Pat Cadigan: Synners

Pat Cadigan
First Published 1991
Grafton paperback edition 1991
435 pages

Hands up those of you who can name more than two Cyberpunk authors.

Those of you with digits upraised will know that Cyberpunk deals with many themes and is far more than simple near-future high technology fiction. But you will not prove this thesis by reading Synners. Pat Cadigan is definitely a hard core Cyberpunk author and her book is set firmly in the hyper-information age.

OK - you can take your hands down now.

Do not be mislead into thinking that Synners is a mindless clone of William Gibson's work. It has its own style and the world created is distinct from others in the genre. But it does use the familiar Cyberpunk concepts - global computer networks, direct brain to computer linkups, designer recreational drugs, large corporate states, young hackers and a mutated form of rock music. The only thing missing is the mirrorshades.

The story revolves around the introduction of a new technology and what happens when things start to go wrong. The technology in question is neural (brain) links to computers. This is used in the entertainment industry where synthesizers (synners) are the people who create commercial virtual reality products.

Synners is a book where not much may happen to the plot for a while, but it happens at great pace. It is told in a multi-threaded style, following several of the important players in the drama. Scenes and points of view change with great rapidity. This makes it a difficult book to come back to as once you have put it down you lose orientation amongst all the detail.

The greatest strength of the novel is the picture of the world. The images of this hi-tech future are laser-cut sharp. A lot of work has been put into character development - not all of it successfully, but enough to add a little depth. The plot is complex in detail, but the theme is as old as Frankenstein. Synners rates well as entertainment, but you have to be prepared to put a bit of work in.

Overall rating: Assembling a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle.