May 25 2006

Synners

Published by at 6:45 am under Books

by Pat Cadigan

A chance stop at the local library branch led me to this book. I dropped off Snow Crash and decided to take a quick look at what SciFi books they had. While looking for that section of the library, I decided to see what they had by David Brin. Nothing by Brin, but Synners was showing in a nearby gap on the shelf. I read the cover and decided to give it a try since it was in the same cyberpunk vein as Snow Crash.

Synners is quite different from Snow Crash. Both had the same sort of post apocalyptic cyberpunk trappings filled with computers, young hackers and networks, but the story lines and styles were very different. Snow Crash is a broad, almost comic book like adventure of good versus evil written on a grand scale with a lot of ‘action’. Synners is more of a personal story of a few not always coordinated group of people who are faced with a man made but technology driven disaster. (Of course, the disaster is also facilitated by overly ambitious people in an evil corporation.) Synners moves on into some far out human/machine interfaces (i.e. direct connections from brain to network!) and ends up with an almost psychedelic battle between human and non-human intelligences ‘inside’ a network.

In Snow Crash, the humans remain clearly in control of the exotic technologies. In Synners, they don’t. Snow Crash involves a widely accessed virtual reality that provides an alternative social environment in which people can interact, exchange information, do business, even fight a bit (no pun there). In Synners, virtual reality is a mostly personal environment in which people can immerse themselves to have adventures, create movies or video for fun or profit. The Virtual realities are like super realistic video games where body suits and special rooms create realistic sensory experiences. But these are always isolated rather than a social environments.

Both books were interesting and, incidentally, provide upbeat endings. Synners is farther out on the credibility/imagination scale and is more difficult to read due to more confusion on location of action and participants. More ambiguous.

PS. Synners refers to ‘synthesizers’ who create rather than to moral sinners.

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