Instead of the traditional cyberpunk images of the Net as a separate reality or an overlay, this novel builds on the ubiquity of internet access to posit a world where the Net has all but replaced perception of reality.
Set in a world where everyone is networked via a wireless node connected directly into their brain, the book follows a group of teenagers who have discovered a way to briefly breach the security between the brain and the wireless connection, allowing them to hack people’s perceptions and even some aspects of their nervous system. Their lifestyle of pranks, one-upmanship, and casual theft is brought to an end when they are set up to take the fall in a much more serious crime.
Cantan has describes the world and the new technology with brief strokes, focusing on action not exposition. Although this does sometimes leave the reader momentarily unsure of how things actually work, this enhances the feeling that the protagonists are pushing the technology beyond normal limits.
Conversely, the everyday applications of the wireless connections are described in a very accessible way, lending a feeling of the mundane to immersive video games, self-updating road signs, and data searches without conscious action.
The protagonists and other hackers are portrayed with exactly the combination of fragile arrogance the reader expects of teenage gangs. The shifting pattern of alliances, feuds, and apparent betrayals, both within the group and with other groups of hackers. In contrast the adults are almost always risk-adverse and are almost always described in much less detail, creating an air of self-absorption.
Rather than name the hacks used by the characters, Cantan has embedded a different icon in the text for each effect. As well as adding an additional aesthetic texture to the work, this enhances the reader’s immersion in a very visual world.
These elements combine to build a fast-paced techno-thriller with a strong sense of the paranoia which can accompany future shock.
I enjoyed this novel very much. I would recommend it to both to readers who enjoy plots rooted in cultural flux and those who enjoy sudden reversals combined with solid action.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.