Synners
In Synners, the line between technology and humanity is hopelessly slim. A constant stream of new technology spawns crime before it hits the streets; the human mind and the external landscape have fused to the point where any encounter with "reality" is incidental.

Synners Details

TitleSynners
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 2nd, 2001
PublisherThunder's Mouth Press
ISBN-139781568581859
Rating
GenreScience Fiction, Cyberpunk, Fiction

Synners Review

  • Bradley
    January 1, 1970
    Cyberpunk. Is it all pretty much a mess wrapped up with mirror shades and spinal shunts, hacking and guns?NOT this one! Well, it was pretty much a mess of characters and mediots for more than half the novel and I'll be honest, I was rather mystified and wondering where the novel was going or whether it WAS going anywhere. It felt like a random number generator approach to novelization. We had a bunch of friends all interconnected on the media-train in all different positions or outside of the co Cyberpunk. Is it all pretty much a mess wrapped up with mirror shades and spinal shunts, hacking and guns?NOT this one! Well, it was pretty much a mess of characters and mediots for more than half the novel and I'll be honest, I was rather mystified and wondering where the novel was going or whether it WAS going anywhere. It felt like a random number generator approach to novelization. We had a bunch of friends all interconnected on the media-train in all different positions or outside of the corporate loop, and most of it was fairly interesting in and of itself, but then I kept asking myself... Where is this going? It felt like a discovery novel. As in, the author is throwing out everything and she's just gonna get there when she gets there.Which is fine, but I truly had to wonder. As a coherency thing, I got through something like 70% of the novel and I was CERTAIN that I was going to give it a 2 star rating. I was SO over it. I didn't like it. I didn't care.So what happened?Well, apparently, Cadigan pulled one hell of a magic trick on us, or she just poured over her text with a VERY fine comb in prep for the rewrite and then just produced GENIUS, wrapping up all these character threads into something really freaking amazing for the last 30% of the novel. Total vindication. All those bits and pieces came shining out of the page and turned this hot mess of a novel into something profound, technologically awesome, and strange.I wouldn't say that I'd like to read this again anytime soon, perhaps, because it was something of a chore, but the satisfaction quotient is WAY up there. She knows how to pull of ENDINGS. Wow.This was the dark horse of all novels. :) And it turned out pretty punk-ish by the end, too, but no guns. It's a nice change for the genre. :)
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  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    Slow and difficult to start this is an incredibly complex and clever book that really pays off in the end.For the first 30% I was mostly baffled, the next 30% was slow but interesting, and the last 40% was just pure OH GOOD GOD THIS IS BATSHIT GENIUS. Hard to believe that this was written 27 years ago about imagined technology rather than as contemporary social commentary because it's SO relevant. It's worth the investment; give it to your brain.
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  • Sylvia Kelso
    January 1, 1970
    Took me three times through to be fairly sure I had all there was in this book, when I first read it back in the early 90s. It's dense. It's cryptic. Its narrative cuts are very, very sharp. It's got its own slang and a heap of expert-IT-argot and it bristles with wicked lines. "If you can't eat it or fuck it and it can't dance, throw it away." - "Ninety percent of life is being there, and the other ten percent is being there on time." And the key-motif, the one the whole book's about: "Change f Took me three times through to be fairly sure I had all there was in this book, when I first read it back in the early 90s. It's dense. It's cryptic. Its narrative cuts are very, very sharp. It's got its own slang and a heap of expert-IT-argot and it bristles with wicked lines. "If you can't eat it or fuck it and it can't dance, throw it away." - "Ninety percent of life is being there, and the other ten percent is being there on time." And the key-motif, the one the whole book's about: "Change for the machines." O my, yes, that still works best of all.The characters are nearly as sharp as the lines, and the world-building is neat - info-LA plugged into every form of VR there was, from appetite-suppressant implants to insty-parties for the suburban wannabes, via somebody's gypsy cam and somebody else's wired up hot-suit. It has excellent space opera sub-stories, and wild ideas about the old SF chestnuts like, What is Human. To quote the other catch-phrase, is all that far enough up the stupidsphere for you?With 20 years and change since the first time, I worried that, like so many near-future cutting edge novels, it wouldn't work when the future catches up. But *Synners* makes it in spades. The info-scene is actually right on line, the comp. science was so well done that it hardly feels dated. The frenzy about viruses is all that seems a bit retrospective now. But the people are still cool. And the lines are still sharp. And the story still whacks along like Metallica on fast forward, and the scenarios haven't lost an inch of punch. Esp. the melt-down viral breakout and the last showdown on the virtual lake-shore - quick nod to "Stranger on the Shore" there - with its scene-jumping almost as fast and confusing for the reader as it is for Gina and Gabe. A few books aren't just a good read but become a world you don't want to leave. I'm happy Synners is still one in my small pile of those. Anyone too far up in the stupidsphere to whack to it, in Synnerspeak - and a number of reviewers seem to have been -well, that's a real shame for her or him.
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  • Viv JM
    January 1, 1970
    DNF @ 116 pagesI gave this a shot but can't muster any enthusiasm to continue. I have no idea what is going on (but nothing about it has inspired me to persevere to discover) there are too many characters to keep track of, and I am finding the writing style jarring. I don't think cyberpunk is my thing.
