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Candle Hardcover – 30 March 2000
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- Publisher : St Martin's Press (30 March 2000)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 237 pages
- ISBN-10 : 031289077X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0312890773
- Dimensions : 14.27 x 2.39 x 21.74 cm
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His name isn't Currie Culver. It's Currie Curtis Curran. That's a plot point, revealed in the first two pages -- the ruling intelligence calls him by an old nickname, "Three-Cur", after the thrice repeated first syllable of each of his names. You can't be "Three-Cur" if your last name doesn't start with "Cur", so it can't be "Culver".
He didn't track down "comboys", having to do with comm nets, he tracked down "cowboys", because of their individualism. They didn't "unplug from comm nets", they avoided being hagridden by a memetic overlord called "One True". The core of the plot isn't about a worldwide data network, it's about self-perpetuating memetic software that, instead of running on silicon, runs on protein in your own brain. You can't "unplug" from One True, its management meme, Resuna, is always with you in your own head. There have been cases of cowboys "de-meming" the hunters who try to bring them back to the fold, but they're generally apocryphal.
That said, this book isn't all that great. The concept is interesting, but the author hasn't worked it out very well. His characters are just BARELY over 2-dimensional, a weird sort of 2.5-dimensional effect that reminds me of the "three-quarter perspective" genre of video games. While it's easier to code, and can work well, the result is just slightly off-putting and never really achieves the immersion of actual three-dimensional gameplay. It's the same with this book...you can see the characters trying to pop off the page and achieve depth, and they sort of achieve a little depth once in a while, but the author, through repeated phraseology and clumsy tropes, just misses the mark by THAT much.
I can give one example without spoilers. Curran's fancy winter survival suit has lots of pockets, computer-controlled, that selectively heat or chill his various meals he carries into the field. A lot of time and word-crunching is spent on describing exactly what he likes to eat, what time of day he likes to eat it, and the aromas, textures, and processes used to store, carry, heat, cool, and otherwise prepare the various and sundry viands. What the author does NOT do is spend any extra literary energy on a word to describe Curran's EATING of said dishes. Every. Single. One. is "gobbled". He doesn't savor, he doesn't sip, he doesn't chew ruminantly, he doesn't spoon, he doesn't fork, he doesn't feel the texture between his teeth, or the wonderful umami flavor of the meat against the roof of his mouth...no, Curran "gobbles". He gobbles everything. He almost gobbles coffee, except that he DOES take the time to BREW it, and thus he "guzzles" it. Lots of time is spent, and loads of adjectives get used to describe setting up his camp, but he still just "gobbles" everything he eats.
This is the ALMOST good quality I'm talking about. It tries REAL HARD to be good, but seems to throw a monkey wrench into its own spokes over and over and over. Add that to a weak and syrupy ending...but then, I'm trying not to give spoilers. You'll have to read it to see it. But you could give this one a miss and never wonder if you had missed out on something good. Because you wouldn't have. You'd have missed something somewhat better reading than an old newspaper used to wrap fish. It's okay, in a "meh" sort of way.
The drawback is mechanical obedience to voices (or memes) in everyone's heads. Prodding those who fail to work hard enough, overwriting disquieting memories, transferring the 'best of class' skills to individuals given similar assignments. Everything you or I do will be uploaded to that 'One True' mind. Does any of this bother you?
We do not want to submerge into one big happy human family. Certainly, the concept can not allow outlaws. They must not remain free; hunters will search them out for extinction. So the main part of the book deals with the subtle back-and-forth between two experienced survivors, and which way they decide to go. Low tech, playing out the last act of this play.
See similar concepts in: The Merchants of Souls , Snow Crash (Bantam Spectra Book) .