The Artificial Kid is part of the backbone of the first articulation of cyberpunk science fiction, along with Bruce Sterling’s novels Schismatrix (1985) and Islands in the Net (1988), the short-story collection Mirrorshades (1986) edited by Sterling, and William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984). The Artificial Kid features the high-speed action; wild invention mixing media, technology, and biochemistry; witty cynicism; and implicit political criticism of 1980’s and 1990’s culture that define cyberpunk.
The Kid is himself a classic punk exhibitionist with kohled eyes, green-oiled body, leather jacket, metallic pants, plasticized hair sticking upright from his scalp, a handy repertoire of power drugs, and a cynical, distanced air from the violence in which he participates. Moreover, there is a lighthearted brutality, a sort of game quality, to what he does, even when the games are subverted by real violence.
The technologies created in the novel are various and fascinating. Sterling combines the drone cameras and other devices of futuristic media manipulation with a fascinating broth of biological creations that is a triumph of baroque envisioning. He theorizes that there is a biological gestalt on Reverie, that the swamplike Mass contains the immortality of all the gene-types on the planet, and he populates Reverie with exotic life-forms.
After the Kid and his friends become...
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