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Radio Freefall Hardcover – August 7, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Rock and roll and old-school hard SF go together like peanut butter and jelly in Jarpe's debut novel. At 53, Aqualung is an old man on the rock scene, but his voice and the Machine, a device that uses low energy sound waves to tweak the emotions of the audience, have made the Snake Vendors an overnight sensation. Brilliant Web guru and computer architect Quin Taber is determined to discover the origins of the Digital Carnivore, an AI virus Taber calls the Robin Hood of file-sharing daemons; the Sheriff of Nottingham part is played by megalomaniacal Walter Cheeseman, head of the all-powerful information purveyor WebCense. When Quin learns that Aqualung is one of the Digital Carnivore's original designers, the rock star becomes a target. Running for his life, Aqualung finds sanctuary on the orbital space station Freefall, which becomes the front line in the battle between Cheeseman's forces and the independent-minded folks of Freefall and the moon colony Luna. Fans of Nirvana, Buddy Holly and Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress will gladly soak up the Spandex and Doc Martens atmosphere. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In 2032 the governments of Earth are on the verge of global unification. An omnipresent, artificially intelligent virus called the Digital Carnivore watches over the Internet. And the reins of ultimate world domination are about to be seized by billionaire computer geek Walter Cheeseman. Standing in his way, however, are Quin Taber, an ex-employee of Cheeseman's corporation who is investigating the Digital Carnivore's origins, and Aqualung, an aging, eccentric rock star whose rising success in the music world owes much to a mysterious outlaw past. When Taber discovers that Aqualung played a founding role in the Digital Carnivore's genesis, the rocker flees to Earth's orbital space station, Freefall. Along with the independence-spirited moon colony Luna, Aqualung and Freefall quickly constitute the rebel army battling Cheeseman's drive to unification. Jarpe's masterfully crafted debut fires on all cylinders, offering a winning combination of Heinleinesque wit and mind-bending technological speculation that should garner major attention during the next awards season. Hays, Carl
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And there you have the gist and non-spoilerage of Matthew Jarpe's debut novel, Radio Freefall, providing readers a well-paced, witty, and quirky look into a near future filled with well-rounded AI characters, a megalomaniac, computer geeks, hard-partying rock-and-rollers, one-worlders (see aforementioned megalomaniac), Nationalists, and . . . one enigmatic protagonist calling himself Aqualung who's hell on a guitar, laid back to beat the band, and an all around slippery dude to catch if you're antagonizing him.
You will know people like Aqualung. The socially awkward (but for GOOD reasons) Quin Taber is a deserving underdog while the evil overlord, Walter Cheeseman, deserves something not far removed from a few swift kicks to the groin.
Revel in the Snake Vendors, an upstart band of kids who find an apt mentor in ol' boy Aqualung. It's here that I'll pause and recommend your tripping over to Mr. Jarpe's site, [...] You might also want to navigate to Meet the Snake Vendors ([...]) and check out "Mojo Motorbike," a fun video and crunchy, catchy song straight from the novel.
And look out for the uber-virus Digital Carnivore because everyone else in the novel is.
Overall, with Matthew Jarpe's firm control of Radio Freefall's plot and keen eye for building memorable characters and a sharper ear for dialogue, it's hard to set this freshman effort aside. It might not keep you up at night, but it will bring you back frequently until you`re done. It would be fun to trip back through the universe Jarpe's created in Radio Freefall, and you can tell he had stellar time writing it because it oozes, simply, FUN READ.
I hope we'll get to see more stories from this promising new writer in the future - he has an ear, and a voice, we can use more of.
While I'm a huge fan of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, I don't really see the resemblance here, except in a very broad sense pertaining to the outlying colonies not wishing to be controlled by Earth. Matt's writing style, while very readable, does not have the same voice as RAH. His characters simply don't take themselves that seriously. It makes the book a bit lighter, and a fun diversion.
I'm looking forward to his next project.
Jarpe has a nice way with character, especially in his dialogue/stream of consciousness riffs; you hear what the character actually says out loud AND what he would say if his internal censor wasn't in control, an interesting technique in a book that is ultimately about trying to keep information -- and people -- free. Ultimately even the censored thoughts get expression -- everybody's censored thoughts, even those of the straw-man villain's, to entertaining and satisfying effect.
A lot of people, and I'm thinking of some dear personal friends here, who have complained that, e.g. _Neuromancer_ was too inaccessible or Neal Stephenson's _Snow Crash_ too complex might find in _Radio Freefall_ a nice primer to cyberpunk, written as it is in more of a man-in-the-street voice. It's not gorgeous prose, but it's readable, and unlike Gibson's smooth, detached glide, his poetry, Jarpe's is truly punk, simple, to-the-point, occasionally ungrammatical but doesn't get in the way of the story. Does he have a 'zine background, maybe?
As I finished the book I immediately wanted to pick up a sequel. Will there be an AquaLuna? Here's one reader who hopes so.
One thing I do find odd is the comparison to William Gibson as I find Gibson's novels darkly pessimistic where as this novel was brilliantly optomistic.
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Following Aqualung (if that's his real name) and his band, Radio Freefall...Read more