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  • Kaitlin
    January 1, 1970
    This was the pick of the month for the #LadyVaults on #MagicalSpacePussycats and so, naturally, I read it. It was my first foray into Cyberpunk, and it was MiNdBeNdInG! This was written during the early stage of the web, and yet it is jammed full of new ideas, and ideas which really have happened. A story filled with hackers and VR, simulations and big bad corporations...definitely a little scary when compared to our world, but also very imaginative!One element which I did like about this was th This was the pick of the month for the #LadyVaults on #MagicalSpacePussycats and so, naturally, I read it. It was my first foray into Cyberpunk, and it was MiNdBeNdInG! This was written during the early stage of the web, and yet it is jammed full of new ideas, and ideas which really have happened. A story filled with hackers and VR, simulations and big bad corporations...definitely a little scary when compared to our world, but also very imaginative!One element which I did like about this was the sheer amount of female characters. A lot of the time I read books by male authors when reading SFF and I think over time that has made me accept the 'token' women in the story more than I should. This book, being written by a lady, has about a 50/50 split of male/female characters, and that alone was truly refreshing.I will say if you want to dive into this it is probably going to be a challenge for you if it's your first Cyberpunk (like me) but if you push on it does have some very cool moments. I definitely enjoyed reading this and the experience it gave me, coming waaay out of my comfort zone. Overall a 3.5* from me. *** If you want to hear spoiler-y discussion of this book it will be featured in Magical Space Pussycats Podcast Ep. 3 which should go up next week, so keep a look out for that :D ***
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  • Alexandra
    January 1, 1970
    I'd kinda forgotten how much I love good cyberpunk until I read this. Turns out I really really like it.Interestingly, in many ways this feels like a prequel to much of the cyberpunk I've read. The main contention is the invention of putting sockets into people's heads to allow them to experience and manipulate the datelines (read: internet) more directly... the result of which, or something similar, is what Gibson and Scott and their friends are basically examining. So from a 'getting started' I'd kinda forgotten how much I love good cyberpunk until I read this. Turns out I really really like it.Interestingly, in many ways this feels like a prequel to much of the cyberpunk I've read. The main contention is the invention of putting sockets into people's heads to allow them to experience and manipulate the datelines (read: internet) more directly... the result of which, or something similar, is what Gibson and Scott and their friends are basically examining. So from a 'getting started' perspective I found this book really awesome, and in lots of other ways too.Cadigan takes the 'cast of thousands' approach, using multiple perspectives (although always in third person) to show lots of different dimensions and angles to the story. There were times at which this was a bit confusing, but on reflection I wonder if this wasn't done intentionally. There were quite a few chapters which shifted perspective where the new character could have been one of several, and it's only revealed whose story we're reading after a page or so. This contributed to the fairly frenetic feel that the entire book indulges in, which is largely appropriate given the madness that ensues in the second half of the story. It's also very nice because the variety of characters and their individual stories give wonderful perspective and insight into different aspects of the story. Which I liked.The world Cadigan has created is simultaneously a bit dated - it was published in 1991 - but, once some of the terms are translated, also quite recognisable. She talks of datalines and how people get their news; that's basically souped-up data retrieval services and massively hyped up RSS readers that do the work for you. And then they use the sockets initially to rev up rock music videos, which is just such an hysterically funny idea that the sheer bizarreness just carried me away giggling and happily belief-suspended. Also, there's a lot of drug use. Which is perhaps neither here nor there, but also certainly adds to the manicness. The plot revolves around the introduction of sockets and what that might mean for society, with a whole lot of corporate hijinkery and espionage and hackery as well. There's a father/daughter relationship that pops up every now and then - not something you see every day in this sort of futuristic novel - as well as, somewhat surprisingly when you see the characters, a love story that's not very romantic in one way, but actually really is sweet in a fierce I'll-deck-you sort of way. Plus a load of bizarre and whacked friendships and enmities that go a long way towards populating this world with dysfunctional but quite entertaining characters.This was my first Cadigan novel. I'll be coming back for more. (In fact I have Tea from an Empty Cup sitting on my shelf....)
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  • Karin
    January 1, 1970
    I have often joked at work that I can't wait for the day when I can just plug in and let my company use my brain-power while I entertain myself with a book. It's a fun thought, but Synners explores what that might really be like. What if we could get information out of our heads as easily as thinking? What if we could experience things virtually by inputting sensory information directly into our brains? For Gina, Gabe, and Visual Mark the invention of "sockets" in conjunction with brain mapping I have often joked at work that I can't wait for the day when I can just plug in and let my company use my brain-power while I entertain myself with a book. It's a fun thought, but Synners explores what that might really be like. What if we could get information out of our heads as easily as thinking? What if we could experience things virtually by inputting sensory information directly into our brains? For Gina, Gabe, and Visual Mark the invention of "sockets" in conjunction with brain mapping lets that happen. At first they use it to create immersive "movies" and music videos, but soon it becomes clear how much they have to "change for the machines", a phrase used by several characters to describe their feelings about technological advances.The three main characters, each a creator of virtual reality entertainment, have different reactions to sockets. Gina is the least accepting of the technology. She is already used to chasing Visual Mark around in real life, pulling him out of drugged stupors and trying to steer him in productive directions. She long ago gave up the idea of them as a couple, but still sees their lives as permanently and intimately twined. She receives sockets to try to maintain her connection to Mark when the large corporation they work for decides they are giving Mark sockets whether she comes along or not. Her relationship to the sockets is adversarial. Though she creates music videos when needed, she makes no effort to soften the impact of her thoughts. If they want a fall in the video, she makes sure it is a terrifying fall.Mark is on the far other end of the spectrum. He has always been extremely creative and used drugs as a way to temper his own thoughts. Now that he has sockets he abandons his body and learns to use the technology around him as his senses and limbs. He can finally get his visualizations out of him in all of their glory.Gabe is somewhere in between. Before the sockets he spent most of his time with virtual companions in a virtual world he'd cludged together and which mutated in unexpected, but desirable, ways. He was used to his companions and the technology he had to interact with them. He turned out just enough work to stay employed. When sockets made the technology he was used to obsolete, he had a hard time adjusting. They promised him that it would be easier to create virtual scenarios, after all, it only took a thought, but he found it hard to master his own thoughts. He used to fit so comfortably into the world he had created. The