Hardwired displays a future world similar to that of other cyberpunk fiction of the mid-1980s, most notably William Gibsons Neuromancer (1984). Political and military power are wielded by ruthless megacorporations, examples of capitalism run rampant. Courageous individuals, forced into illegal and ethically compromised positions, struggle for freedom. Computers and their worldwide networks are central to virtually all human activity, and bioengineering has made possible various human/computer linkups as well as certain bionic powers. Designer drugs, cosmetic surgery, and punkish hair and clothing styles are prominent features of the blighted urban scene. Hardwired also takes readers through a sparsely populated rural America.
In Walter Jon Williams novel, the Orbitals, an alliance of space satellites once serving Earth as manufacturing centers for pharmaceuticals and alloys, have become corporate powers that have conquered Earth via meteor bombardment. They continue to hold it in economic thralldom while plotting against one another. In a balkanized United States, states charge heavy tariffs for drugs and other goods crossing their borders. An elaborate black market has developed, with thirdmen (contractors) hiring smugglers. The latter, hardwired to their transports via head sockets, were at first deltajocks (jet pilots) until the states improved their combat technology; now they are panzerboys and-girls, operating armed, superfast hovercraft on their runs from the Rockies to the East Coast. Cowboy, one of the best pilots, revels in danger, in the thrill of being one with his machines, and in his belief that he is helping to foil the Orbitals.
Meanwhile, in the Florida Free State, Sarah is a former prostitute turned bodyguard and assassin for hire. She strives to earn enough for herself and her drug-addicted younger brother, Daud, a prostitute himself, to ride up...
(The entire section is 438 words.)