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Cybernetic Jungle by S N Lewitt

Ace, 1992, p.

This has an unusual setting for a piece of Science Fiction written by a USian author; Brazil, specifically Brasilia. In the aftermath of a natural disaster democracy has been overthrown (this is represented as unusual for Brazil!) and society is dominated by four monopolies called fazendas, who are the only purveyors of drugs from the rain forest. Street gangs dominate life for the common people. Drugs called phrines, which seem to sharpen the mind, are common but can lead to brain burn out.

Paulo Sylvia is a member of the Bakunin gang. He has an implant known as a secondary but his greatest wish is to upgrade this to be able to access something known as the Wave, which is here described as “a datastream, a quantum-level interface structure that had been created to serve the needs of the masters. Only it had become the master.” (It reads as if it’s a hazy sort of internet only accessed through the mind but as described it seems a diffuse kind of experience.) On a raid on behalf of one of the fazendas he witnesses a girl die. Very soon after he meets Zaide Soledad, who looks identical to the dead girl and intrigues him. She is a trainee in one of the fazendas, out on the town. When they meet she is not yet surgically prepared for accessing the Wave and her true background is not known to Paulo.

Young members of the fazenda seem to be produced as kinds of clones – hence Zaide’s resemblance to the dead girl, who was apparently rejected for the fazenda. Zaide becomes drawn into a contest with one of the fazenda’s board members, Julio Simon, who has no redeeming features whatsoever and a predilection for gratuitous violence. Paulo and Zaide’s attraction to each other provides the motor for the plot and their conflict with Simon.

This is a tale with cyberpunk features and, with its main characters’ divergent backgrounds, echoes of Romeo and Juliet. Apart from the unnecessarily violent scene with Simon I quite enjoyed it.

Pedant’s corner:- “now the third generation were growing in jam jars in the closet” (the third generation was growing,) highjackers (hijackers,) “most of the other traffic was cycle or motoped” (why not just moped?) Vasco de Gama (Vasco da Gama,) Flumine (Fluminense,) Corintans (Corinthians,) fer-de-lants (fer-de-lance,) ambiance (ambience,) “in their green and whites” (in their green and white.) “Zaide didn’t looked at Susana” (didn’t look at.)

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