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The Escapist

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the out-the-door dept.

Sci-Fi 197

Stanislav Blingstein writes "Cyberpunk just got a whole lot darker. The Escapist , by James Morris, takes the genre into a gloomy alley and gives it a good kicking. The main character, Bentley Dean, is more than just an anti-hero: he seems to enjoy being bad. His cast of accomplices aren't much better, either, and some are far worse. Most are pretty cartoon-like, too. But you still can't help liking Bentley Dean. He brings a certain charm to being a hacker with a cold-blooded killing streak." Read on for Blingstein's review.

The Escapist is set in an indeterminate future. Space travel seems to exist, but most of the action takes place on Earth. And there's plenty of action, too. From page one, the book races along with scarcely a pause for breath, and by the time you've finished you've been around the world, met numerous bizarre competing factions, and uncovered the plot behind the mysterious Mind Invasions. The storyline takes in locations as far afield as Egypt, Malaysia, Israel, Las Vegas, New York, and London. It almost seems like a travelogue of all the places the author has been in his life, except seen through a warped lens of cyberpunk fiction.

In fact, the story seems almost arbitrary, like it was written as a stream of consciousness. Think Beat Generation, but penned by a Jack Kerouac who's fascinated by computers rather than drugs, jazz and driving. Bentley Dean is carried along by the increasingly frantic stream of events, each one hitting him sideways. All is revealed at the end, but you still get the feeling that many situations occur with no rhyme or reason -- a bit like real life, only with more explosions.

The ideas about future technology in The Escapist can vary from insightful to mundane. The central theme of cryogenic sabbaticals is rather amusing, though. These could be described as "holidays on ice." And though this is clearly a cyberpunk novel, not much of it actually takes place in cyberspace --that's more of a recurring theme in the background. Most of the action occurs in the flesh. This is maybe a good thing, as the novel's description of using virtual reality to explore the human mind is a bit 20th century, perhaps as a deliberate lampoon of how dated films like The Lawnmower Man seem today.

But that doesn't really matter. Most of the time, this is a very funny book. It's full of one-liners which take the present day and twist it to its logical extremes, so you can see just how ridiculous it is. The moon, with its low gravity, becomes a refuge for the overweight. Pandas are saved from extinction by being genetically re-engineered to like eating hamburgers. A strip club is named after Pee-Wee Herman. Bentley buys a fashionable suit made of paper, only to find it too noisy for creeping around at night.

Some of these ideas will have you laughing out loud, although a few of the gags are very much for the geeks in the audience, like the Windows Bar and Grill which takes three attempts to get your order right. There are also plenty of embedded cultural references for film buffs to spot, including HAL, Yoda and even James Bond quotations. You cant help feeling at times that the plot is just there to serve the jokes.

But the book also has a serious side. There's a deeper theme about artificial intelligence, and each chapter is headed by a quasi-philosophical statement. Some of these will really get you thinking, and some are deliberately silly, just to catch you out. If you're interested in the whole question of whether or not computers could ever think like us, and what that would mean, theres food for thought here, hidden among the humour. The Escapist is a book which just doesn't stop hitting you with idea after idea, some of them serious and some intended entirely for darkly comic relief.

The Escapist's main fault is just this -- it tries to do too much in too few pages. It's so fast that at times you have trouble keeping up, and sometimes you wish the characters would just slow down and admire the scenery. And if you need a truly sympathetic character to relate to in your novels, you might find Bentley Dean is just too mean. He's also too much like a cross between James Bond and Kevin Mitnick. But if you have a perverse streak, and a penchant for satire, you'll like The Escapist. You may even wish it was a bit longer.

As well as being available in printed form, The Escapist can also be bought as a PDF direct from the website. And since the novel is published under a Creative Commons license, once you've got hold of one of these PDFs, you can share it around and print it out as much as you like. The cover art is well worth seeing on a real book, though -- it has an evocative mystery all of its own.


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I love you (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015091)

STRETCH MY BUTTHOLE! [goatse.ca]

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What was the recommendation? (3, Funny)

BlogPope (886961) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015112)

This reveiw doesn't make me want to get it, I'm sure of that though.

Cyberspace? (1)

GrassMunk (677765) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015126)

Could someone actually provide some good novels that take place in Cyberspace, or are closely involved?
Books such as SnowCrash and Neuromancer were great but other 'cyberpunk' books i read have very little to do with cyberspace and more to do with the dystopian future. Yes yes i know thats the cyberpunk theme, but really i want books that involve hacking etc that wont cost 80 bucks.

Here you go. (2, Funny)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015149)

Could someone actually provide some good novels that take place in Cyberspace, or are closely involved? Books such as SnowCrash and Neuromancer were great but other 'cyberpunk' books i read have very little to do with cyberspace and more to do with the dystopian future. Yes yes i know thats the cyberpunk theme, but really i want books that involve hacking etc that wont cost 80 bucks.

