This is the best of the free fiction I have downloaded for my Kindle. I have not read a lot of cyber punk and it took a while to get into the terms and culture described, but it was well written and worth reading. The main character's continued stupidity was annoying at first and the story could be fleshed out more, but I enjoyed the book and would read more by this author.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A gripping hard SF thrillerJune 6 2000
John Peter O'connor
- Published on Amazon.com
Jeter invented a truely wonderful world for this novel. The setting is a huge, cylindrical building that towers above the earth. Most of society exists inside the building but those who are outside society, on the edge, live on the outside of the building, on the "Vertical". The novel's protagonist, Ny Axxter lives on this wall and tries to make a living as a freelance artist working with video and graffex. One day, he has what appears to be a stroke of good fortune and he thinks that he is on the verge of making it into the big time as a major artist. At this point, his world starts to fall to pieces and he discovers that reality is not what he, and everyone else thought and that the major players in his world now want him out of the way. While many parts of the world are unexplained, Jeter throws in enough in the way of technical details to make this hard SF and not fantasy. The writing style is very sharp. Jeter is regarded by many as an heir to the mantle of the great P.K.Dick and this book is worthy of that regard. I always think that a sign of good writing is the quality of the pictures inside my head as I read and, on the measure, this was very good indeed. Farewell Horizontal is a gripping read and I highly recommended it.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
If you only read one...April 10 2000
- Published on Amazon.com
If you only read one K.W. Jeter book then you are missing out on some of the most significant science fiction of the last twenty five years. Still, this is the one to read if one is your ambition. Astounding ideas, breathless surgical execution and the very best gusto an amateur can bring to the field, here wrapped in one pocket-sized package by a true professional. How many authors could pull off a motorcycle chase up the side of a building and still make you want to read more? Simply marvellous.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Pure DopeJune 2 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I remember, when I read this at its publication, just grooving on the cover art (google it), and thinking, this is gonna be weird. And weird it was. Jeter posits a dangerous and peculiar culture, and if you're a fan, you understand he has much to say about the organization of culture and of power. So, we've got warring tribes, angels, and a protagonist who nurses a very bad attitude, kind of like when you worry a cavity in a tooth and it hurts, but at the same time there's the soothing confirmation of pain, you know? That's our guy. What's really cool is that this all takes place on the outside of the homeworld. It's huge, planet-size. And it was built, but we don't find out much about that. It's a thing that exists and is home to a civilization, and many have chosen to forsake the horizontal and risk it all living on the vertical. This is a very strange tale and one you should definitely read. K.W. Jeter was at the forefront of a certain cadre of science-fiction writer back in the eighties. Make his acquaintance.
Imagine the extent of your world, your existence, was a massive building rising high above a ground obscured from view by thick clouds. Everything you know is either inside this structure, or -- more interestingly -- hanging off it, and people either live "on the horizontal" in the interior or have "gone vertical" on the outside.
This is the premise for Farewell Horizontal, a sci-fi novel by K.W. Jeter (@KWJeter) which was first published in 1989. I believe citing the original date of publishing is important because some of the themes in this interesting novel harken back to that time.
The protagonist, Ny Axxter, has decided to leave a life of mind-numbing labor inside Cylinder, the building, for the freedom and challenge of a life "on the wall." Forgoing an entry-level position on the horizontal, Ny's gone freelance as a graffex, a combination graphic artist/computer programmer specializing in creating intricate animated images embedded in the armor of the various warring tribal factions who populate the wall.
But only on one side of the building: the morningside, as it is called. People don't go on the eveningside, so very little is known about it. At some point in the undetermined past, there was a great War, but the people on and in Cylinder care little about the details of this conflict. Instead, they live in the moment, worrying only about themselves.
As the story opens, Ny is still adjusting to life on the wall. He has automated wires attached to his boots and belt to prevent a fall (vehicles are also equipped with these attachment wires), but that isn't his biggest problem. Work is scarce, so for Ny every day is a challenge as he tries to make his meager bank account (real-time updates provided via comm-link; make a voice call to your agent, watch as the balance slowly goes down) last until he scores the Big Job that will set him up for life.
