Signal to Noise Mass Market Paperback – Jun 1 1999
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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.
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.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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).
Most recent customer reviews
This is genre fiction people. If you want depth in a character read Henry James.
There is just enough character definition since the plot is the main focus here. Read more
Amazon relentlessly recommeded this book through its A.I. Shaky recommendation. Characters- couldn't care less. Terrible character development. Read morePublished on April 26 2004 by Marlon Jackson
I was bit dissapointed with this book. I picked this book up for a story about contact with alien civilizations. Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2004
What drew me into the book was the audacity of the concepts.
The book gathers speed as it goes, it starts out as... Read more
This is one of those books that, as you turn the page, you keep saying to yourself, "no way, this would never happen," and yet you keep reading and reading and reading. Read morePublished on May 23 2003 by MCF
Amazon referred this book to me as one that William Gibson fans liked. If that's how you found it, keep looking-- although I don't doubt that anybody who likes this book probably... Read morePublished on April 10 2003 by Amazon Customer
Although I thought the writing was too technical at times, it was a fascinating journey. The ending was a bit disappointing and judging from the reviews I'm contemplating NOT... Read morePublished on March 26 2003
Nylund throws down a great premise and then blasts you with all of these concepts of bubbles, VR, and even some hard science. Read morePublished on Sept. 24 2002 by Matt Wen
Signal To Noise is a fun, fast book. Nylund's style is completely readable, and he frequently had me on the edge of my seat--this is the kind of novel where you can read two... Read morePublished on July 20 2002 by Kevin