How to Mutate and Take Over the World

R. U. Sirius, Author, Jude, Author, St Jude, With Ballantine Books $24 (0p) ISBN 978-0-345-39216-9
In the very near future, a war will break out over the direction of the Internet. On the side of greater control of online behavior will be an authoritarian-minded government and a strained coalition of feminists and right-wingers concerned with matters of decency. On the other side will be the ``cypherpunks'' who develop encryption codes too complex to be broken, media pranksters for whom the message is the medium, and the child pornographers, pedophiles and hatemongers who exploit a ``free'' Net. The multiple authors of this novel, who include two pseudonymous founders of the futuristic magazine Mondo 2000, plus some of their E-mail buddies, take this premise and ``explode'' the subsequent narrative. That is, they make themselves the protagonists, with R.U. Sirius appearing as a rock/TV/political star and St. Jude as a laptop guerrilla. The narrative includes E-mail between the authors and their editor at Ballantine, and a dizzying array of graphics featuring varying column widths, different fonts for different types of communications and agitprop photos. What all this adds up to seems to be, essentially, a collection of E-mail files with delusions of grandeur. The book offers no real story line, no viable characters and absolutely no perspective, though it does include myriad examples of the lively, punning language of the Net (``scroom'' for screw them, for example). The narrative makes fun of itself, and of us for reading it, and yet demands that the issues it raises be taken seriously. Presciently, it also offers prewritten reviews of the book that are remarkably on-target: for instance, ``smug and glib to the point of exhaustion.'' Author tour. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/29/1996
Release date: 02/01/1996
Genre: Fiction
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