March 27, 2008

Street: Empathy

Book Review By: Mr. Roboto

Author: Ryan A. Span

Year: 2008

Category: Cyberpunk Books

Website: Street of Eyes

Street:  Empathy


Reports of cyberpunk’s death in literature are premature. Even now, there are writers who have been inspired to write their vision of a techno-dystopic near future, like Mr. Ryan Span (aka “Winter”). His Street Of Eyes website has the serialized version of this soon-to-be released book, and a second book in progress waiting to appear on the site.

Much of what you would expect in cyberpunk literature is here: Hackers, cybernetic soldiers, polluted planet, grim future… along with a couple of (relatively) new elements like telepathy and nanotechnology thrown into the mix. To say Empathy doesn’t bring much new to the table may not be far from the truth, but that doesn’t seem to be the point of the novel. Many have been inspired by the works of Gibson, Sterling, and company, but don’t have the talent… or balls… to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard these days) and write such works. Ryan Span seems to have the balls to do so, and the talent to make a pretty good story out of it.


The cast of characters. Here now is a brief review of the upcoming dead-tree edition, only with a focus on the main characters to limit spoiling the storyline:

  • Gina: She works the Street of Eyes as a “telepath-for-hire.” To activate her power, though, she uses a drug called “Spice.” The Spice gives Gina the ability to get into people’s heads, but she needs to be careful about the head she connects to; Users of Spice have been known to go insane when they connect to psychos.
  • Bomber: He finds Gina on the Street and brings her to his boss. Before long, we find out that he is more than just some gopher for a wealthy client.
  • Gabriel: The head that Bomber’s boss wants Gina to look into. What she finds there isn’t pretty… but later she falls in love with him.
  • The Emperor: A Triad (Chinese mafia) lord that Bomber has worked with.
  • Jock and Rat: Hackers that work for the Emperor. Jock mostly coordinates operations remotely while Rat does the street work. Rat isn’t what he appears to be…
  • Street of Eyes banner

    Not quite Neuromancer, but definitely worth reading. While cyberpunk fans wait for the next Neuromancer or Blade Runner to get excited about, Street may be something to pique their interest.

    And who knows… in twenty years, somebody may write a cyberpunk novel or film a movie based on Street.

    This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Books by Mr. Roboto.

    Several stories in the past week have appeared on MSNBC and elsewhere on the net about robots: Japanese robots replacing the workforce, canine robots in retirement homes, and even armed robots in the Middle East. Here’s what’s popped-up so far:

    Japan looks to a robot future

    AP Photo:  Humanoid robot being rewired
    Source: MSNBC/AP Report: Japan Looks To A Robot Future

    Japan is looking to create life-like robots to replace an aging workforce and assist the elderly. While they’re sill a ways away from robots so realistic they can pass for human, Japan is looking for one million robots in workplaces by 2025.


    Even a faux Fido can comfort lonely people

    Reuters:  ABIO robot dog comforts elderly woman
    Source: MSNBC/Reuters Report: Even a faux Fido can comfort lonely people

    Saint Louis University researchers took an ABIO robot dog and a real dog to three nursing homes to see how residents responded to visits from the two. They were surprised to discover that ABIO was just as comforting to the elders as the real pup.


    Robot Wars… coming soon!

    Source: MSNBC Cosmic Log: Killer Robots… Friend or Foe?

    With robots on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, some armed to the teeth, there’s concern if giving these war machines enough AI to turn them loose as opposed to keeping them under human control. Some want these autonomous bots to have a “conscience” or Asimov’s three laws programed into them. They should pitch that idea to terrorists who are now looking to use robot weapons for their own ends.


    This may only be the beginning. As robotic technology advances, more stories like these will come.

    Now would be a good time to welcome our new robot overlords.

    This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

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