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THE SHOCKWAVE RIDER. Unknown Binding – 1975
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The Shockwave Rider tells a story of a dystopian future, where every aspect of daily life is controlled by corporations, humans are slaves to their station in life, and there's no hope or escape. One man has found a way to fight the system, to hide who he is by altering his identity, and makes multiple attempts to change the system for the better. His backstory is filled in as the book progresses, how he came to be who he is and why he is able to do the things he is able to do.
Some of the writing is a bit ham-handed (I don't think Brunner displays a deft hand when it comes to interpersonal relationships), but the more general over-arching themes of government-corporate partnership, social stratification, global surveillance, and cultural oppressiveness are well fleshed out carry the story. If you enjoy cyberpunk or dystopian future stories, it's worth a read.
I recommend them as well, "The Sheep Look Up", and "Stand on Zanzibar". Bleak? You betcha! Dismally, some things Brunner 'imagined' are taking place in today's news. Bladerunner/"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" seem like a Disney romp by comparison.
This book is better.
It makes up for its lack of "retro flair" by not having many seriously retro elements; for example, the women in it as as fully-formed characters as the men, and there are more in positions of authority/responsibility than there are proportionately in many modern books.
The aspects of modern life depicted here range from the profound: the Internet (though it's not called that); the "disposable" lifestyle where everyone is seen more as a replaceable cog in a machine than as an individual, and neither employees nor employers have any loyalty to each other; and the break-down in mental health and relationships that these ever-increasing pressures cause; political corruption because the Powers That Be are bought off by corporations; also bioengineering in a smaller way than is true for us. Others are more minor: the "circuses" seem to have strong similarities to reality TV; the Wii is referenced, as is by implication the Tivo etc.; and the increasing pointlessness of advertising. Even vulture capitalists are implied.
This book is heading toward 40 years old. It is still very fresh. I'm glad I re-read it once again- it had been maybe 20 years for me, and it's even more appropriate now than I recall it being then!
I would call Precipice CA utopian. If you hate utopias, that might be a problem. However, the rest of the world just seems too close to NOW to be considered dystopian... though that's a really interesting question: are we living in a dystopia?
Highly recommended. (Not as funny as "Space Merchants"... but much more recommended.)
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