and ALTERED CARBON (now on Netflix).
In simple terms, cyberpunk is a dystopian form of science fiction where technology has not made humanity's problems any better, only created new ones. It is not a Luddite or anti-technology genre, quite the opposite as it often fetishizes advancements in tech, but it believes the problems inherent to society are a result of human nature. It is greed, classicism, apathy, and selfishness that make up humanity's problems. So, when you create a device that can cure cancer, a corporation is very likely to make sure only the very rich can use it as we see in the movie ELYSIUM.
NEON LEVIATHAN is a short story collection by T.R. Napper set in Australia during as well as after a brutal three way war between the Land Down Under, Vietnam, and China. In the future, memories can be harvested and sold like commodities. They can also be altered at will. Life has taken on the cheapness of a video game and it is very easy to become confused about the nature of what is real or not given so many things can affect your understanding of what's going on.
Each of the stories deals with a wide variety of antiheroes ranging from criminals to academics to professional soldiers. Almost all of them are fatally flawed to some degree and quite a few of them are clinically insane (or are they?). One of my favorite stories in the book deals with a mathematician who makes all of his money via gambling.
He then thinks an alien debt collector has come to threaten him for lost winnings but can't be certain because he's severely mentally ill and off his meds. Trying to figure out what was real, what was not, and whether any of that had any importance to the central character helped make it one of the best stories within.
The Australia envisioned by T.R. Napper is a place that is on the outside of a global economic boom where people are still as likely to become destitute as they are in our world (if not more so). They make poor decisions in hopes of staying ahead of the expenses of living while often getting themselves even further in debt. The satire is well done as it's clear none of this is our hero's fault (well, maybe for believing they could get ahead of things in the first place). Many of these stories end horribly for the protagonists and have a kind of horror movie twist to them, which I rather liked. Looter capitalism can be like a horror movie if it sinks its fangs into you.
If I had any complaints about the book, it is the fact that this is probably a work that best should be read in chunks instead of one story after another. The neon-filled, rain-soaked streets of Australia is a place that can sometime bleed over into each of the stories. It's a place that should be read in-between other more optimistic fiction because it can get depressing reading one fool after another being destroyed by new technology, like if you read Lovecraft's heroes getting eaten in fifteen stories straight. A few of the stories do have happy endings, though, and are welcome respites from the gloomy grimdark world of the future.
Some of these are hard reads, but they are suffused with beauty and a kind of brutal poetry. Also, for an American reader, it takes us to a place we rarely go in cyberpunk - Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Australia - which gives the book a fresh authenticity, no doubt bolstered by the author's own life.
In short, this is an extremely powerful book. A bleak look at our future, for certain, but one that assures us that no matter how bad it gets, there will be people who put their head down, take the punches, and keep on going. Highly, highly recommended.
All in all, it is a worthwhile read. It also has one of my new favorite closing lines.
Then, the review: Oh now, that was something special that doesn't come along very often. What we have here are 12 stories set along various years of a not-to-far future of our own world, mostly in this futures version of Australia, during and after a huge war with the conflict between China and an alliance including Vietnam and Australia. Of other countries, we are given little, but that there is no more America.
This grim future is scary as it is plausible, as the 12 tales give us insight into the minds, such as they are, of those that survive during these times. There are drugs aplenty and tech that improves not only on ways to kill, but perfects the methods of mind alteration and government controls. The biggest challenge through these stories is telling what is "real" and what isn't.
And it's such fun! Well, fun as only a mind fuq really is amusing, that is. The fun parts are making connections between stories, and trying to piece together a future history that is told in small chunks, with only limited perspectives to give views on the greater scale of things. At least, what their perceptions of these realities are.
I couldn't help but compare these stories to those that I've read by Philip K. Dick, as it's pretty obvious he was a big influence on the author. The author confirms this in his introduction, unsurprisingly. While Napper keeps to a focus of themes centered around the "history" he's created and the people involved in it, we can see how Dick's style helped to shape his narrative.
If you're looking for a space romp with high adventure and Baby Yoda, look elsewhere. But if you want a challenging study in a brutal society coping with advanced technology and its consequences, this is the perfect little dystopia. Just keep in mind that reading it might just affect your political rating.
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And you'll find this collection doesn't hide the dirt, the pain, the curse words, the violence, the suffering, the sadness of people. It is clear Napper is drawing on suffering and corruption he's observed in his work as diplomat and aid worker, and boy does he express this well. Jack's Fine Dining, in which the characters directly refer to the leviathan of the anthology title, contains such a deep well of loss and sadness that it threatened to draw rare tears, but it also provides a sense that the surviving characters struggle on, and their lives are painted so well that it is also a deep joy to see what they hold on to. Much more to say about all the stories within this anthology, but I'll leave the rest to your own reading. Enjoy.
Note this anthology contains two original stories (Jack's Fine Dining and The Weight of the Air, The Weight of the World) and ten reprints from other magazines or contests (such as his Writers of the Future winner, Twelve Minutes to Vinh Quang).