6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I thought about titling this review "Nothing New Here," but soon realized that I'd spend too much time defending the word choice. Of course there's nothing new in the book, it's an anthology. What I mean is that there is nothing to be gained from this book that cannot be gained from mirrorshades or any other Cyberpunk fiction collections that were released during the height of the movement in the mid to late 1980s.
My original review of the book mysteriously vanished. Here it is, resubmitted in hopes that it will remain this time.
Pat Cadigan has developed a respectably lengthy body of work in the science fiction genre. She gained fame through her association with the Cyberpunk literary Movement of the 1980s and early 1990s. Despite her obvious involvement, she writes in her introduction to The Ultimate Cyberpunk that she is simply an "end-user" of the genre. This statement does little other than to nullify her authoritative claim in regard to selecting pieces for the anthology. Another curious observation she makes is that she feels that those who were in the "tribe" of the Cyberpunk Movement (hereafter CM) were of the same generation. Alfred Bester and Cordwainer Smith, whose stories Cadigan selected to appear at the front of the anthology, wrote the vast majority of their work years before the CM was even a vision. In fact, Smith died in 1966, during the height of the "hard SF" era of Heinlein, Asimov and Niven. Cadigan even explains that Bester was a source of inspiration for the 1960s Science Fiction New Wave, which explicitly disables him from being a part of the CM, especially when he, like James Tiptree, Jr. (also included in the anthology) died in 1987, when the CM was at its zenith. I suppose it isn't so far fetched to include Philip K. Dick who was arguably the most important and best known science fiction author, outside of Frank Herbert and Arthur C. Clarke. He was responsible for Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982), after all. But Dick died in 1982, never knowing what was to come in his wake. Furthermore, if Rudy Rucker was truly a member of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and John Shirley's generation, why, then has he been referred to as a Grandfather of Cyberpunk, not unlike Dick?
Cadigan perhaps anticipates remarks such as mine, creating an artificial group of defendants, who claim that "Cyberpunk itself is hardly anything new (Cadigan x)." It is here that she justifies her inclusion of Bester and Smith and the other previous era's authors. While this might satisfy some critics, it does not provide a strong enough reason for me. If she wanted to create an anthology of the stories leading up to and directly or indirectly causing the CM, then she should have done that. If she wanted to create a history of the CM, something which, 10 years removed from the end of the literary aspect, she could have done quite easily, she should have done so. She ought not to have tried to do both. She even makes mention of the fact that "there is no point in reprinting most of Mirrorshades," though she reprints both of John Shirley's and Lewis Shiner's pieces.
One selection she makes that I do agree with is Greg Bear's "Blood Music". I felt that the story showcased Bear's Cyberpunk leanings much better than "Petra" did, which was included in Mirrorshades. Sadly, none of the late George Alec Effinger's work makes it into the anthology. Of all the Cyberpunk and Cyberpunk era science fiction I have read, nothing speaks clearer to the aims of the movement as clearly and loudly as Effinger's Marid Audran trilogy. Sadly, Effinger never gained critical or peer acclaim, and some of the most well read science fiction fans wear a puzzled face at the mention of his name.
As with every CM anthology published to date, this book expectantly falls in line with the blatant fanaticism over the work of William Gibson. While Burning Chrome is a decent story, and one of the few actual pieces of Cyberpunk stuff in the collection, I was confused as to why only the second part of the Neuromancer graphic novel was published. The publisher, ibooks, could have probably secured the rights to publishing the other pieces. Instead, they leave those unfamiliar with Gibson's lackluster flagship title scratching their temples, and irritate the veteran fans of the genre by splintering the story.
The ibooks publishing house has made a living out of playing upon the nostalgia-storing areas of the brain, hiring second string authors to finish up manuscripts written by the masters, or to create stories based upon the universes of the science fiction grandmasters. The Ultimate Cyberpunk is no exception. It fails as both a documentation of a literary movement, and as a standard anthology, as the stories are too far apart in their publication dates to have any sense of unification.
There isn't any point in repackaging Mirrorshades, That's undeniably true. Unfortunately, that's exactly what Cadigan tried to do here tried to do, riding the coattails of the Internet and technology boom, while simultaneously creating one more outlet for her own stories and those of her pals, Sterling and Gibson.