creation of the world, once catalyzed did not require his intervention, just his participation. After the sockets he stood in his own way when creating things that required his concentration. The sockets demanded that he be the ever-present master of his imaginings.What is interesting about these characters as a set, especially to the reader who may live to see such technologies, is that they are all middle-aged. They have history and complications that younger characters do not. They remember when virtual reality and brain manipulation technologies were in their infancy and those of their generation that were going to wash out already have. They are survivors who don't spend their day blissed out on their own brain implants or slaves to their datafeeds. The stratification of society into mindless consumers, renegade innovators, ultrapowerful elites, and survivors, is a hallmark of cyberpunk. In a lot of cyberpunk books, the hero is one of the renegade innovators, i.e. hackers, but Cadigan chose the survivors instead and it makes the characters more relateable.'Ah. I thought you looked like you needed, um, change for the machines.' Gabe shrugged self-consciously; he could feel the entire common room watching. The man's smile was unexpectedly broad and sunny. 'That's a good way to put it. How did you know? [...] My whole life has been, "Okay, change for the machines." Every time they bring in a new machine, more change.' -Synners (SF Masterworks edition) pg 105Cadigan also has a way with words that twists the reader to see things in a new light. For example, the phrase "change for the machines" which is echoed throughout the book was first introduced in a scene shortly after Visual Mark's small music video production company was acquired by Diversification Inc, a huge conglomerate. He wanders into an employee meet-and-greet to use the coffee vending machine and after a while of patting himself down Gabe offers him "change for the machines". Mark immediately latches on to that phrase and has a private epiphany about the nature of humanity as it relates to immersive technology. The reader is privy to the slow unfolding of this epiphany.This isn't the only example of the beauty of Cadigan's writing, but it is the most easily encapsulated. I originally picked up this book because I heard Cadigan speak on a panel at Lonestarcon 3 (that year's Worldcon). Now I can't wait to reread Synners and then tear through everything she's published hoping to absorb just a little of the magic into my own writing.
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  • MichaelK
    January 1, 1970
    I did not get very far with this one. I found Cadigan's writing extremely irritating. I felt like she was trying too hard to be cool, down with the kids. The story is about tattooed druggie hackers who listen to rock music and go against a big corporate record label, or something. At the start of chapter 2, one character (who is of course very cool) is in court, wondering whether she will be found guilty of anything and charged. The speculation concludes with:'Fuck it, what difference did one m I did not get very far with this one. I found Cadigan's writing extremely irritating. I felt like she was trying too hard to be cool, down with the kids. The story is about tattooed druggie hackers who listen to rock music and go against a big corporate record label, or something. At the start of chapter 2, one character (who is of course very cool) is in court, wondering whether she will be found guilty of anything and charged. The speculation concludes with:'Fuck it, what difference did one more charge make, anyway? The fines would clean her out and then some, one more garnishment on her wages, so-fucking-what. All she cared about now was getting back on the street'Later, she wonders what her BFF Mark is doing:'But the best question was what the fuck was Mark doing there all on his own without a word to her. She and Mark were in it together, always had been. They'd been in it together in the beginning, and when Galen had bought most of the video-production company out from under the Beater, and they'd been in it together when Galen had let the monster conglomerate take EyeTraxx over from him, and they were supposed to be in it together the day after tomorrow, when they were due to show up for their first full day working for the monster conglomerate.'Cadigan is so fucking cool that she italicises the word 'fuck'.I gave up at page 36. Not my thing.
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  • Chris
    January 1, 1970
    Whilst this is undeniably cyberpunk and its view of the future is very much one from the early 90s (I kept feeling surprisingly nostalgic in the midst of all the horror) this is definitely different in tone. Whilst many of the other works of the time are more reminiscent of action movies, full of nudity and violence, this is much more considered and exploratory. It doesn't lack for explosive events but has a strong character focus and solid world building which really marks it out.
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  • Alison
    January 1, 1970
    What if the tech revolution, instead of being made by start-up and college geeks, was driven by MTV-era creatives? That's essentially Cadigan's premise in this cyberpunk classic. It's impossible, obviously, not to read this 1991 novel with 2014 eyes, but I suspect that simply enriched the experience (particularly as I find cyberpunk mostly irritating as a rule). It's why a lot of this review will focus on the future-vision of Cadigan.Cadigan got some things spot on - the concept not only of buil What if the tech revolution, instead of being made by start-up and college geeks, was driven by MTV-era creatives? That's essentially Cadigan's premise in this cyberpunk classic. It's impossible, obviously, not to read this 1991 novel with 2014 eyes, but I suspect that simply enriched the experience (particularly as I find cyberpunk mostly irritating as a rule). It's why a lot of this review will focus on the future-vision of Cadigan.Cadigan got some things spot on - the concept not only of built in traffic-warning GPS stands out, but even more so for the prediction that it would always get you the info just too late to do anything about it. The sense of an ever-connected life - a staple of the genre - seems much less surprising than it did in the 1990s.But the more interesting thing is probably the fundamental differences. Mostly the assumption that what would drive technology was the entertainment industry, people's desire for spectacle that would move them, draw them in, enable them to connect with each other more deeply. And that this would be fueled by the drug-addled, vision-inspired world of video creation, which end up replacing even "Old Hollywood".Instead, it seems to me, while communication and connection have driven a lot of our technology in the last decade, it has been less immersive forms - text-based communication that doesn't rely on synchronicity to be effective; communication that enables us to chat lightly with a wide range of people - not the kind of tech that lets you get (literally) into your lovers head. Similarly, our entertainment industry has gone for more superficiality - cheap swelling-music emotional moments and lots of eye candy explosions - not the kind of dizzying, emotive, complex sequences Cadigan envisages. I'm not sure what that means about who we've become, but Cadigan's vision gave me a different way of looking at it.Of course, Cadigan wasn't predicting the future, she was writing a novel. And it's a great read. As mentioned above, this isn't my preferred genre, and I'm absolutely not a video music geek either, so I'm a tough audience. Like a lot of sf, the book asks a lot at the beginning, introducing a large cast with whiplash speed, alongside a new slang dialogue. The ebook would really have benefited from Amazon's x-ray feature, letting you quickly look up characters, but it wasn't set-up. I found myself searching for names to remind myself of who was who for roughly the first 30%, when it all comes together and the pace picks up in a pretty absorbing way, and I started to tear through. There were slow bits - the video sequences in particular, but mostly it was a pretty simple story well told, and I enjoyed it to the end. Can't ask more than that.
