Wilhelmina Baird:Crashcourse

There's a lot of disagreement these days as to whether Cyberpunk is a movement, a genre, or anything at all. To further cloud the issue, many books claimed by that genre are heavy on the "cyber" but light on the "punk" aspect.

Crashcourse is at the opposite end--heavy on the "punk", light on the "cyber". Computer technology is there, but it's spends no more time onscreen than does, say, television. The rest of Baird's setting has that Gibsonesque lethality; life is cheap, and death is quick. The major difference is that offplanet travel is common, if beyond the means of the "punks".

The three main characters, Cass(the narrator), Moke, and Dosh, high-tech burglar, metal sculptor, and prostitute/actor, respectively, are working on buying three one-way tickets offworld. When Dosh is beaten badly by one of his tricks, they realize they can't go on as they have been. Enter Coelacanth Studios, who want the three of them to star in a movie for the Aris, the idle upper-class.

Aris don't really like "acting" in their movies, though; their lives are so obsessed with the facade that what they crave is reality. So the trio are told that filming will start sometime, and they're left to wonder. They soon rescue a harmless-seeming waif named Mallore, abused by her father and on the run from her erstwhile pimp.

Moke and Dosh are instantly taken with her, even though Cass suspects that something is wrong. In fact, both men act extremely idiotic, Dosh more so since Mallore concentrates her charms on him; I had a hard time believing it, myself, not finding Baird's explanations very convincing.

Unbeknownst to the studio, though, Cass has allies, in the form of Swordfish, a mysterious underworld figure who is a foster-father/brother to her. As Mallore and the movie tear their lives apart, Cass and Swordfish show them they have to face more than they bargained for...

Apart from the no-doubt plot-necessary stupidity of Moke & Dosh, I found this quite believable, if not quite absorbing. She lacks the verbal flair of Gibson, tending more towards the straightforward style of Brust or Cadigan, but the setting is sufficiently gritty, and I imagine that cyberpunk fans will like this one despite its lack of other traditional elements of the genre, or whatever you want to call it.

%A Baird, Wilhelmina
%T Crashcourse
%I Ace
%C New York
%D May 1993
%G ISBN 0-441-12163-2
%P 277 pp.
%O Paperback, US$4.99, Can$5.99

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The Den of Ubiquity / Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com