The world of "Hardwired" is replete with what have come to be standard cyberpunk elements: fast, easy (but still expensive) plastic surgery, designer drugs, machine-flesh interfaces (artificial eyes, direct brain-computer linkups), and an entrenched subculture.
"Hardwired's" action centers on the lives of two people living on the underside of society. Sarah is a "dirtgirl," a former prostitute who, after being forced to kill a john who went crazy, discovered that killing was where her talents really lay. Cowboy is a "panzerboy," who drives an armored ground vehicle via a computer interface. He runs mail, goods, and medicines, through hostile territory from Colorado to Missouri, right under the noses of the Orbitals, a powerful corporate coalition that controls the skies and the economy of the ruined Earth below.
At first glance "Hardwired" is simply a formulaic c-punk novel. But, it delivers enough added intrigue and plot depth to separate it from the rest of the imitators. The interest in the story begins to build as Cowboy and Sarah separately realize that they have the ability to fight the faceless corporations which oppress them, and that they are not merely the insignificant and powerless individuals that the Orbitals see them as. They are more than human pawns trapped in the dirt of the planet on which they were born and on which they will ultimately die.
Williams' crisp and vivid prose plunges the reader into a world filled with cynical streetfighters, struggling underdogs, and irresistibly dangerous corporate plots. Fans of cyberpunk and high-tech thrillers will enjoy this novel's use of human/machine interfacing and the descriptions of the computer net that connects and makes possible the social and economic entanglements of the Orbitals above and the dirtsiders below.
Walter Jon Williams
1986, Tom Doherty Associates
Here is the TEXT POPUP for Hardwired:
Reno's eyes are chill as he raises his prosthetic arm. 'I'm in the middle by my nature, half one thing, half another. I can stand on the node and see the waves rising and collapsing around me. The deltajocks collapsed, Cowboy. You swam off to ride another wave, but it's going to collapse, too.'
"Who is speaking, Cowboy wonders. Reno or that mass of crystal lodged in his skull? Reno is living in the eye-face every moment now, and Cowboy wonders is he's lost himself in there, if too much of his personality has been sucked into the machine part of him, if control has shifted from his brain to the crystal.
"Whiteout, it's called. Rapture of the comp. It's not supposed to happen to people like Cowboy and Reno, not to users who know the score..."