Cyberpunk Review » True Names

June 25, 2008

True Names

Book Review By: Mr. Roboto

Author: Vernor Vinge

Year: 1981

Category: Cyberpunk Books

True Names

In the once upon a time days of the First Age of Magic, the prudent sorcerer regarded his own true name as his most valued possession but also the greatest threat to his continued good health, for–the stories go–once an enemy, even a weak unskilled enemy, learned the sorcerer’s true name, then routine and widely known spells could destroy or enslave even the most powerful. As times passed, and we graduated to the Age of Reason and thence to the first and second industrial revolutions, such notions were discredited. Now it seems that the Wheel has turned full circle (even if there never really was a First Age) and we are back to worrying about true names again.

This opening paragraph pretty much describes the premise of True Names. This novella, released three years before Neuromancer, gives us a cyberspace adventure that has influenced many a cyberpunk writer… possibly even Gibson himself.


Synopsis: Roger Pollack is a computer wizard who frequents the “Other Plane” as “Mr. Slippery” and has other wizard friends whose “true names” are kept secret, even from each other. He is confronted by agents of “The Great Adversary” (The US Government) who has reason to believe that another wizard named “The Mailman” is recruiting other wizards for some type of coup on the net that can lead to control of reality.


Everything you’d expect from cyberpunk… and then some. The “Other Plane” connects to many nets, nodes, and databases. Anyone who has the ability to connect and control them can become a virtual god, and when Mr. Slippery finds out who… or what… The Mailman is, you’ll understand why this novella is definitely cyberpunk.

Don’t believe me? Read it online. (BIG ACK signal to “The Rectifier,” though I have yet to find the zip file he mentions.) You can still find the story for sale by itself, mostly online, or as part of a collection like True Names & Other Dangers and True Names: And the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier.

Read it and see how cyberpunk it is!

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


June 27, 2008

unholy said:

Interesting. I’ve just read the whole thing and–something I have never thought I would ever say–Neuromancer does not seem so original and groundbreaking any more…

July 1, 2008

theprion said:

I read it. And the afterword was truely eye-opening.

April 26, 2009

Patrick said:

Just thought you guys would like to know that the above link is broken, but I managed to google a PDF of the text.

June 7, 2011

spiralofhope said:

Decent book, but it’s annoying when the plot is made “challenging” and I can already figure loopholes through everything beyond what the author had planned as “twists”. It makes the lead character seem rather stupid and the author seem .. well, stupid too.

I like my leads to be smarter than me, and the authors to be deified with a kind of plot-omniscience that I cannot surpass.

An otherwise good book, especially considering its age.

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