Monday, December 15, 2008

Infowhore's Library - Intro and Trouble and Her Friends

So here I am and this is Infowhore's Library(cue fanfare).

In this weekly column I'll be taking a look at books, comics, dvds, movies, tv shows and video games and bring my on take on the ones I like.

Today I want to talk a little about Trouble and Her Friends a cyberpunk novel written by Melisa Scott. The story revolves around Trouble a retired cracker* and her ex-partner and ex-lover Cerise who is a syscop for a multinational company. After a new cracker begins using her old name, Trouble returns to the nets to find and shut down the new Trouble. Cerise is also looking for the new Trouble after he/she/it breaches the secuity of the company she works for.

I have a little bit of a history with this book. Currently I am about half way through the book for the fourth time. Three times I have started reading this book, read about half of it and then stopped. I'm not sure why I haven't been able to finish Trouble and her Friends in the past. The story is good, the characters live and breathe and the mystery of who the new Trouble has been gnawing on my brain for years now. I have high hopes that this time I will be able to finish it since I've been carrying it with me to read while waiting for the bus or on break at work.

With the story set in the 2080's the technology shown in the book is advanced beyond what we have even now twelve years after it was published. The bit of tech that gets the most screen time is the brainworm. The brainworm is a direct brain to computer interface considered dangerous and actually illegal in the US. The predecessor to the brainworms are dollie slots. A dollie slot is an implanted audio/visual interface that provides an immersive experience but doesn't touch the brain. Due to the brainworm's direct connection to the user's brain it is able to render the virtual world not only in sight and sounds but also in feelings, smells and tactile sensations.

As dazzled as I was by these advancements, I felt something was missing. Cellphones. As near as I can tell they don't exist in this book. At one point Trouble goes into a bar and asks the bartender to use the phone. Cerise receives a few messages from sectaries or security guards. For someone who is very important in mantaining the security of a company's data she seems to be unreachable any time she isn't at the office. As this book was published in 1994 and therefore written in the eary 90's its possible Melisa Scott simply failed to predict how the cell phone would become so integrated into everyday life. She wouldn't be the first. William Gibsion in his novel Necromancer had a scene where the main character walks by a row of payphones which begin ringing as he passes them. A scene which was replicated in the movie Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

Also of note is the large number of gay or lesbian characters. Besides the two main characters, many of the netwalkers they interact with are also gay. The large number is accounted for by the fact that before they all went their separate ways they were all crackers who because of their sexual orientation gravitated to each other and formed a kind of family. Given that they were written by a great writer who also happens to be a lesbian, it should come at no great surprise that they are well rounded characters, that are not stereotyped in anyway.

All in all I've been enjoying Trouble and Her Friends by Melisa Scott. She has crafted a nice cyberpunk novel. Characters are believable and behave like real people.

*I am using the term cracker (and not hacker) here and elsewhere because one it's the term the character's use to describe themselves and two they are crackers. They break into secure spaces on the nets to steal data and sell it on the gray markets. There's no wiggle room here. They are criminals.

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