on 10 September 1997
Ian Davis's Review of:
Storming the reality studio
How to explain this book...
The young persons guide to modern Sf,
Cyberpunk sampler....no that's not it...
Ah ha! Got it!!!
The cyberpunk catalouge! That's good...
This book is, and i'm quoting from the cover, "A casebook of post-modern and cyberpunk fiction"...
Whenever I hear the words "post modern" and "fiction", in the same sentence it makes my ears sweat. I don't like the term..not one bit...
But this book over came part of that fear...and take note when I say part..because it still needs something...like better content.
Don't get me wrong..I liked the book. It has some very good art and stories..including some rare art from J. O'Barr.
But a high proportion is shit, pure pseudo SF shit at it's most dismal.
It has excerpts from many a book...that's why it's like a catalouge.On how the editor Larry McCaffrey, has compiled this tome I have a theory.
McCaffery sits in his office. One man, a well dressed excec from a large publisher sits across from him in one chair, and a semi-serious Sf reader in another. They take turns choosing stories. the reader picks stories that best represent authors with a grasp of the field, and the exec looks at a list of books that sit unsold in one of his wharehouses.
I say this because that is how the book feels. some excerpts from novels have all the right in the world to be there. A "cyberpunk" book WITHOUT Neuromancer would be ludicrous. But to include bizzre poems and little picture assembled by a first year art student, is not at all good, espescially when you include books like "Empire of the senseless".
The book lacks any coherent structure, except for the flimsy Fiction, non Fiction division.
The last thing that makes me cringe is whenever McCaffery writes. He seems to think Cyberpunk is this incredible Post-MTV and MuchMusic art form, but in reality it's still Sf, just with better stories, and no talking fur covered aliens.
But you might think a hate it. Nay! I liked about 65% of it very much and another 10% quite a bit, but that last %25 wretch! Lets say what's good...
Some of the stories are quite good, printing exerpts from hard to find and little known books, like IMP plus and MetroPhage. these are really good examples of the "cyberpunk" genre. And the short stories are pretty well done.
The best parts however lie in the rarest.
J. O'barrs graphics short storie is easily one of the best examples of the comic as fiction I have ever seen.
The inteview with Cyberpunk-papa William Gibson is quite interesting, and available here and here alone, as far as I've looked. Some of the essays are very nice, if you have read the books they refer to. The non-fiction peice on Japan's love of Cyberpunk is impressive, especially about the earliest stories from that country in the vein of "cyberpunk".
Two last good notes.
One part, the comaparison between the text in Kathy Ackers "Empire of the sensless" and Gibsons "Neuromancer", is quite effective in showing Acker as the low grade writer she is, demonstrating how she lifts whole sections right out of Gibsons book, only changing the name of the characters.
And finally the explanations of what several authors think is "Cyber", are interesting in their different viewpoints.
So should you get it?
If you are a purist for everything Cyber, Yes
If you want rare fiction, also yes
If you jack-all about Cyberpunk Sf, maybe
If you hate bad poetry, No!
If you want to read 5 page snippets from books, Yes
All in all, a new revised edition removing crap like Acker and the poety would be very good, and instead of cramming it with commercials for other books, more whole short fiction would be great.
All in all, an average book, you might like it, you might hate it. I, on a whole, semmed to like it, despite it's many problems.
Try it for a taste of the best (and very worst) of "Cyberpunk" Sf