The Shockwave Rider

The Shockwave Rider (1975) by John Brunner is a science fiction book that has one of the first examples of a computer hacker. It tells the story of Nick Haflinger, who was a student at an elite US school called Tarnover. In the world of the book the threat of coercion and analysis has replaced military and economic power in international power politics.

Nick learns to disguise his identity and escapes Tarnover and learns about the world. He is then recaptured and his interrogation and a recollection of his life form the book. Eventually he escapes and starts a liberation movement.

The book is interesting in that it has themes that would later be taken up in cyberpunk science fiction. The world also owes a lot to Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. It also has a prediction market for working out world events.

It’s not a bad read, but it loses steam a bit and becomes a bit of a chore to finish. Still, it’s genuinely something a little different from much science fiction and is worth a look for anyone who ponders where the ideas of Neuromancer and other books started.

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