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In a world lacking nothing, Brunner laments our lack of purpose; he proposes that Western civilization, while saturated with intelligence, has forsaken actual wisdom, setting the stage for collective psychosis and a depersonalized ruling elite.Prefiguring the online free speech movement, Brunner shows how a technocratic society can use information for good or ill and, moreover, suggests ways individuals can make the future more user-friendly."The Shockwave Rider," lamentably not as well-known as "1984" or "Brave New World," is one of the central social thought experiments of the 20th century -- and an effective rallying call for sanity in a world that, now more than ever, often seems like so much digital putty.
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With its mechanized ambience and hacker protaganist, "The Shockwave Rider" is one of the principal "protocyberpunk" novels, predating Bruce Sterling's "Islands in the Net" by a decade. Beneath the veneer of techno and inventive slang is a challenging utopian discourse as engaging as B. Skinner's "Walden Two."Like "The Sheep Look Up," "The Shockwave Rider" deals unflinchingly with where we're headed as a species -- and how to know when to apply the temporal brakes.
Directly inspired by Alvin Toffler's classic "Future Shock," Brunner's novel is a serious -- but spirited -- examination of transcience on daily life.
Brunner identified himself with the political left (including anti-war actions in Britain during the sixties) but when he's read today, his outlook seems so much more concerned with the rights and dignity of the individual, rather than trying to social-engineer whole societies.
This spirit is very much the "Internet ethos" we see today. This book has always been popular with the techy-geeky crowd, but, since it was first published in the '70s, it missed out on the cyberpunk revolution of the '80s.
But while The Shockwave Rider missed cashing in on the cyberpunk cachet, it nevertheless remains an important work.