Melissa Scott. Tor Books, $23.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86802-4
Best known for her densely conceived, far-future settings, complex plotting and radical political commentary, Scott (Dreaming Metal; The Shapes of Their Hearts) here offers her fans a more straightforward, near-future cyberthriller. Tin Lizzy, another of the author's highly competent hackers with a heart of gold, makes her living producing virtual background scenarios for the jazz, the newest Internet art form: an inspired combination of personality journalism, gossip, cyberpranks and outright lies. When Lizzy finds herself teamed with Keyz, a teenaged boy whose jazz has jumped seemingly overnight from amateur to brilliant, she senses that something isn't right. Her fears are confirmed when, soon after his first professional sale, Keyz discloses that he's been helped by Orpha-Toto, a secret and highly experimental expert program that he's stolen from one of the major movie studios. Hounded by Gardner Gerretty, the ruthless CEO of the studio, the same man who was responsible for Lizzy's having done hard time many years earlier, the two hackers find themselves fleeing across an increasingly strange, near-future America, looking desperately for a way to escape from Gerretty's monomaniacal pursuit. Less ambitious than Scott's very best work and marred by a villain whose sheer relentlessness strains credulity, this is nonetheless a powerfully imagined suspense novel. Scott maintains her position, first established in Trouble and Her Friends, as one of the best writers around in portraying what life online may really be like in the future. (June) FYI: Scott has won two Lambda Awards for her SF.
Reviewed on: 05/29/2000