Monday, February 23, 2009

Book Review: Black Glass new Cyberpunk by John Shirley!

Black Glass by John Shirley

Anyone of who actually reads my blog regularly already knows that John Shirley is one of my favorite authors. So the fact that I am loving and reviewing his new book is not exactly a shocker. If you don’t know who John is he was vocalist for Portland first really great punk band Sado-nation and has since then been writing amazing novels like Wetbones, Crawlers and Demons to name a few. He also wrote lyrics for Blue Oyster Cult and the screenplay for “The Crow.”

In the late 70’s through the early 90’s John was one of the leading authors in a science fiction sub-genre called cyberpunk. The most famous of cyberpunk books was by William Gibson most well known for his novel Neuromancer.

There are other great cyberpunk authors my favorites being John, Rudy Rucker, and Bruce Sterling. All of which were influences on my cyberpunk novel I finished in January called “The Very Last Drop.” All these guys traded letters back in the day and most of them had worked together on short stories. John’s cyberpunk novels were some of the first. Transmanicon, City come a Walking and The eclipse trilogy were ground breaking. City come a walking is like a punk rock Dark City(15 or so years before John’s Crow director made that movie). City is must read of mind bending science fiction and it’s hard to believe it was released in 1980. Ahead of it’s time is an understatement.

So this brings us to Black Glass. Last year Shirley stunned his fans saying he was returning to cyberpunk, writing a new novel based on an old idea. Sometime back in the day he and William Gibson had developed a screenplay together. Nothing came of it but the idea stayed with John so recently he asked Gibson if he could have a go at it.

The result is the best modern crack at cyberpunk since Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon. That book won the Phil K. dick award on it’s release and it would a crime if Shirley didn’t get one here.

Sure the technology and the setting is modern but this novel feels like 60’s sci-fi pulp novel in tone, probably more so than Shirley’s earlier Cyberpunk novels. That is far from an insult coming from me I love retro sci-fi. Of course the only thing retro here is the noir tone.

This future detective novel is wonderful mystery that doesn’t unfold as easily as some novels do. When it’s over this is a rare case of shit “I could totally read another 100 or so pages of that.”

The story is of a hard-boiled ex-cop who goes to prison to protect his brother. In prison they “unmind” him and use him as a slave. After four years he is released and the forces that were after his brother are immedialy on his case. There is murder, intrigue, nasty corporations and great political messages about our upcoming future.

Vintage Shirley, if you a fan you need this. If you like hardcore sci-fi you need this. Get it already!

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