fter my first not-so-good 80s novel (Venus of Dreams), I started this one, The Glass Hammer with a little trepidation. After all, I remember (echoing so faintly) that I’d not really cared for this the first time around. But evidently the experiences and growth of thirty years can make a difference. Really enjoyed this one.
So it’s Cyberpunk from that heyday (dystopian worlds with running-on-the-edge punks manipulating a world equal parts real and meta), a tale about a guy who is really good at the nightly game of running computer chips across the great desert from Phoenix to L.A. while killer satellites pot away at him. And all his dangers are filmed by Speed Death, a program that beams his high-speed exploits down to the South American factory dorms. But Speed Death wants more of a human interest story behind their star so they put together a documentary of Ross Schuyler’s journey from the frozen north to bleak L.A., a tale that interweaves with the current action. He’s even got a “shadow”, an automatic mobile camera, following him around filming his every move. So much of the story comes at us as camera directions, audio descriptions, essentially a living screenplay. And it’s confusion and dizzying and wonderful.
I really like this book – it captured the new media (as understood in the time before MTV), the blend of reality and video editing, where anything could end up on the cutting room floor. I couple of times I actually got confused – past or present – a nice effect that keeps the reader off balance. This is what writing can be, a high-energy effort that proves its point in its storytelling.
One thing I found humorous – Jeter covered so much of the videoworld yet never quite caught the idea of where the technology was going. Characters still look at “tapes” of the action – nothing is stored in memory (nobody back then had even anticipated that). Yes, the future is all jetpacks and flying cars, right? Still, he gave his world enough spin that I didn’t care – I really enjoyed this.
So have a look for this one in the library stacks or even online (yes, in the metaworld of our time). You might find yourself riding the video whirlwind!
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