SELECT * FROM uv_BookReviewRollup WHERE recordnum = 1309 Hardwired Humanity, by Sarah Wagner Book Review |

Hardwired Humanity, by Sarah Wagner cover image

Hardwired Humanity, by Sarah Wagner
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Altered Dimensions Press
Published: 2008
Review Posted: 3/29/2009
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 10 out of 10

Hardwired Humanity, by Sarah Wagner

Book Review by Nick DeMarino

Have you read this book?

While primarily concerned with interpersonal drama and human aspects of technology, Sarah Wagner's Hardwired Humanity is tricked out with as much tech gear and gadgets as vintage Gibson. Wagner's collection of short SF includes two novellas, two short stories, and two vignettes, all of which are similar in dystopian themes and noir sensibilities, but distinct in character and plot.

Wagner's strong suit is characterization through dialogue. Mostly told in the over-the-shoulder third person, protagonists' immerse the reader in their worlds through their reactions to it. Cursory descriptions introduce settings, but they're usually a springboard to personal experiences. This technique is effective—indeed, who can forget the driven, single-mindedness of Spider in "Switch," the haunted and self-sacrificing actions of Shade in "Evolution of a Shadow," or the independent, rough-and-tumble attitude of Avery in "The Wreck of the Griffin"? However, this approach is not without flaws: many times the narration leaves out relevant details that the protagonists take for granted. Take for instance the meeting between Spider and his former nemesis in "Switch." The reader gets a brief glimpse of the meeting place (The Egyptian wing of a museum), but the currency of setting is quickly cashed into a brief memory and parlays into dialog that could just have easily occurred in a park or library.

Each story is familiar but distinct in its particulars. The plots of "Switch" and "Evolution of a Shadow" involve bands of underground techies-for-hire and involve numerous conspiracies and plot twists. "The Wreck of the Griffin" is an action-adventure story, while "When Closed Eyes Open" is a political satire about the military. The short pieces "Venus and the Birth of Zephyrus" and "Canned Man" are lyrical and almost read as poetry. While these classic touchstones receive fresh purfling, they're still visibly derivative. That's okay though, because the focus isn't the devices, but the individual characters' experience of them.

Central to each story is the relationship between people and technology, as well as the drama that surrounds it. These are tales of characters interacting with radically alien beings and they way in which they affect their lives. Love and distant longing are shared by each protagonist and exercise heavy influence over the trajectory of each tale. There's also plenty of betrayal and selfishness, always on the hands of the antagonists. Wagner's generally happy endings display a moralistic optimism that's a bit contrived, but certainly a crowd pleaser. Juxtapose against this are here shorter pieces, which are quite hopeless and dreary. They're stark, but they're more moving.

There are some technical glitches in Hardwired Humanity, namely an inconsistent and distracting type-font as well as a few typos, but these are minor. The stories alone merit a four out of five rating, but their bundling compounds their flaws as well as their virtues. I suggest reading a story at a time between other readings.

Click here to buy Hardwired Humanity, by Sarah Wagner on Amazon

Hardwired Humanity, by Sarah Wagner on Amazon

Hardwired Humanity, by Sarah Wagner cover pic
Comment on Hardwired Humanity, by Sarah Wagner
Your Name:
Type (case sensitive) here:

Comments on Hardwired Humanity, by Sarah Wagner
There are no comments on this book.