O'Reilly has a number of good books that satisfy that requirement.

Re:Here you go. (1)

GrassMunk (677765) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015156)

Touche, lemme be a little more specific: I would like books that are fictional and involve a plot more but include cyberspace and hacking.

Re:Here you go. (4, Informative)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015213)

Count Zero by Gibson
Mindplayers by Cadigan (sort of)
Islands in the Net by Sterling
Holy Fire by Sterling
Burning Chrome (short story) by Gibson
Cyberpunk (short story) by Bruce Bethke
City Come A Walkin' by John Shirley (if by "cyberspace" you mean a proto-network comprised of anthropomorphised city-AIs, and if by "hacking" you mean said city-AIs messing around with the real world via this network)
Eclipse trilogy by John Shirley (a lot of dystopian, but a fair amount of "hacking" and man-machine interfaces, which might interest you)

That's all I've got for now.

Re:Here you go. (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015244)

Don't forget "Destination: Void" from Frank Herbert. Maybe not "hacking" in the traditional sense, though. The central question is: "How can I make machine be consious, and what would it be like?".

Re:Here you go. (1)

part_of_you (859291) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015590)

You forgot "the Lawnmower man"

Re:Here you go. (1)

$1uck (710826) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015805)

Has Cadigan written anything other than Mindplayers worth reading? I really enjoyed that book several years ago, but haven't seen/heard anything else about/from the author. Although oddly enough I did find/buy a t-shirt at some rave with the cover art on it. Damn how old is that book? at least 10 years?

Does anyone else think Gibsons stuff went down hill after burning chrome? I mean neuromancer, count zero and burning chrome are the only books of his I really enjoyed. I found the others to be tolerable.

Re:Here you go. (1)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015929)

Have you read Pattern Recognition? Absolutely fabulous stuff. By the by, Burning Chrome was published before Neuromancer.

Honestly, the only novel of Cadigan's I've enjoyed is Mindplayers. Synners is sitting on my shelf somewhere, and I've got a short story collection of hers collecting dust as well.

Re:Here you go. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015968)

Software by Rudy Rucker. Also Wetware by the same. Good stuff, has a philosophical bent.

Re:Here you go. (2, Informative)

Aggrajag (716041) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015224)

Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling might be what you are looking for.

Re:Here you go. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015228)

Maybe you could try "Stealing the Network: How to Own a Continent" it is not much about cyberspace but surely about hacking, and with real techniques.

There is also How to Own the Box, the preceding book but it is more a collection of mini-story and I liked it less. No need to read to first one to enjoy the second.

You could also get "The Cuckoo's Egg". This book is awesome even thought it is outdated.

Enjoy!

Re:Here you go. (1)

GrassMunk (677765) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015385)

Cuckoos Egg is my favorite book. Fantastic read. The only problem with 'How to own a continent' is that its listed a computer book and there fore 80 smackers. For a work of fiction thats a little steep.

John Brunner: Shockwave Rider, sort of... (2)

screwthemoderators (590476) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015319)

I really like this book, but since it was written in the 70's, the "hacking" may not be what you expect. However, this brings up a problem. Because these books have to envision a "cyberspace" of the future, it often ends up being more like the "holodeck" in Star Trek. And realistic "hacking" is really boring to read, even when writer knows anything about the subject. Have you tried the wikipedia? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shockwave_Rider [wikipedia.org]

Re:Here you go. (1)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015573)

The Bit Stream Syndrome by Lasiter
Crash Park by Lasiter
Electrons Never Sleep and Neither Do I by Buldonsol
Control Protocol by Charles
Sunspot Redux: 2098 by Charles
The Coretropic Analysis Trilogy by Nevels (book 1 is slow, book 3 is worth it)
Crime is not Crime in Cyberspace by Terry
Love is still Love in Cyberspace by Terry
Death Undone by Terry (a fave of mine)
Reduction Chronicles by Mulstoy

All of these are fictional works... literally.

Re:Cyberspace? (1)

3terrabyte (693824) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015220)

Could I see that list of cyberpunk books that cost more than 80 bucks?

80 bucks? (1)

krell (896769) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015232)

If you are that good of a hacker, you aren't going to be spending $80 on anything

Check out Greg Egan (1)

karlfr (897006) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015249)

Greg Egan is a coder who writes SF. People sometimes complain that it's too technical, but the Slashdot crowd should enjoy it. In particular, I can recommend Permutation City and Schild's Ladder for big helpings of cyberspacey goodness.

Re:Cyberspace? (1)

brontus3927 (865730) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015260)

Try Idlewild by Nick Sagan (Carl Sagan's son) Up until the last chapter, the main characters and reality don't coinside with a chapter at all.

Re:Cyberspace? (2, Insightful)

mweier (135569) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015278)

Tron? :)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberpunk [wikipedia.org] has plenty of other authors (most of which I've never read, since I'm pretty limited to gibson & stephenson myself for that genre).