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  • Adam Whitehead
    January 1, 1970
    In the not-too-distant future, the world is a morass of internet-based TV shows and corporate greed. The people best-equipped to survive in this world are those who synthesise content for the net: synners. The arrival of sockets, cybernetic implants which allow people to directly interface with computers through their minds, marks a major change in society and technology, and what it means to be human. But when something goes wrong, it falls to one group of synners - outcasts, failures and data In the not-too-distant future, the world is a morass of internet-based TV shows and corporate greed. The people best-equipped to survive in this world are those who synthesise content for the net: synners. The arrival of sockets, cybernetic implants which allow people to directly interface with computers through their minds, marks a major change in society and technology, and what it means to be human. But when something goes wrong, it falls to one group of synners - outcasts, failures and data junkies - to save society, fix the net...and discover that intelligence itself can be synthesised as well.Synners is the third novel by American SF author Pat Cadigan. Originally released in 1991, it was a late-breaking novel in the cyberpunk movement, championed by the likes of Bruce Sterling, William Gibson and Neil Gaiman. It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and has been enshrined in the Gollancz SF Masterworks range as one of the all-time defining works of science fiction.Synners is interesting for coming towards the end of the cyberpunk movement, at least before subsequent books like Jeff Noon's Vurt and Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon began taking it in very different directions and the movement was subsumed more into science fiction as a whole. It's also interesting for coming during the earliest days of the internet as we know it, so at least some terminology (laptops, email, virtual reality) rings true, unlikely earlier cyberpunk whose invented terms now feel very dated. Like most cyberpunk authors Cadigan missed mobile phones, but it oddly doesn't feel as archaic in this book. Cadigan is more interested in how technology and being networked impacts on the human condition and the methodology for accessing the net is less important. It is impressive how many other things she got right: satnav systems which actually don't really help anyone get anywhere, hackers uploading viruses to the net just for giggles and self-driving vehicles all feel pretty much on-point at the moment.More impressive is how the novel feels like it's subverting cyberpunk itself. The Los Angeles of Cadigan's future America is, well, pretty much Los Angeles today, maybe slightly bigger and dirtier but certainly not the Los Angeles of Blade Runner. There's nary a mirrorshade or ill-advised superskyscraper (in an earthquake zone!) in sight and cyborg cops smashing down doors and firing massive guns are notable by their absence. But growing corporate power and tech companies acting like they are above the law and pressurising baffled politicians who can't see beyond the next election into giving them carte blanche to do whatever the hell they want without regard for the consequences for society and the economy have never felt more appropriate.Cadigan's prose mixes poetry with hard-edged science fiction descriptions of hardware and software. They are sequences of people immersing themselves in the net and drugs which come across as lucid fever dreams. The novel also delights in the mundane: one of the most important viewpoint characters, Gabe, has marriage problems and a changeable relationship with his daughter, Sam. There is a frustrated air of rebellion in many characters, who take drugs and listen to loud music but no-one really cares any more, certainly not the government which is now wholly in the pocket of corporate interests.Synners has some sins (syns?). The novel is slow to come together, taking a hundred pages to assemble a large cast of viewpoint characters (possibly too many; Gina, Gabe, Sam emerge as the main viewpoints and the novel may have benefited from dropping some of the secondary viewpoints). The scattershot opening makes the world feel grounded and realistic, but the lack of focus makes it hard to work out what's going on. But about a quarter of the way into the book starts to coalesce and the last quarter has the pedal fully to the metal as a global crisis erupts and only our "heroes" - the most dysfunctional bunch of hackers and artists you could ever hope to meet - can save the day.Synners (****½) is a smart and grounded cyberpunk novel that gave the genre a final shakedown, stole its wallet and told it go and do something more interesting. Not the easiest of reads (especially at the start) but one that more than rewards the effort.
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  • Lesley Arrowsmith
    January 1, 1970
    Cyberpunk's not really my thing, but this is an engrossing world, and eventually it makes sense, kind of.... though just about everybody is drugged up to the eyeballs at least some of the time.
  • Drew Shiel
    January 1, 1970
    This does not read like a book written in the 80s.
  • S.J. Higbee
    January 1, 1970
    This cyberpunk winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award takes a while to get going as the group of disparate characters are established amongst a tech-heavy world in a near-future where everyone is increasingly reliant on their technology. Given that this was written and published back in 1992, before many of our current technological gismos were in current use, Cadigan’s world is eerily prescient. I felt very at home with much of her near-future predictions, which is a tad worrying when considering This cyberpunk winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award takes a while to get going as the group of disparate characters are established amongst a tech-heavy world in a near-future where everyone is increasingly reliant on their technology. Given that this was written and published back in 1992, before many of our current technological gismos were in current use, Cadigan’s world is eerily prescient. I felt very at home with much of her near-future predictions, which is a tad worrying when considering how it all ends.When there is a number of main characters, there are always the one or two who particularly chime – for me, these were Gina, who hooked up with the video star Visual Mark twenty-something years ago and is still drifting in his wake as he becomes increasingly lost to his videos and drug-taking. Though she is still a name to contend with, as her daredevil stunts in Mark’s videos have earned her respect throughout the industry. She sings off the page with her cynical, acidic asides and her gritted passion for what she believes in. The other character I really loved is poor old Gabe, the typical artist-turned-corporate-wage-slave, who makes advertisements, while wishing he did almost anything else. To allay his boredom and sense of futility, he regularly escapes into a classic game using a hotsuit to enable him to virtually interact with the two main characters in the game.This is one of the main attributes of cyberpunk – not only to pull the reader into a high-tech, near-future world, but also into cyberspace where reality exists in the interface between humanity and machines. And the best of this genre takes you there, immersing you into an altered landscape, where memes and symbols take on different meanings that the reader completely accepts.Therefore when it all starts kicking off, two-thirds of the way through this one, Cadigan’s virtual world sings off the page in a blend of poetry and prose as she depicts her characters’ rich inscapes with complete conviction. This is why I am prepared to slow down my normal reading rate for this particular genre and pay attention – because the rewards are so very satisfying when it is done well. Needless to say, the climax is beautifully handled, and the final third of the book was difficult to put down as the plot continues gathering momentum during the ongoing crisis and humanity attempts to fight back. And in this genre, there is no guarantee of a ‘happy ever after’ ending.I finally put the book down, aware of coming back to the present from a long way away – always the mark of a master worldbuilder. So while Synners takes time to get going, my advice with this one is to persevere – it’s worth it.9/10
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  • Allan Dyen-Shapiro
    January 1, 1970
    As much as I enjoy cyberpunk, I had never read this, one of the classics of the field; I had only read more recent stuff from Cadigan. And in that, she was much more conventional, a single protagonist, well-developed character fiction, to go with the ideas. Here, what she achieves is a completely immersive experience. Much like William Gibson in the same period, Cadigan chooses third person, limited, multiple POV, with lots and lots of characters given POV time, none more central than the others As much as I enjoy cyberpunk, I had never read this, one of the classics of the field; I had only read more recent stuff from Cadigan. And in that, she was much more conventional, a single protagonist, well-developed character fiction, to go with the ideas. Here, what she achieves is a completely immersive experience. Much like William Gibson in the same period, Cadigan chooses third person, limited, multiple POV, with lots and lots of characters given POV time, none more central than the others. The characters are unique, cool, and go along being themselves in parallel with the other characters, creating the entire synner subculture.Synners synthesize reality. At first through immersive virtual reality in what seems uncannily similar to today's technology, but later in sockets hardwired into their heads, reality is synthesized. The Beater is an ex-rock-and-roller who gave up his musical instrument for the role in creating. Visual Mark is an artist, almost not a part of the world, until he becomes completely digital when his physical body dies. Gabe, whose mid-life crisis is two female AIs with whom he escapes both his advertising job and his loveless marriage to a woman who will leave him once she gets sufficiently rich from real estate deals. Sam, his daughter, emancipated when she couldn't deal with Gabe's wife either, teenage, living the life of rebellion with an outsider class, but growing closer from a distance to her Dad who is now doing things she considers cool. Gina, quite violent, who follows Mark into the dangerous world of sockets and videos just to satisfy the adrenaline junky in her. And many others. And those are just the protagonists--there are also cool antagonists.Certain phrases, certain images, certain statements form leitmotifs that continue to recur as in a dream. But yet, Cadigan doesn't default to the Ginsberg/Kerouac/Burroughs stream of consciousness beatnick style. By sticking rigorously to formal grammar and achieving some beautiful sentences that would be at home in a literary novel, she can go nearly off the rails in terms of complexity, oddity, and number of characters/subplots of which the reader must keep track, and then pulls back just enough in the direction of conventional that the impressionistic montage converges into a plot with an actual resolution.A very enjoyable experience; I recommend this novel highly.
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  • Jani
    January 1, 1970
    Synners is a wonderfully ambitious novel that reinvented the young yet already torpid genre of cyberpunk. While the ideas about the future of computer use and hacking have not quite come through, the characters and mostly engaging writing keep the novel readable twenty odd years after its release. Cadigan's follows a group of people whose lives are tied to computers and computer-based entertainment industry in future California. Whether corporate lackeys, visionaries, or hackers the characters' Synners is a wonderfully ambitious novel that reinvented the young yet already torpid genre of cyberpunk. While the ideas about the future of computer use and hacking have not quite come through, the characters and mostly engaging writing keep the novel readable twenty odd years after its release. Cadigan's follows a group of people whose lives are tied to computers and computer-based entertainment industry in future California. Whether corporate lackeys, visionaries, or hackers the characters' lives intersect at a moment when technology is about to takes its next big step. Whether this results in a brave new world or worse is partly in their hands.Synners is full of ideas of which some seem plausible even today, which is quite an achievement considering how fast the technology has evolved during the last 24 years or so since it was released. Of course, now one could foresee the burst of internet nor the technological addiction that has spread through the Western society in the last 10 years, but Cadigan did a decent job with her debut. Of course, not all works and Cadigan's ambition also shines in her language, which takes the certain "don't give a damn" -attitude of cyberpunk, the punk in it, to another level with its refusal to help the reader along too much. On the other hand, Cadigan is not foolish enough unlike some cyberpunk authors to forget about the humanity or characters while depicting the dystopic potentials of the future. The people, even in their addictions and personal nihilisms, are still human beings all the same, which gives access to the novel. It is one of the things that make the difficult sections endurable and perhaps turns this from a at times dense novel, which one is relieved to lay down before a head ache, to an interesting one that perhaps deserves another crack to appreciate its complexity.
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  • Fraser Simons
    January 1, 1970
    "Who do you love?"Although published in 1991 the world of Synners and L.A in the late 80's still feels relevant. More relevant than a lot of cyberpunk, even late first wave ones such as this. Pat Cadigan missed the normal technological advancements the genre is known for such as: cell phones. But reading it doesn't feel archaic though, maybe because it's a hard, purposeful look at nostalgia itself. "The way we all kept adding to the nets did exactly that, passed a threshold. It got to the point "Who do you love?"Although published in 1991 the world of Synners and L.A in the late 80's still feels relevant. More relevant than a lot of cyberpunk, even late first wave ones such as this. Pat Cadigan missed the normal technological advancements the genre is known for such as: cell phones. But reading it doesn't feel archaic though, maybe because it's a hard, purposeful look at nostalgia itself. "The way we all kept adding to the nets did exactly that, passed a threshold. It got to the point where the net should have collapsed in chaos, but it didn't. Or rather it did, but the collapse was not a collapse in the conventional sense."GridLid automates your car completely even handles all the traffic jams, resulting in people being fearful of non-automated systems, never having driven "manually" before. Entertainment is imbibed while the bumper-to-bumper traffic takes you hours to get to work. There is porn for everything. Traffic porn, med porn, war porn, food porn. People get off on most anything that's packaged as entertainment. And the stuff that isn't trending now, is gone. Viruses are prevalent and are just a hazard of the world; most people don't know how to get rid of them. Discarding technical know-how for the ease of products automating their lives. That's where the punks come in, the hackers. "If you can't fuck it and it doesn't dance. Eat it or throw it away."A slow build up hampers the book at first. Most of the pages are reserved for introductions to each. Though effective in the long term, it does take a while to get into it. But once it's done showing you the characters and by proxy, the world—the book is undeniably richer for it. Where Synners is so interesting compared to some other first wave novels (beyond the world building aspects) is that there is kind of a post-cyberpunk vibe happening throughout, intentional or otherwise."We don't grieve for what might have been in rock'n'roll. We just keep rockin' on."Gina is old enough to remember and venerate "properly," rock'n'roll music. This lauding of a wave that died out, along with the notion that "punk" is also dead is a consistent through line, reinforced with vivid imagery of music videos and lyrics from songs that just won't leave her alone. She is stuck in a self destructive loop that is explained by the impulses of the human body, rooting her problems in her humanity. Her pain seems to stem from her embodiment, yet she still wouldn't change a thing. Hard life, hard love, hard everything. "Back in Mexico, when he first put the wires in when you were there. If you'd leaned down then, put your mouth on his, he might have stayed. Because after that nothing could pull him back, not love, not sex, not you. Not nothing, not no-how."Visual Mark on the other hand chooses the "datalines" (the Internet) instead. Once a close couple, madly in love, eating each other up—now mature and unable to carry on with their relationship; effectively due to the past. Their mistakes, their nostalgia for them, and the various forms of coping so they don't ever have to deal with it, all damning of the societal structures in place. Mark unwilling to take true responsibility for them, instead shrugging them off to the system. "He was still wondering what would become of him when he felt the first shock wave, followed by the last message he would ever receive from the meat."The main thrust of the book is that "sockets" are invented, which would also be antiquated tech in most cyberpunk novels, and the world dives right in because capitalism. Diversifications, a megacorporation disseminates this new and unsafe tech to the masses. And while Gina hungers for the same power to make music videos "alive" again through the use of this technology, possibly rekindling everyone's love for rock'n'roll again, as well as Mark's own love for her. Mark allows it to consume him whole. Through the eyes of many of the characters we see what capitalism has wrought. Only this time it's through this more interesting lens rooted in music; quizzically, not punk. The idea that the first wave was almost gone and along with it, cyberpunk as a subgenre, parallels Gina and Mark's struggle with their past and glory days. How enticing our memories make events that were actually horrible; allowing us to view the wreckage of our lives with rose-coloured glasses. Post-cyberpunk in that it seems to critically evaluate the genre, subverting it in a few places."This ain't rock'n'roll. It ain't been rock'n'roll for a long fucking time. This is business, and money, and change for the machines, but it ain't rock'n'roll.Mark himself could represent the genre as it existed in first wave. He is an anti-hero, unlikeable but attractive in non-conformative ways. His past has destroyed parts of him, including some brain damage that makes him even better at using tech to become more than he is now, transcending himself. Leaving "the meat," as he so often refers to it, behind. He has a particular affinity and knack for something because society has fucked him up; the "system" has damaged him. The typical protagonist for early cyberpunk."I'm not really in there, now. I'm maintaining it, but there's nobody home. I know it doesn't happen that way for you, but that's how it is for me. "Gina can interact with people just fine, though. She is more-or-less "well adjusted" and chooses to be a voice of dissent. Picking physical conflicts and verbal ones, choosing embodiment every step of the way. How she interacts with people, especially if they are seen by her as being a part of the system that has essentially destroyed the love of her life, Visual Mark, is by being angry. Being a punk. She is a part of an older generation, now been left behind. She's angry, and tired, and does exactly what she wants when she wants to. The only weakness she has is Mark, the personification of this old way of life that she cannot let go. The wound in her mouth that would heal; if she'd only stop tonguing it. The book is primarily (as I see it) about examining embodiment; the products of our society and commodification of anything of value. Who power structures benefit and what those wounds might look like in a cyberpunk future becoming an allegory for the targeting of the unlucky few, who grow to be far too many. How powerful nostalgia is, a resurgence of it being inevitable, often; usually by means of any advancement in technologies. It's smart, funny, at times; easy to empathize with, and features good prose mixed with a cyberpunk aesthetic that feels like a prequel while being critical of the genre as it was about to "die."It's worth reading."But it's different when you think you have no choice, and then suddenly you do after all."
