I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Wireheads, addicted to an electric current fed into the pleasure centers of the brain, are the new junkies. Karen, a former wirehead who barely escaped death by pleasure, is determined to bring down those who sell the wireheading equipment, but she and her lover Joe instead turn up evidence of a shadowy global conspiracy-not to control the world, but to keep anyone from realizing that the masters of mind control have been controlling us all for some time now . . . .
It’s very difficult to give this novel a star rating—some of it is very good, some of it is very predictable, some of it is not so good.
First the good: The plot is tight and interesting up until the last couple of chapters, where things get a bit loose and baggy, with a bunch of completely unbelievable coincidences. There are two plot lines that keep the reader’s brain actively trying to figure out how they relate to each other for the majority of the novel. Plus, I appreciated that substantial parts of it were set my home country of Canada.
The predictable: Well, of course there is a conspiracy to run the world.
The not-so-good: The characters are pretty cardboard—Robinson seems to think that giving them sexual partners and having them take various drugs contributes to character development. The women are particularly poorly written, depicted more as pseudo-men than as women. Men and women really do have differences in psychology (vive la difference!) and this book does not really acknowledge this situation.
I understand that this is the first in a trilogy, so the (for me) unsatisfactory ending is obviously not the last word, but I am completely unmotivated to seek out the second book. I just don’t care what happens to these people. The book also suffers from unintended problems of time—it is set in the 1990s, published in the early 1980s, and although Robinson got many things right, there are many details that are jarring to a modern audience. Not his fault, even Arthur C. Clarke’s masterful 2001 suffered from these (after all, we still don’t have a moon base and travel to Jupiter/Saturn is still only a dream in 2015).
Overall, I really wonder how this book was included in the NPR’s list of best science fiction and fantasy. It is very average—I am giving it the absolutely average rating of 2.5 stars. It was good enough to finish but not good enough to continue the series.
This is book 175 in my science fiction & fantasy reading project.