Have you read this book?
In Sleep State Interrupt, T. C. Weber delivers a story that pays homage to its old school cyberpunk roots while at the same time delivering a political treatise that touches on some of today’s most pressing issues.
In a not-so-distant and an already ninety-percent-realized future, the giant corporation Comnet has all but taken over the country’s media, both online and off. Through these acquisitions, it controls practically all news and information, and is able to sway public opinion in whatever manner it decides — those decision beings ones that support its own best interests, as well as those of the politicians in its pocket (which is basically all of them). They also own BetterWorld, and online virtual “game” that seems to be the major pastime of most people, and does a lot more in terms of information gathering than it’s players suspect.
Waylee Freid, an unemployed journalist with bipolar disorder and a deep disdain for the current state of the country, lives in Baltimore in a flop house of sorts with her boyfriend Pel, her not-quite-rooted in reality sister Kiyoko, and a few other artistic types. With the help of Pel and some other counter-culture crusaders, she breaks out teen-age hacker extraordinaire Charles from juvie with the loose plan of gathering and releasing information that will reveal what Comnet and the current politicians are up to; namely enriching themselves at the expense of the masses.
By hook and by crook and with no small amount of luck, she and her team manage to gather some pretty damning info on the president and other politicians and their incestuous relationship with Comnet — now all they have to do is find a way to release it to the public, a task much more difficult than it sounds, since Comnet controls all the information channels.
On the run from Homeland Security, and pretty much making it up as they go, Waylee and her friends have to find a way to reach enough people that the truth can no longer be ignored.
Anyone who’s read classic cyberpunk will recognize the theme of down trodden yet incredible skilled outsiders working outside the system, ostensibly with the goal of bringing the system down. Although Sleep State Interrupt doesn’t go far enough into the future to suppose body augmentation (a la Gibson’s Nueromancer or Sterling’s Schismatrix) most of the tropes are present: disenfranchised youth, punk rock music, cyber-reality, hackers and the overwhelming power of information, both as an agent of control and an agent of change.
As far as policy and society, Sleep State Interrupt hits square on target. Weber has taken the current environment of corporate globalization and consolidation and postulated and effect that is already well underway, that being influencing what people think by controlling what information they receive. Hell, the Republican have been doing that for decades — just look at how many poor white people they get to vote against their own interests.
It did seem that Weber stretched the boundaries of belief with some of the shenanigans his protagonists got up to, considering the world they lived in. In a “real” version of the Sleep State Interrupt world (and even our own, give the current state of surveillance) they’d likely have been caught before they could even earn a footnote in a HOA newsletter.
I’m not familiar with Weber’s background, but Sleep State Interrupt suffers from a a “looseness” I often see in the novels of newly minted writers. Waylee’s bipolar disorder wasn’t integral to the plot and could have been cut without affecting the story. There are a few of characters who play such a minor role that their actions could have been handed off to other more prominent characters. I suppose the most succinct way to put it is that I didn’t think the novel was as tight as it could be, which resulted in occasional hoe-hum-not-important-to-the-story sections that had me skimming.
Nevertheless, Sleep State Interrupt was a worthy and enjoyable read, both for itself as well as for the nostalgic fun it evoked in a genre that has been side-lined for a while now.