Sunday, December 26, 2010

Radio Freefall

My Christmas read (on paper, not a Kindle, amazingly) was Matthew Jarpe's debut novel Radio Freefall from 2007. It's labelled cyberpunk, but it's really more cyberprogrock. The lead character, after all, is named after a Jethro Tull song, Aqualung, and it's filled with references to all sorts of music.

Locus described it as "rollicking", and that's pretty dead on. It involves everything you want from this kind of novel; rich corporations trying to take over the world, sentient computer viruses, long-dead rock stars, hackers, mobsters and lunar colonies seeking independence. Jarpe also throws in some political comment with remarkable relevance to recent headlines. At one point, a bunch of kids are protesting. Our protagonist grabs a camera and microphone and talks to them, pointing out that "people don't throw bottles of gasoline if you let them speak, but just one person in power telling them that their voices don't matter is enough to turn them ugly."

My favourite ingredient in the mix is what they call The Machine. It's a device designed to manipulate an audience's emotions, and they use it as the best warm-up band ever. Personally, I think of it as "what would have happened if Hawkwind had been able to get their hands on alpha wave generators and the Internet". A truly scary, but entertaining prospect. Lemmy and Dave Brock with that kind of technology?

I ripped through it in two sittings, and only put it down because it was Christmas Day and the family demanded my presence. Well worth reading. Here's the first chapter for you, free.

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