Apparently computers are not a prerequisite so much as technology. In that case the Phillip K Dick I've read would fit (though it borders on regular Sci Fi). His work is stupendous in its abilities to create magnificent twists of philosophical (and not just technological) profundity.

The author(s) of that Wikipedia entry don't seem to require dystopia as a theme in cyberpunk; however can anyone think of any examples which aren't dark in their portrayal of technology's impact on the future?

Re:Cyberspace? (1)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015496)

"Postcyberpunk" (if you believe in such a sub-genre) focuses on family units rather than anti-heroes. Islands in the Net is an example of a future that's not dystopic, and the Eclipse trilogy (if you take into account the fact that, by the end of the trilogy, the protagonists have overthrown the facists).

But generally, you're right. If a novel takes a positive approach to technology, chances are it's run-of-the-mill sf rather than CP.

Re:Cyberspace? (3, Insightful)

chrisnewbie (708349) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015292)

How about tad Williams's otherland!

He's not Super Hardcore geek guy! but i thought that his 4 books on VR gone crazy was good! it's a sci-fi fantasy novel though, not just techie stuff.

Re:Cyberspace? (3, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015675)

Tad needs to fire his editor. His novels tend to ramble on and on pointlessly. He has some really good ideas that translate fairly well on book form (although at times it feels like reading a summer action movie), but his books tend to bog down rather badly in the middle.

Re:Cyberspace? (1)

NDPTAL85 (260093) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015321)

Fool's War

Trust me, this book is exactly what you are looking for.

Re:Cyberspace? (2, Funny)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015383)

I'm sure your could get a copy of The Net the book.

Re:Cyberspace? (1)

Kiryat Malachi (177258) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015402)

The original cyberspace, of course.

Vernor Vinge's novella "True Names".

True Names...Absolutely Brilliant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015638)

I was going to mention it if you didn't.

And everything else he wrote. One of the only authors whose material I reread often. The most recent of his short stories
"fast times at fairmont high" and the following free online story cover alot of his more recent consensual reality ideas, absolutely brilliant.

http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/WEBONLY/publicfeature /jul04/0704far.html [ieee.org]

Re:Cyberspace? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015612)

Tad Williams' Otherland series.

Re:Cyberspace? (1)

multiplexo (27356) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015724)

The granddaddy of them all is Vernor Vinge's True Names which was out of print for years unfortunately due to some stupid legal squabble with his publishers.

too much (3, Insightful)

chrisnewbie (708349) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015127)

Reading this review is like seeing too many previews from a movie! you know you've seen all the good thing and it's pretty pointless to go see the movie.

In this case read that book!

URL plz (1)

imstanny (722685) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015129)

...to the PDF that is.

Serious+Funny? (1)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015133)

In my humble opinion, I find that any serious book with comedic relief or vice versa tends to have plot line issues. I will go ahead and read this one only because it appeals to my taste, but I'm not sure if I will enjoy it... Its either Serious or funny, not both.

Fnally, the tiger shows its stripes. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015153)

Well, well, well. Behind the pretenses, you people really ARE just a bunch of graceless, uncivilized, anti-social wild animals. You know what civilized men do with wild animals? We hunt them down and shoot them. Start runnng, animal.

Re:Fnally, the tiger shows its stripes. (1)

minuend (880602) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015428)

No matter what the topic the only replies are negative. Grow the fuck up people.

Gadget Filled (5, Insightful)

Rob_Warwick (789939) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015177)

I just read the first paragraph off of his 'try' page. Quote:

They arrested the code dudes in an operation sweeping the entire city. My Pocket Assistant beeped impetuously as Rodriguez dialled the tip-off pager number. Something heavy was going down. Nobody used those digits unless it was a dire emergency. I flipped the cover off the Phoenix handheld and studied the holographic touch screen. The message flashed across in chiselled 3D text:

Reading that doesn't fill me with any desire to read farther. I prefer my fiction to be about the people and the plot, not the gadgets and the buzzwords.

Re:Gadget Filled (3, Funny)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015248)

I just threw up a little in my mouth... ugh, I need some water.

Re:Gadget Filled (2, Funny)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015305)

Gadget filled? That sounds like a Harlequin romance. It doesn't need much editing to become one: "My assistant tossed her hair impetuously." "The message flashed across his chiselled features."

Re:Gadget Filled (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015495)

ell oh ell
right you are

Re:Gadget Filled (1)

Cpt_Kirks (37296) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015685)

Images of screwing a pager fill my head. Shocking, really.

