Bruce Sterling (ed.)
Mirrorshades (A) (1986)
So, this is it. The definitive cyberpunk anthology. Or so we are told. I am not impressed.
When the cyberpunk wave hit the SF field with a big splash in the mid-1980s I was so busy reading up on older books that I missed it completely. By the time I started noticing, it had already become entrenched as a subgenre. I finally read Neuromancer about ten years late. Nowadays, cyberpunk is increasingly losing its identity and is subsumed into other styles (cf. S. Andrew Swann, Hostile Takeover; Greg Egan).
Sterling's preface and his short introductory paragraphs to each story don't show a lack of ego. Look, he seems to be saying, we're here, we're new, we're bold, we are better. And oh, are we so deep. More than a decade later it sounds like so much hot air. The stories range from a body of typical broken-down, corporate-ruled futures with some streetwise characters muddling through in a haze of drugs and rock'n'roll, the sheer silliness of the time-travel farce "Mozart in Mirrorshades", to the far-out imaginative of Greg Bear's "Petra" where God has died and reality has broken down in consequence. Rucker's "Tales of Houdini" doesn't make any sense to me at all, and Laidlaw's "400 Boys" reads like a demented attempt to write a story worse than Harlan Ellison's infamous first, "Glowworm". It's a mixed bag.
So far I've sounded harsher than the book deserves. Undoubtedly it is overhyped, but it's probably not bad as far as anthologies go. Cyberpunk is a historical movement now. Several of the stories are firmly anchored in the 1980s. What may have been ground-braking then has been turned stale by imitators over the years. Some of the stories aren't cyberpunk at all, but then the limits probably weren't clear at the time.
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