For those of us who thought cyberpunk was dead, here’s proof to the contrary: a brand new cyberfest by John Shirley, who’s widely credited as the genre’s “father.” It’s based on a concept cooked up by Shirley and NEUROMANCER’S William Gibson back in the early days of cyberpunk. Why Shirley thought it a good idea (which Gibson evidently didn’t) to revisit the cyber milieu now I’m not sure--but then if John Shirley did things the cut-and-dried way he wouldn’t be John Shirley.
The novel is a strong one, in any event. In keeping with my tastes, it forsakes the high tech romanticism of NEUROMANCER in favor of a dark and scary evocation of a future world threatened by a renegade “Multisemblant”--a virtual being comprised of the darkest impulses of five powerful individuals. Shirley dedicates the book to Gibson, Bruce Sterling and several other genre luminaries, but it reminded me more of the bleak cyber-nightmares of Jack Womack, of AMBIENT and RANDOM ACTS OF SENSELESS VIOLENCE infamy (Gibson: “If you dropped the characters from NEUROMANCER into Jack Womack’s Manhattan, they’d fall down screaming and have nervous breakdowns”).
Ultimately, though, BLACK GLASS is very much a product of Mr. John Shirley. In many ways it picks up where his early science fiction effort CITY COME A’ WALKIN left off, with that 1980 novel's all-powerful human cityscape replaced with the equally formidable multisemblant, who’s very much a 21st Century creation.
It’s the brainchild of
Grist, the scumbag head of a multinational corporation called Slakon. Located
in L.A. of 2033 AD, this outfit specializes in creating virtual copies of people
called semblants (the multisemblant is the natural outgrowth of this trend, with
several personalities packed into one being). Grist’s immediate concern,
however, is the novel’s hero Candle, who’s just been released from prison,
having taken the fall for his loser brother Danny. Candle has incriminating
information about Grist, who pursues Candle as he searches the L.A. underworld