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Mindkiller: A Novel of the Near Future Wireheads, addicted to an electric current fed into the pleasure centers of the brain, are the new junkies Karen, a former wirehead who barely escaped death by pleasure, is determined to bring down those who sell the wireheading equipment, but she and her lover Joe instead turn up evidence of a shadowy global conspiracynot to control the world, but to keep anyone from realizing that the masters of mind control have been controlling us all for some time now This was a weirdly compelling book I found it because the second chapter formed the basis of one of my favorite Robinson stories (and SF stories in general) God is an Iron from Omni Magazine in 1979 The novel has an unusual leisurely structure, which still holds interest It does not amp action and provide major cliff hangers, but it unspools just enough plot points in a not so hyped and slower unfurl infused with enough intriguing character stuff and world building that I am invested enough in the initial mysteries and curious how Robinson plans to resolve the story And that resolution It's much like a lot of 1960s1970s SF It sets expectations and then subverts those and veers off in an unexpected direction This is a strong 8.7 out of town, which I guess isfour stars than five I really liked it, and I may move on to another Robinson novel I have never read right away, especially since these are not available via audio and so I must read them the old fashioned way. It’s very difficult to give this novel a star rating—some of it is very good, some of it is very predictable, some of it is not so good First the good: The plot is tight and interesting up until the last couple of chapters, where things get a bit loose and baggy, with a bunch of completely unbelievable coincidences There are two plot lines that keep the reader’s brain actively trying to figure out how they relate to each other for the majority of the novel Plus, I appreciated that substantial parts of it were set my home country of Canada The predictable: Well, of course there is a conspiracy to run the world The notsogood: The characters are pretty cardboard—Robinson seems to think that giving them sexual partners and having them take various drugs contributes to character development The women are particularly poorly written, depictedas pseudomen than as women Men and women really do have differences in psychology (vive la difference!) and this book does not really acknowledge this situation.I understand that this is the first in a trilogy, so the (for me) unsatisfactory ending is obviously not the last word, but I am completely unmotivated to seek out the second book I just don’t care what happens to these people The book also suffers from unintended problems of time—it is set in the 1990s, published in the early 1980s, and although Robinson got many things right, there are many details that are jarring to a modern audience Not his fault, even Arthur C Clarke’s masterful 2001 suffered from these (after all, we still don’t have a moon base and travel to Jupiter/Saturn is still only a dream in 2015) Overall, I really wonder how this book was included in the NPR’s list of best science fiction and fantasy It is very average—I wish that half stars were available, as I would give it the absolutely average rating of 2.5 stars As it is, I will round down to two stars (okay), as it was good enough to finish but not good enough to continue the series.This is book 175 in my science fiction fantasy reading project. This book is deftly put together until just about the very end I found the two plot threads equally compelling, which is a tough trick to pull off The characters are each highly damaged but interesting people, and I enjoyed watching their interactions with those around them Norman is an alienated, depressed professor; Joe haswell, I don't want to spoil anything, so we'll say an unusual job and some evenunusual problems Both have been withdrawing from the world, and each is pulled back in by a crusade Norman wants to find his missing sister; Joe is a reluctant white knight protecting a woman on a mission to destroy the companies whose addictive wireheading nearly killed her There are a couple of real surprises here, one of which I managed to guess and then the author succeeded in lulling me back into disbelief before plausibly revealing how he had accomplished the trick It worked, startlingly well The problem is, when they finally do all track the villain down in his lair, we get one of the most egregious infodumpsviavillainmonologues I've seen outside of bad comic books It's then interrupted by a badly foreshadowed deus ex machina Which then redeems itself by turning into one of the better Mexican standoffs I've seen, including a foreshadowed nondeus ex machina that genuinely works This all limps in to a conclusion that does work, but is somehow not quite as satisfying as I would have liked In retrospect, I should have expected thisthere are a couple overly talky scenes early on, in which the characters inform each other via slightly stilted dialogue what the themes of the book will be But the ideas were sufficiently interesting at the time that I was willing to grant some leeway I'm revoking in hindsight The book was written in 1982, relatively early in Robinson's career There's a lot of potential here, and another two books in what appears to be a very loose and spaced out trilogy I'm hoping that he grows out of some of these tendencies The writing date is also particularly amusing at this point, in ways that aren't at all fair The book is set between 2006 and 2011, and like most science fiction written about the nearfuture, it's entertaining to see what holds up and what doesn't On one hand, the existence of Google and cell phones actually does not harm the plot in the slightestRobinson got lucky there On the other, the description of someone as having hair the color of audiotape is strangely anachronistic, and the most impressive computer really imaginable has an entire whopping four terabytes Which I guess is still impressive memory these daysI've only got about a terabyte and a half at home, and adding that much might cost me another couple hundred dollars Oops More problematic is the lack of social renaissance in the cities But while this is entertaining to nitpick, it's not really kind He did a pretty good job, all things considered. Very fascinating book with lots of twists and turns that makes you angry, breaks your heart, then broadens your mind.

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