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Claude Lalumiere's Fantastic Fiction
The Ultimate Cyberpunk

edited by Pat Cadigan

(ibooks, $16.00, 414 pages, 1 September 2002; ISBN: 0743452399)

Renowned cyberpunk author Pat Cadigan has cover scanassembled The Ultimate Cyberpunk, an anthology intended as a celebration of the genre that, from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, addressed both the anxieties and the excitement generated by the revolutionary potential of home computers, portable technology, rapidly evolving telecommunications systems, and an expanding array of possibilities for body modification.

The anthology's stated purpose is to highlight a few of the genre's ancestors, present its brightest stars, and showcase how it later evolved. The Ultimate Cyberpunk fails to do any of that adequately.

The four antecedents selected here are among the anthology's best stories regardless of genre, but some explanation is required to understand how these contributed to cyberpunk. That explanation is nowhere to be found. Only James Tiptree, Jr.'s groundbreaking 1973 story "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" is an obvious prototype.

The bulk of the book is devoted to the cyberpunk years, and only the most obvious and oft-seen authors are included. In this section, only William Gibson's visionary "Burning Chrome" still retains its evocative edge. Most of the other stories are mired in excessive exposition.

Only one story represents the post-cyberpunk years: the above-average, but far from spectacular, "Dr. Luther's Assistant" by Paul McAuley. Cadigan doesn't even hint at the diversity of intriguing fiction that evolved from cyberpunk.

Cyberpunk guru Bruce Sterling provides a too-narrowly focused annotated reading list -- which gives disproportionate attention to his own books.

Editor Cadigan's introduction is a similarly off-putting example of self-love. She wastes lots of verbiage plugging her own work and posturing, but fails to actually say anything interesting about either the genre or the anthology.

Originally published in The Montreal Gazette,
Saturday, 19 October 2002.

Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction is a series of
capsule reviews first published in the Saturday Books
section of The Montreal Gazette.

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