Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hardwired Review

Welcome to Hardwired, Walter Jon Williams' world of super corporations, hard-wired skills, and smugglers. This is an extremely fast-paced, classic cyberpunk novel.

The opening of the book gets your heart racing. We meet Cowboy, our protagonist, as he is driving his car to his mountain hideaway. It does great job of introducing the feel, the hero, and the technology of the story. Cowboy is a panzerboy, THE panzerboy actually. A panzerboy is a smuggler, a bootlegger, and a line-runner. He smuggles to maintain his freedom from the control of the Orbitals, corporations that run the world and maintain their head quarters in orbit around Earth. His approach reminds me very much of what in America was referred to as the "frontier spirit".

Our other main character is Sarah, Sarah is a person for hire. She has a modification called a Weasel, it is very dangerous to those she uses it on and herself. Sarah's goal is to buy tickets for herself and her brother to live in Orbit. She has held some very borderline jobs in order to achieve this. In fact, when we first meet her, she is on a job to assassinate one of the Orbital employees and steal some information from their database. This results in her home being blown up and her brother being seriously injured.

Her fixer, or agent, for the lack of a better word is put in danger as well. Cowboy and Sarah meet on the job related to finding out who is trying to kill her. Both Cowboy and Sarah have strong senses of integrity, despite the fact that they hold what is in our world criminal jobs. They discover that the black market is not all that it seems.

This story contains much complexity in the plot and character development. The details come together wonderfully, though occasionally there is a slight feeling of deus ex machina. I would say that for most people this is an excellent introductory novel to the cyberpunk sub-genre. It is much more accessible than Neuromancer by Gibson for those brand new to the genre. It contains less "techno-babble" at any rate.