Re:Gadget Filled (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015344)

> > They arrested the code dudes in an operation sweeping the entire city. My Pocket Assistant beeped impetuously as Rodriguez dialled the tip-off pager number. Something heavy was going down. Nobody used those digits unless it was a dire emergency. I flipped the cover off the Phoenix handheld and studied the holographic touch screen. The message flashed across in chiselled 3D text:
>
> Reading that doesn't fill me with any desire to read farther. I prefer my fiction to be about the people and the plot, not the gadgets and the buzzwords.

I'd give it more than the first three lines, but based on only those three lines, I'm inclined to agree.

If you're going to load up the story with gadgets and brand names, make the brand names mean something.

Gibson, to take just one example, did it and made it work. "Ono-Sendai" was a great way of saying "Yeah, the Japanese took over the world", which was the big business scare in 1984. Similarly, calling the custom-built "Sandbenders" (from Idoru - the most recent real-life analogy to a "Sandbenders" gadget would be the hand-carved wooden iPod overlay) was the kind of brand names that made you think about what sort of social changes had brought them about.

Somehow "Phoenix" and "Pocket Assistant" don't quite measure up. Using "F-55" to refer to a military aircraft, and "Siemens" as a lunar transport manufacturer is a step in the right direction (recognized brand name, new line of business, or name convention that acknowledges that considerable time has passed between "today" and the story setting), but "Philips T1000?" If you're going to reference the Terminator, be a little subtle about it.

OK, I'm being a little harsh. This isn't Atlanta Nights, but then... what else is? :)

Re:Gadget Filled (1)

mweier (135569) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015348)

Do you usually get a lot of people and plot in the first paragraph?

I wonder if his handheld will need to re-name itself several times due to the existence of other similiarly named. progress.

"I flipped the cover off the Firefox handheld and studied...."
-from The Escapist - 3rd edition

Re:Gadget Filled (4, Insightful)

drsquare (530038) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015701)

Do you usually get a lot of people and plot in the first paragraph?

Not necessarily, but that's not the point. It's not the exact content of the first paragraph, it's the way it's written. It seems that the author isn't very good. What I mean is, he doesn't know how to describe things. Therefore he just throws adjectives and names all over the place without any thought as to the result.

You can describe things, and you can mention doing things, but when you combine them the result is often a disaster. No offence to the author, but it's like the sort of think you get from a 10 year old who's learning to write stories, and has just been taught about adjectives:

"Bob got up from the big black chair. He walked across the blue carpet and opened the small wooden door with the shiny brass handle. He walked into the wide long dark corridor with a wooden floor..."

Also the use of 'impetuously' is completely incongruent. The style of the writing seems to be a very casual one, i.e. the narrator isn't exactly eloquent, he uses a lot of slang, probably with some sort of strong accent. But then someone like that wouldn't say 'impetuously'. When you're writing from the perspective of the narrator, you have to keep the style of writing congruent with the character. Otherwise someone reading it will feel that something isn't right, even if they don't know what it is. Like a bacon sandwich with coffee on it.

I'm afraid that the reason this author is effectively giving the book away is that it's no good. You can't judge a book by its cover, but you if the writing in the first paragraph is of a schoolboy level, the rest probably isn't going to be any better.

Looks familiar (1)

lheal (86013) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015396)

My kids picked up a Johnny Mnemonic audio book at a garage sale. It was an audio recording of a novelization of the screenplay, not written by Gibson. I kinda remembered liking the movie version with Keanu Reaves, so I listened to it on my commute for two ... agonizing ... days.

What you quoted could have been an excerpt from that, except for the first-person narrative and no reference to anything Japanese.

Re:Looks familiar (1)

Darth (29071) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015714)

The screenplay for Johnny Mnemonic was written by Gibson.

Re:Gadget Filled (3, Informative)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015444)

I don't think it's the buzz words so much as the writing. A good edit would have helped that paragraph.

In the first sentence, the narrator knows what is "going down," but in the third he does not. The second sentence is a mess. Is Rodriguez right there in the room dialing up the narrator's pager? And by the fourth sentence, Rodriguez has been demoted from token minority programmer to "nobody." Then in the fifth sentence, "Pocket Assistant" confusingly turns into "Phoenix handheld." Presumably, back in sentence two, he meant "pocket assistant" and not "Pocket Assistant."

Re:Gadget Filled (2, Interesting)

Coppit (2441) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015548)

Yeah, it reminds me of Snow Crash:

The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed subcategory. He's got esprit up to here. Right now, he is preparing to carry out his third mission of the night. His uniform is black as activated charcoal, filtering the very light out of the air. A bullet will bounce off its arachnofiber weave like a wren hitting a patio door, but excess perspiration wafts through it like a breeze through a freshly napalmed forest. Where his body has bony extremities, the suit has sintered armorgel: feels like a gritty jello, protects like a stack of telephone books.

It's like someone's homework assignment on adjectives, similes, and metaphors.

Re:Gadget Filled (1)

shawb (16347) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015881)

Hmm... that part always seemed like it was just making fun of film noir style. I mean this is a pizza delivery boy we're talking about. Yes, one that is killed if the pizza takes more than 30 minutes, but a pizza boy nonetheless.

