Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Review: "Virtually True" by Adam Penenberg

Adam Penenberg was a tech writer for Forbes during the dot-com craze, famous for the Stephen Glass affair, and is now a journalism professor. He recently published a "cyberpunk" novel called "Virtually True", so I thought I'd write a review of it.
This book is very Gibson-esque (written in the style of William Gibson's Neuromancer). This is both a compliment and a criticism. On one hand, if you like cyberpunk, then this is very much the sort of cyberpunk book you are looking for. On the other hand, it sometimes feels too much like a copy of Gibson's work. 
The beginning is a bit more confusing than the average cyberpunk (a genre known for being confusing). The middle bogs down, and much of it can safely be skipped. But the end is satisfying. It's "pulp cyberpunk" -- not the best example of the art, but still interesting because there are so few works in the genre, most of which are out of date (Penenberg's characters communicate via cell phone technology and look things up on the web, things missing from older cyberpunk). 
An interesting thing about the book is that the main character is a journalist, with the author being a journalist. Thus, it's a bit autobiographical, showing you how journalists see the world. The Internet is remaking journalism by driving down the cost of content (and hence, throwing journalists out of work), and this book reflects how journalists feel a bit downtrodden at the moment.
I wasn't particularly thrilled with the book, but people who read cyberpunk are an odd lot, so there's a good chance many will thoroughly enjoy it.

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