Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Review of Wetware by Rudy Rucker

One positive sign that a sequel will be worthy of the original is the time between publishings. The current practice to rush out the next book as soon as possible, there is more than one example of a sequel simply not matching the quality of the original. With time, however, a writer is generally able to work their idea over, crimp and mold it, poke and prod it to better fit a natural extension of things. Rudy Rucker’s Ware tetralogy a great example, as the six years between the first novel Software and the second Wetware (1988) confirms the theory.

Humanity having taken over the moon and driven the boppers underground, Wetware opens with tense meatie-bopper relations. Trading with the humans while occasionally setting off bombs on the lunar surface, the boppers themselves are not united, however. One bopper in particular has strange ideas about implanting robot sentience into a human body. A secretary waking from a haze of a new drug called Merge, she finds her boy-toy boyfriend murdered and a maniacal man triumphing over her. Realizing she is pregnant in the aftermath, she returns to Earth without telling anyone—becoming a case for the now sober Sta-Hi Mooney to investigate with his burgeoning private eye business. Meatie-bopper relations taking on all new proportions as the secretary’s “child” is born, life will never be defined the same in Rucker’s world.

Another way of summarizing Wetware is: more of the same wonderfully wacky perspectives on robot and human life that Software was. Though approaching from the other side (i.e. robot sentience into the human body rather than vice versa), Rucker is still very capable of slipping in bits and pieces of comical philosophy. This doesn’t mean, however, that scenes such as one bopper trying to convince another to start a family, or the bopper junkyard, or the Asimov uprising (complete with tommy guns), or the “religion” of Ken Doll are any less humorous or absurdly analog. Where many literary authors try to reduce humanity to profound terms in a brevity of words, Rucker, with his zanier, less “serious” approach, still may hit the nail on the head. We may, after all, be nothing more than “information processors”.

In the end, Wetware is not just a coattail rider. Published six years after Software, Rucker allowed the ideas to percolate into a solid story—Wetware another wacky cup of coffee. Bopper-human relations becoming all the more entangled, Rucker continues to play off our understanding of reality and sentience with his own unique view, resulting in more unconventional humor and insight for readers looking for something more engaging than formulaic mainstream fiction.

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