Marc D. Giller’s debut novel Hammerjack is a dark cyber-punk thriller set in a distant dystopia where technology threatens to overcome humanity. It is a fast paced – if a little dense with technical explanations – action adventure full of futuristic techno terrorism and virtual reality. This is not really my area of expertise, but I would venture to guess if you like the genre (techno, cyber-punk, futuristic, thriller, etc.) then you would enjoy Hammerjack.
I won’t even try to capture all of the complex details involved, but a basic overview might help capture the perspective. Some time in the distant future (I don’t remember if dates are mentioned) the world is controlled by massive corporations and run by something known as The Collective. In this interconnected fully networked world humans and machines are all “plugged in.” As a result data and security access are even more important. Hammerjacks are high skilled hackers who both raid corporate systems and help those corporations increase their security.
Cray Alden is a former Hammerjack who now works for the Collective; a so called “corporate spook.” The plot centers around attempts to biologically meld human and computer intelligence to form some sort of super entity. The Collective is battling a rebel group known as the Inru. Cray is caught in between, and being manipulated by, these two groups. In order to survive he must work with the Hammerjack who has been his arch enemy since signing on with the Collective. Together they must search out and destroy this technology before it relegates mankind to secondary status.
As I mentioned above, I am no sci-fi expert. Sure I have read a little Issac Asimov and what not, but I have not read widely or deeply in the genre. As to what might be called “cyber-punk,” I have read even less; probably closer to nothing. So I am probably not the target audience for this particularly book. So take my reaction with a grain of salt of two.
That said I thought the book had a solid plot, a dark and gritty landscape, some good characters, and interesting action sequences. The story kept me interested and pulled me along for the most part. But I found the dense descriptions of the technology and the background to be a bit much at times. At over 350 pages it just seemed a little overweighted. Granted trying to set up this world and describe the project of melding men and machine in some credible fashion isn’t easy. But I would have sacrificed description for action.
Cray’s main antagonist was pretty cool – a sort of dark (and female) anti-hero with special powers – but Cray himself was a little flat. He is the sort of detective you would find in a hard boiled novel or noir movie; basically a decent guy but one who sold his soul a while back and who now satisfies himself with doing his “job.” Although more of his background is revealed later in the book, he still feels like a caricature at points. Instead of driving the story, the story seems to happen around him.
Given that this is his debut novel, and is the first in a series (the next book, Prodigal, is to be released in 2006), it should be interesting to see how Giller hones his writing and develops his characters. Overall, Hammerjack is an inventive and fast paced thriller. It is limited by its genre but it seems comfortable within those restraints. Escapist reading? Sure, but who doesn’t need to escape now and again.