Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Search Engine" by Mary Rosenblum

I really enjoy cyberpunk. Even after all these years, William Gibson's Neuromancer is one of my favourite novels. As a result, Mary Rosenblum's short story, "Search Engine," was a real treat. It had that great computer tech taken to it's nth degree feel to it, with the all too familiar reminder that technology isn't always a good thing. Rosenblum takes the idea of computer networking and runs with it, taking it to some logical, but disturbing conclusions. For good measure, she also throws in Luddiste/Hippie political dissidents called Gaiists, and the idea of migrant "cash" workers to flesh everything out, since everyone wouldn't be happy with the idea that everything is networked, and there are always going to be people who have to take crappily-paying, under the table jobs just to get by. A dark view of society, I know, but this is cyberpunk, folks. It kind of goes with the territory.

It wasn't the setting that really pulled me into this story, though. Instead, it was the very complex main character, Aman. Aman works for Search Engine Inc., which is basically a high-tech detective agency that sorts through all the data generated by everyday life to track down people for their customers. Aman is an old pro at this. He's the sort of cynical, seasoned professional you come to expect from cyberpunk fiction. However, when he's hired by the government to track down a young Gaiist, he starts to have doubts. Throught the progression of the story, the reader discovers that Aman's own son, became a Gaiist years ago, and hasn't spoken to Aman since. So, understandably, the case opens up old wounds in Aman, and the full range of his character unfolds to the reader as the story progresses. In the end, the readers is present with the story of a nuanced and very interesting character, whose true nature is quite far from the stereotypical "hardened professional" that you'd normally get in a lot of cyberpunk fiction. My only complaint is that the story ended too soon. Aman's story could easily have spun out into a novella, or even full novel.

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