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Signal to Noise Mass Market Paperback – Jun 1 1999

3.7 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager; Reprint edition (June 1 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380792923
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380792924
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 2.5 x 17.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,095,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Eric Nylund's fourth novel is touted by the publisher as "hyperpunk," but what is that, exactly? Is it the spastic child of cyberpunk? The willful offspring poking Father Gibson in the eye? While Signal to Noise introduces some fascinating virtual sleights of hand, the overall impression is of a continuation of the nano-techno-cyberpunk genre rather than a leap in evolution to a new form of fiction.

This latest offering from the former Microsoft employee will undoubtedly thrill writers of code and the romantics who call themselves hackers. Nylund's main characters are affixed with permanent implants allowing instant access to cyberspace; a virtuality so vivid that they often prefer the virtual over the reality. The trouble begins when Jack Potter, an encryption expert who's done some shady work for the NSO, finds and decodes a message buried in old astronomical data. Contact with the outreaching alien and information bartering result. Unfortunately, someone else is watching, too. "Down the hall, bars rattled. It was a nice touch. Cold churned in Jack's stomach, diffused down his legs and up his spine. It was synthetic fear generated by the bubble. He fought it. DeMitri took a set of keys from his pocket, picked one out, then opened a cell door ... 'Alcatraz'--he spread his arms in a grand gesture--'is a reflection of what's on your mind, Jack. Feeling guilty about something?'"

The brilliance of Signal to Noise is in the science: the idea of looking out into the swirling sea of the cosmos and finding patterns hidden amongst the static hiss of the births and deaths of stars. At times, the math itself has more depth than many of the characters, who tend to be reminiscent of stock figures in pulp fiction. Which isn't to say that there's no fun to be had here. As the novel progresses, the ante is upped until Jack is bartering the alien for Earth itself. An extra implant crammed into Jack's brain against his will is starting to burn out his optical nerve, and he's no longer sure who his friends are. Log on to Signal to Noise to find out who the bad guys are, and who, if anyone, is going to survive. --Jhana Bach --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The future that Jack Potter lives in is one where the corporate-shark mentality has filtered into every aspect of life: from the beginning of a school career, students learn to lie, cheat, and steal in order to get the best grade. The most successful, and ruthless, are implanted with devices that link their brains to powerful computers. Over the years, Jack has done very well, climbing all the way to the prestigious Academe of Pure and Applied Sciences, where he is in a bitter fight with a rival for tenure. Using a decryption program stolen from his rival, he detects a signal in the background noise of space. He and two friends enter into an information-trading partnership with an alien race that promises amazing and potentially deadly rewards. Soon the three find themselves involved in a no-holds-barred power struggle between corporations, governments, and interstellar life-forms to see which will proffer the ultimate takeover bid. Eric Robbins --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was exciting to read, and like some of the other reviewers I had a hard time putting it down. The story moves along briskly, mixing equal parts mystery, politics, and technology. The plot is thought-provoking, and the device of an heard-but-not-seen alien adds a layer of mystery not usually seen in first-contact scenarios. Little details about the book are annoying, though. At several points I audibly exclaimed my disapointment with the writing; there are many sentences that would have earned a rebuke in a freshman composition class. A few plot twists aren't believable or even understandable in terms of the characters' motivations. The characters themselves are paper-thin, and their emotional detachment, after the Really Bad Thing happens, left me in no hurry to buy the sequel. The main character rushes around rescuing people at the end of the story, but this line of action is poorly integrated into the plot, as if the editor told Nylund he better go back and add more people for the sequel. All in all, S2N is a fun read, but I can't help wondering if another round of polish and editing could have turned it into a classic.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Signal to Noise is the best "cyberpunk" book I have ever read! After indulging in the classics such as Neuromancer and Shockwave Rider, I enjoyed Signal to Noise the most. The story begins fast and maintains its speed through the end. For those who get bored with a lack of action in the stereotypical cyberpunk, this new "hyperpunk" is your answer. Constant action and plot twists help to keep the reader glued to the story. The characters are well written without being overly revealed. The typical futuristic setting is also not oppressive in this book. Nylund presents an extrapolated version of tomorrow based on the trends of today. The plot is my favorite part of this book. I became hooked with the story as it unfolded. The story blends technology, aliens, genetics, and conspiracy theory into a seamless tale of human nature and destinies. You as the reader become witness to an intergalactic struggle for power and survival. The main character, Jack, becomes a middleman between alien civilizations, unexpectedly beginning the countdown to Armageddon. This story explorers human interactions and self-exploration using technology as a backdrop. If you are a fan of the X-files you will thoroughly enjoy this novel. The author, Eric Nylund, has a bachelor's degree in Chemistry and a master's degree in theoretical physics. This education comes through strong in his work. If you can handle some thechno-babble and abstract concepts without giving up on the basic message of a novel, then this book will work well for you. I recommend this novel to fans of science fiction, cyberpunk, or just well written fiction. Signal to Noise will keep your attention from beginning to end and make you contemplate your role on this planet at its conclusion.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Signal to Noise reads much like one would imagine a corraboration between Philip K. Dick and Larry Niven would read. The science is generally hard (with one exception: see below), but not nearly so hard as the oppressive sense of paranoia and lurking evil.
Everyone around Jack, the protagonist, is a potential enemy. Every time he takes a step forward, he runs the risk of finding that he's been walking in the wrong direction. Even his good intentions can have (literally) Earth shattering consequences. And we, the audience, share his paranoia. After awhile, the reader begins to feel like he's navigating a bewildering maze of smoke and mirrors, filled with razor-wire and spring-loaded spikes.
The one area where hard science gives way to soft metaphore is via the sophisticated neural-integrated virtual reality technology of the book. Here the book really starts to seem like a PDK work. In a brilliant variation of the tired, old VR theme, Nylund does not create his artificial experiences out of pixels projected on to retinas, but out of vivid metaphors projected directly into the brain. There is a very literal dream quality to those sequences, heightening the sense of paranoia and the nightmare sense of running down an infinite corridore being chased by ever-closer enemies.
It is a good book. True, it could have been better. The characters could have had a tad more depth (although, in a story filled with shadows, too much depth can be a bad thing) and some of the philosophizing strike a tin note. Never the less, it is an engaging and compelling story that plays to that part of our psyche that Kafka used to explore so very well. It was the stort of story that demanded completion by me even as I came to feel stifled by the oppressiveness of the plot. It is absolutely sadistic that it leaves so much to the sequel -- and absolutely delightful that it torments the reader by doing so.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
First of all, the guys at Avon Eos definitely DO need a new editor for Nylund - in my paperback there were some spelling errors, and some words omitted (I guess they were omitted, as the grammar did not quite make sense). Plus, there was a part of the novel repeated at the end of the book, in the "teaser" section (as if some brain-dead body would run and buy another copy), with excerpts from some other novels - and the criteria for selecting those were totally beyond me. I mean, a fantasy game novelization (Feist's "Krondor. The Betrayal")? Spare me.
The novel itself has logical holes - our supposedly adult hero is more like a babe in the woods, actually, he knows nothing about the world he lives in. His friend from outside the US, the Zero character, does not let on that the Great Wall (ask the author) is cutting off the US, and not China, from the outside world, and so on, and so forth. However, when the action gets quick and dirty, I was tempted to forgive Nylund a lot, even his jejune concepts of world politics. Hence the 4 stars (never 5, though).
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