Islands in the Net Critical Essays

Bruce Sterling


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In an interview with Larry—McCaffery in Across the Wounded Galaxies (1990), Bruce Sterling notes that Islands in the Net is “not really cyberpunk.” Furthermore, Sterling admits that he either refutes or manipulates many of the tenets of cyberpunk and knows that he will be accused of trying to change or expand the nature of cyberpunk fiction rather than having critics recognize his novels simply as stories about the future. In most cases, Sterling has been correct in this assertion—most critics link this novel to the cyberpunk genre.

It is, however, more about the future than it is a traditional cyberpunk novel. There is cyber, to some extent, in Islands in the Net, but there is no punk, except for a few minor characters: Sticky, a Grenadian soldier/spy who can become an indestructible weapon by eating yogurt and activating bacteria in his stomach, and Carlotta, a New Age whore/nun of the Church of Ishtar who stays strung out on a romance-inducing drug.

Instead of typical cyberpunk characters, the novel uses a developing woman in the tradition of many Bildungsroman novels. Laura uses the Net as a means of communication, but she employs devices such as a portable wristwatch/monitor and a computer console to interact with it. These devices are more primitive than those typical in cyberpunk fiction.

Laura uses technology no more or less than other corporate individuals in the novel. Readers get a sense of cutting-edge...

(The entire section is 612 words.)