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Shockwave Rider

by John Brunner

Sandy P. Locke and Arthur Edward Lazarus have something in common: they're both Nickie Halflinger.

Nickie is the product of a secret government project to develop children with genius level intelligence into super-weapons for the information age. He manages to escape and uses the information "Net" to create new personalities and opportunities for employment as he tries to outrun the "authorities", who are also not quite what they seem to be.

Written in 1975 "Shockwave Rider" is prescient in both its
style and its content. By using Alvin Toffler's "Future Shock" as a template, Brunner managed to craft a tale of the near future that
incorporates many of the features and textures that are now considered the cliches of cyberpunk.

Besides concepts such as netrunning, there are the post-
quake "paid-avoidance areas" (no net-links allowed) in California, and genetically enhanced dogs, all in a world where the most valuable commodity is information. Even so, the plot is
firmly in the New Wave tradition, avoiding the nihilistic (realistic?) undertones of current speculative fiction.

(A. Mayer)

Shockwave Rider
John Brunner
Harper & Row, 1975

Here is the TEXT POPUP for Shockwave Rider:

At Tarnover, at Crediton Hill, at some hole in the Rockies he had never managed to identify beyond the code name "Electric Skillet," and at other places scattered from Oregon to Louisiana there were secret centers with a special task. They were dedicated to exploiting genius. Their ancestry could be traced back to the primitive "think tanks" of the mid-twentieth century, but only in the sense that a solid-state computer was descended from Hollerith's punched-card analyzer.

Every superpower, and a great many second- and third-rank nations, had similar centers. The brain race had been running for decades, and some countries had entered it with a considerable head start. (The pun was popular, and forgivable.)

Theoretically, for someone trying to mislay a previous identity, no better spot could be found on the continent than this, or some other of the settlements created by the refugees from Northern California after the Great Bay Quake. Literally millions of traumatized fugitives had struggled southward. For years they survived in tents and shanties, dependent on federal handouts because they were too mentally disturbed to work for a living and in most cases afraid to enter a building with a solid roof for fear it would crash down and kill them. They were desperate for a sense of stability, and sought it in a thousand irrational cults. Confidence-tricksters and fake evangelists found them easy prey. Soon it was a tourist lure to visit their settlements on Sunday and watch the running battle between adherents of rival - but equally lunatic - beliefs. Insurance extra.

Also inherent in the concept of the plug-in life-style: no matter where you go, there are people like the ones you left behind, furniture and clothes and food like the ones you left behind, the same drinks available at any bar: "Say, settle a bet for us willya? Is this the Paris Hilton or the Istanbul Hilton?"'

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© 1998 The Computer Lab
Gareth Branwyn -

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