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One Half moon gifEOS/Harper Collins (Paperback), ISBN 0-380-80877-3
Reader beware! I finally finished Realware by Rudy Rucker. Take my word for it, do NOT pick it up, just walk away slowly and grab any other piece of printed material you can put your hand on. Anything, I repeat, anything -- including the proverbial cereal box -- will be better.

Book: Rudy Rucker, RealwareRealware, the latest in a series of cyber-punk novels by Rucker, uses a weird mishmash of valley-girl-80s-psudo-SciFi so-called vernacular from 2054. I just can't bring myself to believe that in 2054 we'll still be saying "gnarly" -- as if! And I can't do justice to the dialog without giving you a couple of samples: "My name's Yoke. I'm from the moon." Or how about: "Seven aliens? …Kill them!" I must stop there. It makes my eyes hurt to read it again.

And the names! We meet Om, the god of the Metamartians (non-Martian inter-galactic-traveling aliens). I can't imagine that Rucker just picked the name out of thin air. It must mean something; it's that kind of book. Perhaps Rucker alludes to "ohm" as in electricity or "Ommmmmmm" as in meditation or the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan.

Om supplies the Metamartians and subsequently humans, with "allas," devices that grant wishes. So, if I follow the allusions correctly, Om the God (capital "G") provides a little god (lowercase "g"), Allah (!), to grant wishes. Hmmmm.

Book: Rudy Rucker, FreewareThen Rucker inflicts us with Yoke and Joke, the Starr-Mydol twin sisters. Does this family represent a prosecuting attorney taking PMS medication? It could make a great joke (lowercase "j," not the twin) but for the fact that the story lacks any perceivable sense of humor. None, zip, nada.

Rucker appears to be incapable of creating a solid, well-rounded character. He portrays women as complete sex/drug maniacs, bubble-headed idiots or both. The men seem to have some extra character depth, maybe about one-one thousandth of a hair.

Plot? What plot? Once everyone on Earth possesses an alla and can create anything they want, the economy collapses. Who needs money when you can just wish up food, clothing, housing, etc? Then men, and only men, turn to violence. Rucker stridently maintains this point -- only the men go out and fight each other. Apparently, the women sit at home using their allas to make more shoes and clothes.

To the end, the god Om puzzled me. Her purpose and powers remain unclear. She travels with the Metamartians, can communicate with them and yet offers no help when they cannot find their way home. What good is your own personal god if she can't pull your butt out of the fire?

Repeatedly during this interminable reading experience, I found myself looking up and asking the universe, "Huh?" That one word pretty much sums up Realware -- huh? Did Rucker have a point? Impossible to tell, unless you count the notion that giving humans the ability to grant any wish propels them toward violence. This seems a very pat answer to a rather complicated question. I suspect Willa Jean, the automated chicken who plays a key role in the novel, actually wrote it.

Heather Firth

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