Re:Gadget Filled (2, Interesting)

makomk (752139) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015958)

Yes, that is totally OTT, but in a hilariously parodic way (he dilivers pizzas, for God's sake). The quote from the book under review just sounds like a bucket of verbal vomit.

Like Howard Dean? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015178)

" Bentley Dean. He brings a certain charm to being a hacker with a cold-blooded killing streak." "

Sounds like a ripoff of Howard Dean, but a lot nicer.

Re:Like Howard Dean? (0)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015837)

No, you're thinking of John Dean [wikipedia.org] , the "master manipulator of the [Watergate] cover up". You know, the guy that real cold-blooded killer G. Gordon Liddy used to work for, covering Nixon's ass with dead bodies.

The "Howard Dean" of whom you speak is a doctor, a cold-blooded Vermont governor, and chairman of the Democratic Party.

Now that that's straight, Anonymous astroturf Coward, who do you work for, as a character assassin?

A Question (1)

jon855 (803537) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015182)

To read or not to read and that's the question... Hell I think it's funny that a hacker with a cold-blooded killings habits or whatsoever. I am a hacker and I hack people up for a living. There may be a catch here eh?

Re:A Question (3, Informative)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015227)

It's just a nomenclature problem.
He said "...a hacker with a cold-blooded killing streak", but he meant "...a sysadmin with a cold-blooded killing streak", which is, of course, perfectly understandable and quite common.

"antihero" != "evil" (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015187)

"antihero" == "not remarkable", "not heroic".

An antihero would be a milquetoast everyman who doesn't do heroic things, or who has every good thing he tries to do turn out badly.

Re:"antihero" != "evil" (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015519)

No, an antihero, used to describe a character in fiction, is a character who's one of the main characters, but isn't good, he's not a hero, he's not morally upstanding.

'Anti' means 'opposite'.

For example:

Hero = John Wayne
Anti-hero = Clint Eastwood

Re:"antihero" != "evil" (3, Informative)

irritus (789886) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015659)

No, "anti-hero" is a literary term that appeared around the turn of the last century. It means a protagonist who is an average person, rather than someone upstanding or fantastic. Traditionally, dating back to Greek plays, the main protagonist of a story was a hero. He or she was someone of nearly inhuman virtue and often important as well. The only variation on this was the "tragic hero" who was exactly like a hero but with one flaw that caused them to have a massive fall from grace. The problem is most people can't really identify with a hero character. Everyone can identify with an anti-hero, and if it weren't for comic books perverting the meaning you wouldn't see the term thrown around anywhere near as much. Anti-hero == average person protagonist

Wrong again! (0)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015868)

No, you are completely wrong. Wikipedia has a great entry [wikipedia.org] on the subject. But Wikipedia more or less agrees with every other description I have encountered going back many years. In fact, claiming 'Anti-hero=average person protagonist' is so far from correct that I suspect you are deliberately misinforming rather than making a mistake.

"antihero" == "non-heroic protagonist" (0)

Vexinator (253312) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015796)

from wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antihero [wikipedia.org]

"In literature and film, an anti-hero is a central or supporting character that has some of the personality flaws and ultimate fortune traditionally assigned to villains but nonetheless also has enough heroic qualities or intentions to gain the sympathy of readers or viewers. Anti-heroes can be awkward, obnoxious, passive, pitiful, or obtuse--but they are always, in some fundamental way, flawed or failed heroes. In this use, the term tragic hero is sometimes used."

A more conscise definition would be: A protagonist who does not fit the accepted hero archetype.

So while an antihero is not *necessarily* evil, a villian who is the protagonist of the story would be an antihero.

summary or sales pitch? (5, Insightful)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015196)

An example: "The cover art is well worth seeing on a real book, though -- it has an evocative mystery all of its own."

Care to describe that "evocative mystery" for us? I'm surprised that a review would mention something like that instead of just describing it. IMHO, this "review" reads more like a sales pitch, dancing around everything but saying nothing.

Re:summary or sales pitch? (2, Informative)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015393)

Here's the picture [pabd.com] of the cover. Not very mysterious or evocative in my opinion, but what do I know about high art.

cover image? (2)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015770)

As a fine art graduate student, I know something about art. That cover looks like what any 17-year old kid with access to softcore pr0n images and photoshop could produce in about 15 minutes.

Otherwise... (1)

Bob3141592 (225638) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015212)

Where is Stanislaw Lem when you need him?

Re:Otherwise... (1)

zifferent (656342) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015472)

Wow, I thought the same thing when I read the reviewer's name. That's gotta be a made up name.

So we're probably the only two people in the world to have read Tao Zero.

He's great author and knows his stuff.