A chance encounter with a pair of gas angels gives Ny a video recording to sell to Ask & Receive, the information clearinghouse agency servicing the residents of Cylinder, those on the inside and on the wall. That capital influx keeps him on the wall another day, but Ny needs something better to make a go of it. If he could just get hired by an up-and-coming tribe, a group that will rampage itself into an alliance with one of the big two tribes that rule Cylinder's known wall. But that's a dream Ny shares with untold freelancers who have come out on the wall to try their luck.
Ny's big break comes in the form of a job with the Havoc Mass, one of the two main tribes fighting for control of Cylinder's wall. The Mass is the current number two behind the Grievous Amalgam, which has ruled the building's upper-most wall for as long as anyone can remember. Much more I can't say without spoiling it for new readers, but it wouldn't be a story if everything worked out for Ny, right?
I have not read a lot of sci-fi, and must admit I had some difficulty getting into this story. I do not say that as a knock against Mr. Jeter or his writing, but believe it is more indicative of me having trouble breaking free from the horizontal -- as it were -- and moving out on the wall. The deeper into the story I got, the more involved I became.
There is little to no backstory, the reader is thrown out on the wall from page 1, but that is very much in keeping with the behavior of the people who live in Cylinder. I bought the book because I was fascinated by the concept of a huge building encompassing a society, with the outside serving as the "untamed wilderness" and the inside as some dreary Industrial Revolution nightmare.
There are so many potential themes and subtexts to Farewell Horizontal that I suspect a college-level class could be taught from it. The original publishing date was 1989, at the end of a decade of self-indulgence and consumerism. At the time of its writing, too, the Cold War was still going on and in the Havoc Mass and Grievous Amalgam there were, to me at least, echoes of the standoff between the US and USSR.
Although he performs a very noble deed at one point in the story -- a deed that is repaid several times to his great benefit -- Ny often isn't very likable as he is self-centered (not unusual, as noted above) and ambitious to the point of being greedy. The almost mercenary concern exhibited by many characters for earning wealth and status reminded me of Wall Street, the 1987 Oliver Stone movie in which Michael Douglas, portraying ruthless stockbroker Gordon Gekko, famously says "Greed is good."
Ny exhibits total faith in the world as he knows it to be and rejects what he calls "Looking at your own navel until you fall in. I've got lots more important business to take care of." Jeter, K. W. (2011-05-31). Farewell Horizontal (Kindle Locations 2884-2885). But things are not as they seem, and a pair of characters introduced late in the story help Ny begin to examine his navel for clues.
I found it interesting, too, that the job Ny takes that leads him to these characters revolves around a celebration of history, in this case the career of a warrior. In a way, that break from status quo to look beyond the here and now is like a pebble dropped into a calm pool of water.
Of course, I'm likely completely wrong about the author's intentions with Farewell Horizontal. (Late note: per an email from Mr. Jeter it appears I have seriously over-thought the book.) Whether I'm right or not, I enjoyed the story and recommend it to anyone looking for a sci-fi tale with depth, action and a thought-provoking concept.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Edgy as a walk on a tightropeJan. 4 2013
David Loeff author of
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
There is only the building, cylindrical and huge. And, choices are few: live a dull and conventional life on one of the horizontal levels, or live a creative, yet precarious, vertical existence on the building's exterior.
Ny Axxter has chosen a freelancer's life on the vertical. It has its risks, including starving or drawing fire from a corporate tribe fighting for control of the building. The vertical life offers hope as well, hope of fortune and hope of freedom. There is much that Ny doesn't know. He knows there are stars above him, but he does not know what lies beneath the cloud wall below him. He doesn't know what's on the night side of the building, or what horrors live within its sealed center. He sees angels flying in the distance, but knows little about them.
However, Ny is no more ignorant of the building's secrets than the majority of its other denizens. This is how things have been since the war. No one seems to know how things were before the war. Moreover, no one seems interested in finding out.
Ny Axxter lives in a cyberpunk world, dystopian and corporate controlled. He's just another gutsy punk trying to cut it on the fringes of a society run by faceless corporations. His journey is fueled by the need to survive. If he's lucky, he might learn something on his journey, but in the end his hard gained knowledge will only scratch the surface of the unknown. However, only by surviving another day, and growing slightly wiser, does progress occur. It's an exciting journey. Come along for the ride.