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Cyberbooks by Ben Bova

Cyberbooks (1989)

by Ben Bova

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Ben Bova's strengths as a SF writer have always been a talent near-future technological extrapolation and a gift for using exotic near-Earth settings in interesting ways. Writing plausibly about human beings interacting with one another -- individually or socially -- has never been his strong suit, and seriousness has always suited him better than humor. Bova's work is reliably solid and entertaining when he plays to his strengths, but Cyberbooks plays to his weaknesses, and the result is a nearly unreadable train-wreck of a book.

Set in New York City in an unspecified but non-too-distant future, Cyberbooks is a satire of the publishing industry wrapped in the trappings of a techno-thriller. Unfortunately, the satire falls flat, dragged down by characters who are too grotesquely exaggerated to feel connected to the real world, and dialogue that isn't exaggerated enough to be funny. The leaden satire, in turn, drags the thriller plot down with it. The villains are too absurd to be menacing, and so their nefarious schemes never feel like a threat to the bland heroes. You're left with the memory of better satires -- Paddy Chayefsky's script for Network especially -- and a new appreciation of how hard the genre is to bring off successfully,

The most interesting thing about Cyberbooks is the technology -- not because Bova gets it right, but because of the ways he gets it wrong. His fictional e-reader has the look and feel of a Kindle or a Nook, but it reads content off of miniature disks, and connects to remote servers over the phone lines. The future, in Cyberbooks, doesn't have laptops, palmtops, cell phones, smart phones, flash drives, wireless networks, high-speed data transmission, or the internet as we know it . . . because the world of the late eighties, when Bova wrote the book, didn't have those things. Even the smartest of us (and Bova is in that category) tend to imagine futures that look an awful lot like our present . . . ( )
  ABVR | Jan 10, 2012 |
It's amazing this book came out in 1989 and to see that many of the concerns and enthusiasms on both sides of the ebook debate are still going strong, years later. In Cyberbooks the rejection and objection to the ebook concept comes not from the authors but the marketing department and distributors. The question copyright and IP control don't even enter the question. The book may have been meant as a commentary on the publishing business circa the 1980s and so it suffers from jokes falling flat and a whiff of "quaintness" that often dogs older science fiction. ( )
  roach | Jan 17, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ben Bovaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Vallejo, BorisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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