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The Ware Tetralogy Paperback – July 6, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Rucker's four Ware novels--Software (1982), Wetware (1988), Freeware (1997), and Realware (2000)--form an extraordinary cyberweird future history with the heft of an epic fantasy novel and the speed of a quantum processor. Still exuberantly fresh despite their age, they primarily follow two characters (and their descendants): Cobb Anderson, who instigated the first robot revolution and is offered immortality by his grateful "children," and stoner Sta-Hi Mooney, who (against his impaired better judgment) becomes an important figure in robot-human relations. Over several generations, humans, robots, and society evolve, but even weird drugs and the wisdom gathered from interstellar signals won't stop them from making the same old mistakes in new ways. Rucker is both witty and serious as he combines hard science and sociology with unrelentingly sharp observations of all self-replicating beings. This classic series well deserves its omnibus repackaging, particularly suitable for libraries.
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Top Customer Reviews
The books in this series were written in 1982, 1988, 1997 and 2000 and the earlier ones still hold up quite well. Rucker's style is humorous (sometimes darkly so), fun and generally fast-paced. If there's a downside, it's an over-use of future slang that occasionally interrupts the flow of the story as you try to figure out what a new word means (or how a normal word is being used). This is only a minor quibble, however, and overall the quality is excellent. The characters are varied, unusual and have depth that's often lacking. Even characters that only have minor roles are very different and well-drawn.
Finally, this collection is a great value - the print length is 700+ pages, so unlike all too many Kindle "novels" of roughly 100-200 pages that they try to sell for $6, you're getting a ton of great reading for your money.
The most annoying part for me is the badly mangled English and the weird invented words. At times it seemed to me that the author wanted to make his book as unreadable as possible. Mikespike? Xoxxox? AN uvvy? flickercladding ? imipolex?
I won't even mention the names of the many diverse and manifold, while ultimately extraneous characters.
I'll give Rudy Rucker a chance by reading another one of his books, but this one I surely won't read again.
That being said, I'd give the first two books of the series 4 stars, 3 stars for the third book and two for the last one. I probably should have stopped after the second book.
The books are full of ideas which are logically derived from their starting premise (e.g. Artificial intelligence, the fact that human identity is just information, the future of narcotics and the thin line between them and other entertainment, etc.) - the arguments are reasonable and interesting to consider. As Rucker acknowledges, some of these ideas are quite common in sci-if now (that makes them less impactful for a reader today) but they weren't when he wrote them. The most fun you get out of these books is from the quirky speculations Rucker makes on the impact of certain technologies...it is also refreshing that the books are neither dystopian nor utopian.
The plot lines are well constructed and compelling, for the most part. They do tend to have that "just so" element where all loose ends are neatly tied up at the end of each novel; you can almost feel when Rucker realizes he's running out of time in the book and begins resolving subplots by the dozen in a single chapter.
The characters have a similar problem: most of them are interesting and quirky, but most of them can be summarized in a few sentences with little loss of information. Characters are driven by the plot, not the other way around. Similarly, the prose is functional with relatively little beauty. The dialogues are pretty cartoonish, and I am not referring to the futuristic slang (actually very cool) but to the underlying thoughts being conveyed.
All these issues make these books something less than a classic for me. However, they were a heck of a lot of fun to read (except at the end) so no regrets.
There are caveats; the first two books are amazing, the third lots of fun, but the fourth is a real drag, sadly. Realware is a totally unnecessary addition that meanders and dawdles along without the frenetic pace or abstract sense of purpose of the first three books. On top of that, Rucker's writing style isn't that developed - and while the beat-style babble rides well alongside his earlier plots and themes, without anything to anchor it in Realware, the final instalment feels like it's written for a high school creative writing assignment.
My advice: read the first three, enjoy the hell out of them, and stop at the end of Freeware.