Re:Otherwise... (1)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015491)

Agreed! His books are always enjoyable. I didn't seen the recent film, Solaris, as I was sure it would just completely disgust me. Based on what my friends told me after they saw it, I was right. If you've never read any of Lem's stuff, pick it up. "The Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy" is a great read.

Very True (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015214)

"But you still can't help liking Bentley Dean. He brings a certain charm to being a hacker with a cold-blooded killing streak."

Yeah, there's nothing more charming than "being a hacker with a cold-blooded killing streak." Seriously, it's a real hit with the ladies and it's great for parties. I would know...I mean I wouldn't know. Shoot! They're on to me!

[sirens and breaking glass]

*escapes*

The comparison is wrong! (1)

chrisnewbie (708349) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015527)

HAcker/murderer/killer/dark humour.

That's a fantasy book not a cyber punk novel!

What I took from the review... (2, Interesting)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015218)

My take on the book given the review is that the book was a nice attempt that the author didn't manage to pull off. Heck, even the attempts at humor that the author of the review cited sounded pretty darn lame.

So, I agree: Sounds like a big "skip" to me. Which is too bad -- I've been looking for some new SciFi to read ever since I finished reading through the various works of Vernor Vinge earlier this year.

I read the Dan Simmons "Hyperion" series and found it extremely unsatisfying (a strong start followed by weaker and weaker storytelling). Read "Forge of God" by Greg Bear and it was decent, although the sequel was, in my opinion, lousy. I read "Forever War" by Joe Haldeman and found it entertaining enough, although "Forever Peace" was a struggle to even finish. Also read through a couple of other one-hit-wonder authors whose second and third books were rather Wachowski Brothers, if you catch my meaning.

I don't really know where to go from here. Once you polish off the classics and the hits, you're left with a couple of shelfs of books at Barnes and Noble that all have interesting looking covers and rave reviews on the back, but probably aren't all that good...

Re:What I took from the review... (1)

CoderBob (858156) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015307)

I would suggest checking out The Parafaith War by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. I haven't tried his other Sci-Fi yet, but I enjoyed the rest of his fantasy.

Re:What I took from the review... (1)

bbcrack (143718) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015322)

My favourite recent authors

greg egan
neal asher
richard morgan
peter f hamilton
alistair reynolds
ken mcleod

re:What I took from the review (1)

chrisnewbie (708349) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015356)

How about some Isaac Asmiov's foundation novels or frank herbert''s dune or man of two worlds (funny) or the whipping star and the dosadi experiment,destination void just to name a couple.

Re:What I took from the review... (4, Informative)

wren337 (182018) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015380)

You didn't mention it, have you checked out Altered Carbon and Broken Angels? Highly recommended.

Re:What I took from the review... (4, Informative)

Johnboi Waltune (462501) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015501)

I'll second that recommendation. If you're looking for a seminal "future noir" detective/cyberpunk novel, look no further than 'Altered Carbon' by Richard Morgan. It's about an ex-military private detective who is released from prison and hired by a rich man to find out who killed him and why. (A key feature of the series is that in this future, most people have their consciousness backed up to an implanted storage device, and it can be restored into any other body.)

'Broken Angels', the sequel, borrows the main character from Altered Carbon, but little else. It's primarily a future war novel where the main character and his small group face off against military and corporate interests during a planetary civil war. Both novels contain plenty of violent and sexual content.

There's a third book in the series called 'Woken Furies', just recently released.

When I saw the title.. (4, Funny)

aurb (674003) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015223)

.. the first thought that came to my mind was that this is a book about vi, the editor.

Re:When I saw the title.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015441)

For me, "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" came to mind (the main characters create a comic book hero named The Escapist). Reading a book by Michael Chabon is probably a better idea than reading the work of a wannabe William Gibson anyway.

Re:When I saw the title.. (1)

ahem (174666) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015683)

The first thought I had was that there was going to be a sequel to Cavalier and Klay.

My review of The Escapist (5, Funny)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015229)

I have not RTFB, but in true Slashdot fashion that will not keep me from presenting my opinions. Here are some random notes I took while not reading TFB.

First, the protaginists name, Bentley Dean, leads me to believe that a prequal will at some point be writeen about this man's previous career in the adult film industry.

Two, this book is trying to be a movie. Morris cunningly creates a universe where space travel seems to exist, but most of the action takes place on Earth so he can have a future, cyber-punk, technothriller action movie without the big budget requirements that a space travel flick would demand.

Three, one area I wish the book would have explored more was Bentley Dean's (shudder) emotional side; what is driving this wonderful and delightfully animated character? Clearly he's been hurt in the adult film industry... used by so many men... that you'd think this subject matter would lay an interesting foundation and rationale for Dean's cold-blooded killing streak. I can understand how the author wouldn't want to cover some of the details of Dean's exploitation as they may be too close to some of his own experiences in the underground Mexican adult film industry.

