…It’s 2033: Climate change has left half of the world’s cities underwater. Every so often a Black Wind blows in, suffocating anyone who crosses its path in a dense cloud of killer toxins. Our cellphones are no longer separate from our bodies; they have been implanted in our heads. Cars, buses, trains and planes can steer themselves. We have semblants (computer generated versions of ourselves) we can send to the office in our place if we don’t feel like working. Criminals are sent to the UnMinded Cellblock, where their brains are switched off and they serve their time as obedient zombies, ignorant to the passing years.
Or at least this is the future John Shirley has envisaged for us, in his novel Black Glass: The Lost Cyberpunk Novel. John Shirley is pals with William Gibson, the godfather of cyberpunk . You may remember me mentioning Mr Gibson a while ago, when I first embarked on my Five Book Challenge. I have to say though (please don’t sneer at me) I think I like John Shirley better. He reminds me of American crime writer Don Winslow. His writing style may not be quite as creative and literary as his fellow cyberpunker, but it is much easier to read, get absorbed in and be entertained by.
Black Glass captures what I am beginning to learn is the essence of good cyberpunk: a hero who is a bit rough around the edges but charming nonetheless; femme fatales who are not afraid to use their sex appeal and cunning to their advantage; narcissistic villains who you love to despise; and a bleak and dangerous environment where the reader gets swept up in the thrill of the chase . Basically it’s crime noir with a technological, futuristic twist.
So if the future John Shirley has predicted includes robots, illegal and addictive virtual reality games, and spy cameras that hover in the air like flies, what kind of future do you predict? In the year 2033, what will the world look like?