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  • Simon
    January 1, 1970
    In many ways this book simply reinforced my opinion that I don't really like "cyberpunk". Apparently another of the leading beacons of the sub-genre and another that I have broadly not liked.The story contains an interesting premise and explores what might happen (and go wrong) when the brain and cyberspace become too closely connected. But there were several things about the way this was executed that I didn't like.For one thing, there was a large number of (not particularly memorable) characte In many ways this book simply reinforced my opinion that I don't really like "cyberpunk". Apparently another of the leading beacons of the sub-genre and another that I have broadly not liked.The story contains an interesting premise and explores what might happen (and go wrong) when the brain and cyberspace become too closely connected. But there were several things about the way this was executed that I didn't like.For one thing, there was a large number of (not particularly memorable) characters with shifting POV's. Not unusual in and of itself and I don't normally mind but when you are left for a page or two each time before the narrative makes it clear which character it has shifted to it just gets frustrating. This was exacerbated perhaps by fact that many of the characters didn't have much depth. Indeed, one wonders why there were so many characters in the narrative and how necessary they all were.I had some issues with plausibility as to the way the threat came about and spread around; it just didn't seem very convincing to me. I can't really talk too much about it though for fear of spoilers.The book feels dated and not because of the the author's failure to predict how the future would turn out but more stylistically. It feels very much like a book from the late 80's/early 90's and reminds me of why I never really liked much SF from the time.Some people will enjoy this, particularly those of you who like the sub genre, but if you're not already keen I doubt this will do much to turn you on to it
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  • DiscoSpacePanther
    January 1, 1970
    I really wanted to like this book because I enjoy cyberpunk-ish stories. The novel has innovative elements, my favourite being Sam's "potato" powered computer!I suspect that when it was published most people were unaware that computers could have viruses. (Given that I had an Amiga computer from 1989, I was well aware that viruses could and would infect a disk whenever they could - if only the characters in this story could have slid the write-protect tab to prevent infection).Overall, I had two I really wanted to like this book because I enjoy cyberpunk-ish stories. The novel has innovative elements, my favourite being Sam's "potato" powered computer!I suspect that when it was published most people were unaware that computers could have viruses. (Given that I had an Amiga computer from 1989, I was well aware that viruses could and would infect a disk whenever they could - if only the characters in this story could have slid the write-protect tab to prevent infection).Overall, I had two main problems with the story:1) It was sloooooooow to get going. I only felt any sense of pace beyond the pedestrian in the final two-fifths, and the early chapters felt repetitive without making me care about the characters.2) The narrative style was very unstructured and stream-of-consciousness-esque, but in a fragmented way. It made it difficult to follow who was who, and where they were. Having the two main protagonists both have a four-letter name beginning with "G" is just the easiest of the confusing elements to get familiar with.Still, I found the dated elements of the novel the most fun - intuitively produced virtual reality "rock video", the centralised single-provider satnavs that were always out of date (one of the things that dates it as being pre-Google and iPhone!). I feel that three stars is fair - but I might readjust that score if I ever re-read it.
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  • Nicholas Whyte
    January 1, 1970
    https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2886242.htmlI have to admit that cyberpunk has never really been my thing, and I rather bounced off Synners (short for "synthesisers", people who have allowed their brains to be surgically augmented with devices that allow them to interface directly with computers. It was written in 1991 so the tech has dated rather badly; and I found the proliferation of characters and scene setting, and the fact the the plot doesn't really start until half way through, difficult https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2886242.htmlI have to admit that cyberpunk has never really been my thing, and I rather bounced off Synners (short for "synthesisers", people who have allowed their brains to be surgically augmented with devices that allow them to interface directly with computers. It was written in 1991 so the tech has dated rather badly; and I found the proliferation of characters and scene setting, and the fact the the plot doesn't really start until half way through, difficult to engage with. I've greatly enjoyed Pat Cadigan's recent short fiction, but this didn't work for me.
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  • Haley
    January 1, 1970
    Synners is a whirlwind of stream of consciousness sensory overload and 90s aspirational hacker slang. What it loses to inscrutability it more than makes up for in atmosphere. I'm a sucker for early cyberpunk and am certainly guilty of giddily tweeting out passages about memes or Never Going Off-line but it's okay because this book doesn't take itself too seriously.In addition to being a fast-paced proto-vaporwave romp, Synners does address some interesting themes about AI, consciousness, and hum Synners is a whirlwind of stream of consciousness sensory overload and 90s aspirational hacker slang. What it loses to inscrutability it more than makes up for in atmosphere. I'm a sucker for early cyberpunk and am certainly guilty of giddily tweeting out passages about memes or Never Going Off-line but it's okay because this book doesn't take itself too seriously.In addition to being a fast-paced proto-vaporwave romp, Synners does address some interesting themes about AI, consciousness, and humanity that were reflected in other contemporary media like Ghost in the Shell.If you like cyberpunk, give this one a shot.
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  • Brook
    January 1, 1970
    I wanted to love this, but I found it pretty dense and hard to read. I couldn't really dig into any of the characters, and kinda disliked everyone but Sam, who sadly didn't feature enough in it. Everything got super philosophical and WEBNETLIFEHAXOR to be a cohesive narrative. I would 100% go reread trouble and her friends than read this. It's better than a lot of cyberpunk, but I really wish this'd been a little less complex. Perhaps it's me, but I had a super hard time keeping up with who was I wanted to love this, but I found it pretty dense and hard to read. I couldn't really dig into any of the characters, and kinda disliked everyone but Sam, who sadly didn't feature enough in it. Everything got super philosophical and WEBNETLIFEHAXOR to be a cohesive narrative. I would 100% go reread trouble and her friends than read this. It's better than a lot of cyberpunk, but I really wish this'd been a little less complex. Perhaps it's me, but I had a super hard time keeping up with who was who... I still have no f'ing clue who beater is either. lol.