One thing is clear, without RTFB I was able to see just how ridiculous it is and provide insightful karma-building comments to the rest of the community. I was however thrilled to read that

The Escapist can also be bought as a PDF direct from the website. And since the novel is published under a Creative Commons license, once you've got hold of one of these PDFs, you can share it around and print it out as much as you like.

So, got out and buy it, spread it like a weed, and when you're done reading it feel free to read another wonderful book that is slightly more coherent and literarily pure [lulu.com] .

Re:My review of The Escapist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015371)

I gree with everything you said, except the part about what motivates the character. See, the thing is, someone with a 'cold-blooded killing streak', typically doesn't need to have been twisted by life, they are born that way.

Sounds like the kind of mangling that I (1)

crovira (10242) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015628)

read once.

The book was called "Gone To Be Snakes Now" and I wish I still had a copy or could find a copy.

It was utterly incomprehensible to my then young mind. Either the writing was an act of wanton arboricide or it was as brilliant as 'The Iluminatus Trilogy" which I encountered later in my lfe and was able to appreciate.

Re:My review of The Escapist (1)

starman97 (29863) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015644)

"First, the protaginists name, Bentley Dean, leads me to believe that a prequel will at some point be written about this man's previous career in the adult film industry."

Sounds to me like a play on another author's name, Bradley Denton. He writes GOOD anti-hero stories, look for Blackburn or One day closer to death.

Sounds like a Travis Tea novel... (1)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015268)

set in the future. Check out Travis' other novel [lulu.com] .

Nope, nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015717)

I actually purchased Atlanta Nights and my wife and I read much of it out loud. It's hilarious.

This book....

Um No Thanks (2, Insightful)

greymond (539980) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015272)

"a hacker with a cold-blooded killing streak" - killed the whole idea of reading this book. It gave me the same feeling as when I heard Vin Deisel was going to be in a kids movie, it's just too far of a stretch for my imagination to take.

Re:Um No Thanks (1)

Paul8069 (732650) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015494)

Any movie Vin Diesel is in is just too far of a stretch for my imagination to take.

The PDF (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015280)

So does anyone have a link for the PDF? I'd be interesting in reading something for the next three hours or so.

The best novel is often reality. (4, Interesting)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015336)

The best cyberpunk novel I have found is reality. My grandson tipped me off to the hellholes that are the GameFAQs.com discussion forums, so I started reading the postings there out of curiosity. Indeed, what I found there startled me.

The moderators were your average schoolyard bullies. The thugs who attack innocent people in the night. I'm thinking more along the lines of Clockwork Orange here. Not just physical attacks, but they partake in the worst sort of psychological perversions.

They are the stereotypical "cyberpunks": nerdy teens with the mentality of 12 year olds who are physically unable to be anything of importance in the non-Internet world, thus they become the punks of the Internet. And their presence really destroys the quality of the forums. But while the quality of the forums as a place for discussion is shitshot, the entertainment value rises immensely.

The best part is that I don't have to chip out a pence to read such novelry. The GameFAQs forums take the best of cyberpunk novels and combine them with an ever-changing reality.

Re:The best novel is often reality. (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015486)

Interesting. I do something similar with the freeper site - talk about your alternative realities!

Torrent Link? (1)

OsirisX11 (598587) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015338)

Anybody?

And no one complained about the OP's gramemener? (1)

greymond (539980) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015350)

Antihero
A main character in a dramatic or narrative work who is characterized by a lack of traditional heroic qualities, such as idealism or courage.

Antihero is someone like scoobydoo who runs at the first site of danger.

Tragic Hero
A literary character who makes an error of judgment or has a fatal flaw that, combined with fate and external forces, brings on a tragedy

Tragic Hero's (classic Macbeth) A hero who is villanious because he believes the end justify the means.

Re:And no one complained about the OP's gramemener (1)

C0deM0nkey (203681) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015549)

Antihero is someone like scoobydoo who runs at the first site of danger.

That's a pretty simplistic example.

Now, you want a real anti-hero, try on the character of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever (author: Stephen R. Donaldson). That guy was a fantastic anti-hero.

167 Pages?! Self-published? (3, Insightful)

C0deM0nkey (203681) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015390)

The storyline takes in locations as far afield as Egypt, Malaysia, Israel, Las Vegas, New York, and London. It almost seems like a travelogue of all the places the author has been in his life, except seen through a warped lens of cyberpunk fiction.

I am left with the distinct impression that there cannot be much depth (or character development) in the 167 pages that comprise this book. By the time you load it "full of one-liners" and punny place names all you probably have left is room for a dash of seriousness.

The story seems almost arbitrary...tries to do too much in too few pages

Virtual reality...artificial intelligence...technology ranging from insightful to mundane. And more explosions. Yea. Is the author hoping for a movie-rights deal?

One, your review does not encourage me to run out and grab this book. Two, why did you give this an 8?

