Friday, April 11, 2008

The Web Series, from Orion.

The Web, 2027
Baxter, Stephen. Gulliverzone, The Web: 2027. London: Orion Books, 1997.
Bowkett, Stephen. Dreamcastle, The Web: 2027. London: Orion, 1997.
Brown, Eric. Untouchable, The Web. London: Orion, 1997.
Graham, Joyce. Spiderbite, The Web. London: Orion, 1998.
Hamilton, Peter. Lightstorm, The Web. London: Orion, 1998.
Furey, Maggie. Sorceress, The Web. London: Orion, 1998.

The Web, 2028
Baxter, Stephen. Webcrash, Web 2028. London: Orion Books, 1998.
MacLeod, Ken. Cydonia, The Web 2028. London: Orion, 1998.
Lovegrove, James. Computopia, The Web 2028. Computopia: Orion Books, 1998.
Furey, Maggie. Spindrift, The Web 2028. London: Orion Books Ltd., 1999.
Cadigan, Pat. Avatar, The Web 2029. London: Orion Books Ltd, 1999.
Brown, Eric. Walkabout. London: Orion Books Ltd, 1999.

These books are quite old now. I read a few of them at the time, but didn;t read them all, and didn't read them in order, so hadn't quite registered that there is a story arc. In the 2027 books the web is threatened by a sorceress, in the 2028 books aliens download themselves into the web, never quite arriving as each book seems to be "wow, aliens have arrived".

The books are uneven and the quality is where you would expect it. The standouts are Baxter, Hamilton, MacLeod and Cadigan, with the Joyce not so hot, but clearly leading towards the really outstanding YA material he has produced more recently. Joyce may actually have suffered here because most of the protagonists are only *just* YA, in one or two cases pre-teen, and his more recent and better works have used older teens. Baxter is also interesting because although his books are excellent in many ways (and I'd hold up Webcrash as one of my favourites because of the intricate advice on how to build a wooden rocket ship with Viking technology) he really doesn't know how to write for kids here: there is too much backfill and info dump. Fascinating to compare this to H-Bomb Girl in which he has the confidence to just let the readers work it out for themselves. MacLeod's Cydonia is a slightly bemusing second read: I hadn't registered the degree to which nothing happens. In this book a boy gets caught up in a conspiracy in the web, set in the consiracy web site Cydonia. Except that there turns out to *be* no conspiracy, except in the mind of a web cop and an observation AI who have both gotten caught up in the paranoia of the web location Cydonia and lost the firmly cynical perspective of its child users.

The best of the lot tho' is Avatar by Pat Cadigan. A boy who has been paralysed and lives in a low tech community gets taken around electronically by a friend. When she accesses the web--against the wishes of the community--she is ejected from her body by an alien. He must go into the web to rescue her. In the end tho' it's the alien he liberates. His friend chooses to stay in the web, and he opts for a prosthetic body. Lots of excellent things about choice, lots of real thought about the possibilities that the web creates for all sorts of people. And fun. Lots of fun.


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