SILICON SUNSET

Scott T. Grusky

InfoNet Press / 304 pages / 1st edition (February 22, 2010)

ASIN: B0039PTC2K

If John Sladek’s Mechasm was the last book that made you laugh at technology gone awry, you are going to be so pleased you stopped to enjoy Silicon Sunset. With paranoia in style again, this novel has conspiracies to spare and a cynical slant that will entertain almost every segment of the population. Should you be one of those people who are convinced computers are going to “take over the world” though, do us all a favour and skip Silicon Sunset. A few more technophobes is something we can all do without.

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Silicon Sunset jumps ahead to the 21st century and to a world totally foreign to civilisation as we know it. Thoughts, questions, decisions — all have been replaced by the smooth workings of a computer net. Absolute certainty and instantaneous information control every action and keep society moving without a jolt. In short, the fine, flawed brains Citizen X is used to having have been replaced by computer workings. Which is all well and good, unless someone wants to use their own grey matter, in which case they are out of luck. And possibly, in big trouble.

Kale Keeler is about to plunge herself into that kind of trouble. Before she’s done, she may take everyone she’s ever met down with her. What the hell? Maybe she will just pull civilisation in with her.

But, she’s not the bad guy, that much is obvious. If she’s not the villain of the piece, who is? Who is monitoring her every move?

Grusky has created a world that appears all too possible. Rely on the intuition, curiosity, and work ethic of humans and you’ve got a good chance of ending up as flesh avatars for a collection of machines. Depend on the integrity of the corporate world and you are just begging for it to happen. There are always a healthy percentage of the population who think absolute ruler has a certain ring to it.

Admittedly, the wave that overcomes humanity in 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and other cautionary tales is more subtle and, therefore, more genuinely threatening. The humour behind Silicon Sunset and the exaggerations in character make it more akin to Aesop’s fables — possible, but seriously improbable.

That isn’t synonymous with impossible. Besides, Grusky’s easy, seemingly effortless style makes a lesson go down that much easier.

Consider all that against the fact that the bulk of Grusky’s tale was written ten years ago, and it’s his first novel, and you may see a hint of the visionary in his work. He knew about the web and the net… maybe, it’s not so farfetched, after all. Okay, so we might be headed for disaster, but if it hits while you’re reading Silicon Sunset, at least, you’ll go out with a smile on your face.