There are plenty of books out there that are both short and good but, based upon your review, it seems that the author should have spent more time exploring one theme in a modicum of detail than attempt to pass off a screen-play treatment as a novel.

As well as being available in printed form, The Escapist can also be bought as a PDF direct from the website. And since the novel is published under a Creative Commons license, once you've got hold of one of these PDFs, you can share it around and print it out as much as you like.

This smacks of self- or vanity-publishing particularly when combined with the fact that "Ad Libbed, Ltd.", the listed publisher, has no web-presence that I could easily find. Sometimes self-publishing is the right way to go - most of the time it means you couldn't get anyone else to pick up your stuff. Based upon your review, it seems the reader would have been better served had the author turned his novella into a serial short and got it published in a sci-fi magazine or something.

Interview with the author (3, Informative)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015485)

This book, The Escapist was self-published here [pabd.com] . This site actually has an interview w/ the author (or hack whichever you prefer). Here are a few choice tidbits from the interview. My comments are added in italics

What is the Escapist about?
It's an epic, picaresque tale, which I've somehow managed to squeeze into 168 pages. which the author later revealed took him 13 years to write... roughly 13 pages per year on the average.

Why did you decide to self publish your book?
I had tried sending The Escapist to a few agents. I'm sure if I'd carpet bombed all the relevant agencies I would eventually have found representation and some form of publishing deal. Sure you would have... well considering what they publish... you acutally might have But it could have taken ages, and I was confident my book was good enough for prime time. By prime time... you mean posting your own review on /.?

You've taken a Creative Commons license. Why did you do that? ...send me some money...viral marketing ...

How are you going to market your book? ...I've had one review on a popular computing news website as well so far. Oh really, and where would you find editors of a popular computing news website lazy enough to publish said review... oh... sorry, silly question

Well, I hope someone likes it. Read the PDF, burn a copy... to a CD or otherwise... and send this guy some money, but not enough to make him think about writing a follow up.

Re:Interview with the author (2)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015597)

... looks like I forgot to escape my italics. Idiot. Here' the corrected version (not that it really matters).
---
What is the Escapist about?which the author later revealed took him 13 years to write... roughly 13 pages per year on the average.

Why did you decide to self publish your book?
I had tried sending The Escapist to a few agents. I'm sure if I'd carpet bombed all the relevant agencies I would eventually have found representation and some form of publishing deal. Sure you would have... well considering what they publish... you acutally might have But it could have taken ages, and I was confident my book was good enough for prime time. By prime time... you mean posting your own review on /.?

You've taken a Creative Commons license. Why did you do that? ...send me some money...viral marketing ...

How are you going to market your book? ...I've had one review on a popular computing news website as well so far. Oh really, and where would you find editors of a popular computing news website lazy enough to publish said review... oh... sorry, silly question

Well, I hope someone likes it. Read the PDF, burn a copy... to a CD or otherwise... and send this guy some money, but not enough to make him think about writing a follow up.

Re:Interview with the author (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015616)

Nice try but you should remember to close your tags. Not sure how you managed to screw that up since /. forces you to preview your posts...

There is nothing funnier than seeing someone criticizing another person only to make a fool of his self in the process.

:wink: (1)

coolGuyZak (844482) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015700)

Nice try but you should remember to close your tags. Not sure how you managed to screw that up since /. forces you to preview your posts...

When you have an account, you can just submit. There is nothing funnier than seeing someone criticizing another person only to make a fool of his self in the process

You mean himslef? XD

Re:Interview with the author (1)

DavesWorld334 (714899) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015749)

So if I self publish a cyber book will /. put me on the front gd page too? I wonder who submitted the article ... connections to author? You know it's sad with something that used to be as cool as /. now has patronage to put up with...

Coincidence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015592)

I found it interesting that the website that is selling the book, http://pabd.com/ [pabd.com] , has a featured interview with this author on their front page. Makes me wonder whether this review is legit, or just a lame attempt at guerilla marketing.

Pandas DO like hamburgers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015838)

They are omnivorous and enjoy eating meat - that is how they are trapped in the wild. They are too slow and ponderous to obtain it themselves usually. The real issue is that they HAVE to have bamboo as part of their diet - it is a food source they cannot live without.

But yeah, they LOVE meat.

My first thought was... (1)

quick9vb (628271) | more than 9 years ago | (#13015920)

...The Escapist (http://www.darkhorse.com/profile/profile.php?sku= 12-882 [darkhorse.com] ) from The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It's a great book, you should read it...(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/ -/0312282990/ref=pd_sxp_f/002-6535993-6624867?v=gl ance&s=books [amazon.com] )

that's all we need... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13015940)

Stanislav Blingstein wrote:
>
> Cyberpunk just got a whole lot darker...
> The main character, Bentley Dean, is more than
> just an anti-hero: he seems to enjoy being bad.

That's all we need, nerds who think being an asshole is cool.

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