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Hardwired Analysis

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The beginning of Hardwired is like a verbal equivalent to a video game. Williams superheated prose describes Cowboy plugged into his Maserati, roaring along New Mexico mountain highways, his brain directly sensing the car and giving signals to it. Later episodes, such as the attack of the deltas on the Orbital convoy, also seem like video game sessions. Sarahs hand-to-hand combat with various attackers anticipates the Mortal Kombat type of martial arts game, especially with her wired body further boosted by a snakelike cyberextension. The novel, in fact, inspired a role-playing game. Hardwired is, however, much more than a simple action spectacle and a much finer novel than a list of its borrowings from other science fiction would suggest. Some critics consider the sequel, Voice of the Whirlwind (1987), to be a better novel.

Hardwired fits neatly into the cyberpunk category, from its sinister corporations, labyrinthine computer networks, tough-talking plugged-in heroes, drug dependencies, and punk hairstyles to such signature details as the heroines mirrorshades. The former deltajock Reno, now living in the worldwide computer matrix—a good position to foil villains—anticipates Max Headroom, the title character of a 1984 British cyberpunk television movie and 1987 American television series, though Reno surfaces only on audio.

Overall, Hardwired is a less visionary and unpredictable work than Neuromancer or Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix (1985), another cyberpunk classic. It has sparked far less literary criticism. It is not a mere trendy commercial exploitation; it vividly reimagines the cyberpunk milieu in its own rich detail and subtly differs from its peers. In one respect, Hardwired interestingly reverses Neuromancer, in that Cowboys hardwiring lets him interface with machines so that he can engage with the outside world more intensely than ordinary pilots could. Gibsons hero Case interfaces with the computer matrix to become absorbed in an inner universe.

Hardwired s tough,...

(The entire section is 459 words.)