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  • intrepideddie
    January 1, 1970
    I love a good cyberpunk novel and "Synners" tries hard, but falls short. The problem is, the author spends all her time mimicking other cyberpunk novels rather than doing her own thing. At times it felt like I was reading bad fan fiction for another author.Another nit to pick was the author's liberal use of references to pop culture from the 80s -- there were way too many 80s colloquialisms, and this really ruined the illusion of the story taking place in a future setting.I'm a bit surprised tha I love a good cyberpunk novel and "Synners" tries hard, but falls short. The problem is, the author spends all her time mimicking other cyberpunk novels rather than doing her own thing. At times it felt like I was reading bad fan fiction for another author.Another nit to pick was the author's liberal use of references to pop culture from the 80s -- there were way too many 80s colloquialisms, and this really ruined the illusion of the story taking place in a future setting.I'm a bit surprised that this novel is considered great/classic cyberpunk. Ugh.
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  • Gary
    January 1, 1970
    I was disappointed because I've found Pat Cadigan's stories imaginative and enjoyable. This is supposed to be a classic and when it came out way back when it was probably futuristic and 'far out' but reading it today it is rambling and often incoherent. I'm afraid it is dated and somewhat tedious to my eyes that are accustomed to cutting edge technology and a tighter plot style. I can't recommend you buy it but if a friend has a copy borrow it and decide for yourself.
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  • Brian
    January 1, 1970
    What might happen when the human brain interfaces directly with a network of powerful computers? Entertainment, of course, but something far beyond MTV, something that places the viewer in the experience, with maybe an LSD or Ecstacy filter, everything enhanced, time and space manipulated...What effects would that have on the human brain? What would those effects do to the system?The answer is far more than I could have imagined, and it's not healthy.
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  • Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
    January 1, 1970
    I've been curious about this ever since someone, I don't remember who, mentioned Cadigan's thoughts on pornography in conjunction with this book. I don't remember if this interview was specifically cited or linked, but you can read them there.
  • Cory Brandley
    January 1, 1970
    My biggest problem was that the book didn't flow as smoothly or present as strong of a storyline as I would have liked. Having said that, it was still a very interesting take on the future of technology and artificial intelligence and I'm glad I stuck to it and finished the book
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  • Fran
    January 1, 1970
    Any cyberpunk library collection needs to include Pat Cadigan's Synners. And a potato clock.
  • Rebecca McNutt
    January 1, 1970
    Frightening and disturbing novel, well-written and unforgettable. I didn't really like the way that the book dragged on in some parts though, it began to get really annoying.
  • Jessica Draper
    January 1, 1970
    Pat Cardigan wrote Synners back in 1991, before we’d all visited the Matrix, played with Player1, or frittered away our lives in Better Than Life--basically, before we’d virtually jacked in and absorbed cyberpunk expandio ad absurdum into into our collective (sub/un)conscious. So following Cardigan’s 16-bit version of “The Future Is All in Your Head” feels a lot like reading Dracula and wanting to yell “He’s a vampire, you idiots!” as the Harkers and Van Helsing blinkeredly puzzle over what in t Pat Cardigan wrote Synners back in 1991, before we’d all visited the Matrix, played with Player1, or frittered away our lives in Better Than Life--basically, before we’d virtually jacked in and absorbed cyberpunk expandio ad absurdum into into our collective (sub/un)conscious. So following Cardigan’s 16-bit version of “The Future Is All in Your Head” feels a lot like reading Dracula and wanting to yell “He’s a vampire, you idiots!” as the Harkers and Van Helsing blinkeredly puzzle over what in the world made those marks on Lucy’s throat. Of course the Big Bad Corporation is going to abuse technology! Of course the slick lawyer is evil! Of course the ragged band of (I’m extrapolating here, but with good cause) malodorous, poorly socialized hackers is going to save the herds of sheeple and normies from the consequences of their blind entertainment-consumerism! None of that is new--actually, few of the broad strokes were new when Cardigan was writing it--which means that the only hope is for a familiar tale told well. Which this one isn’t. Other reviews mention that it takes a long time to get going--testify, brothers and sisters! They have also mentioned that it features far too many far too uninteresting protagonists--amen and amen! Middle-aged flameouts, burnouts, and sellouts of various stripes do not make for fascinating company, even for this middle-aged reader. I couldn’t work up enough interest in any of them to wade through the tedious setup. Perhaps the last third manages to strike some sparks from this wet tinder, but I confess I never got that far. My free time is too rare to waste on blather. Poorly written, repetitive, uncreative blather at that. There are enough F-bombs in the first few chapters to annihilate every major city on Earth. Even if you don’t mind the profanity in and of itself, it crowds out all the other verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and nouns that could have expressed more ideas more colorfully and specifically. Over-reliance on a single word (however fun to say when we’re in that “let’s use that curse word we know” phase) flattens and stifles. Unfortunately, Cardigan has the habit of using a few dull terms as a crutch. “Drunk,” along with “sex” and “crazy,” boasts one of the longest collections of colorful synonyms in the English language. But in Cardigan’s voice, high, spritzed, tozzled, soused, baked, fried, flying, and all their wilder cousins boil down to just one inelegant word: “toxed.” Same with “porn.” Everything on the various (static and uninteresting) digital feeds is “porn”--disaster, medical, travel, food, etc., etc. And “very,” “extremely,” “totally,” “definitely” (add your own force multiplier here) is “stone.” Possibly “stone home.” Instead of taking the time to create a fleshed-out slang, or even to throw out a few evocative phrases to hint at the unheard existence of a post-apocalyptic cant, Cardigan comes up with a handful of examples and uses them to death. Toxed on stone slang porn, if you will. But I did smile at “Dr. Fish,” the hacker/virus combo that leaves helpful, Surgeon-General style messages on fast-food drive-in order screens and other such benevolent-paternalist shenanigans. One star for the good doctor.
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