When Sci-Fi Meets Cyberpunk

TheSkySoBigAndBlack

I went on a little sci-fi bender over the last month since there are few good game of note put out at the end of last year.  I started with Childhood’s End (weird,) then Rendezvous with Rama (good adventure story,) reread Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead (still awesome on repeat readings,) and slogged through Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand.   Oddly enough, the one that stuck out in my mind ended up being The Sky So Big and Black by John Barnes.  It is a great blend of sci-fi cyberpunk.

The book is the last in the Century Next Door series.  It focuses a teenaged prospector Teri and shrink/friend during the colonization of Mars.  The story begins not long after an idea (meme) war breaks out on Earth.  This leads to the assimilation of everyone by the True One, a viral program that runs inside people heads that controls their action.

In the beginning, Teri works with her dad as a prospector hunting trapped water and gases on the surface of Mars.   They are one of thousands that are terraforming Mars.  Her life, outside making a big gas score, is rather mundane for a teen.  She graduates school, gets dumped by her boyfriend, and ponders the future.  During the first two-thirds of the book, I wondered this narrative was leading but soon all hell breaks loose.  The ending left me conflicted.  On the one hand, it is depressing to see what she went through and on the other the story end with her mostly happy.  It is weird to read about something were protagonist couldn’t tell you if any of the preceding narritives are real or made up by some computer program.

ghostintheshellWhile not be best best book I’ve read in the last month, the concept of a program running inside someone brain makes for fascinating reading.  Throughout the book, I wondered if what the main character is remembering is real or something concocted by the virus.  It reminds me of the excellent anime movie, Ghost in the Shell, where people’s brains get hacked and controlled. 

It is worth checking out if you are into sci-fi or a cyberpunk fan.  Though those not familiar with the series might want to start with the first book Orbital Resonance.