I’d heard nothing about this book until it suddenly cropped up in lots of different places, all within a few weeks. I found a copy and read, having no idea really of what I was stepping into.
The story follows the adventures of a hacker, for want of a better word, one of the new tech kids, capable of interacting with computers on another level from the rest of the world. The downside for him is that he’s crashing, bad, out of hope and bored. Until someone decides to implant him with something very unpleasant in order to get him to carry out a task.
The set-up is simple, and the plot not particularly deep, but the writing is glorious and the concepts fantastic. I had to check a number of times when the book was published, just to make sure. Anyone who thought the Matrix was original, think again. In fact, anyone who thought pretty much any sci-fi based around the internet was original needs to read this.
Having said that, you can have the greatest idea in the world, and if the characters and writing aren’t up to it, it doesn’t matter in the least. I’m happy to say that both stand up to the test. The characterisation is brief, and a little stereotyped, but works within the context of the novel, and I cared enough about both the main character and his girlfriend to need to know the ending.
The writing style I enjoyed very much; colloquial, fast-paced, rule-bending, and perfect for the book. It jumps around, and never lets you settle and creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and dis-ease that, again, suits the novel down to the ground.
Were I to level a criticism at it, I would suggest that the final third of the book, the Straylight run, is perhaps a little overlong, and the final payoff a touch simplistic, but then the ending is always the hardest part.
If you enjoyed Snow Crash (a book I loved) then this is the natural precursor to it, and well worth a read.