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Engaging Methuen Readers


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Happy birthday, Internet! Have a cyberpunk nightmare!

Cyberpunk happens when lowlifes dabble in high tech. Think cutpurses with cybernetic enhancements and prostitutes who moonlight as hackers. That may seem futuristic, but remember, ten years ago Google was exciting and new! In honor of the Internet’s birthday, here’s a taste of the unmitigated chaos that is our digital future.

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Case used to be a hacker. Kinda. He stole information with his brain, courtesy of implants that let him jack into cyberspace directly. Then he irritated his boss and his boss destroyed his brain, like you do.

The problem is that nobody’s as good at information theft as Case, and now someone important needs him for the job of a lifetime. Case is back, damage and all, but this time, he’s going to need some help…

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

This book was the basis for the hit film¬†Blade Runner,¬†although it varies in a few key points. Rick Deckard is an assassin, but he’s never killed a person – just androids. Runaway machines can blend in with the human population perfectly, but though they may look human, they have no empathy or spiritual connection. That may change, though. As the line between robot and human blurs, Deckard finds himself questioning everything he knows about himself.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Hiro is a pizza boy. For the Mafia. In an America that’s been carved up and essentially destroyed by corporate interests, he’s just a cog. But in the Metaverse, he’s a superstar hacker living a glamorous digital double life. That’s how he learns about the new computer virus that not only attacks circuitry, but the mind. Weirder still, the virus might also be a language, a religion, and a piece of lost Sumerian technology capable of freeing the world from its hyper-capitalist vice. It’s up to Hiro to figure it out – or save the day trying!

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

How many pharmaceutical pirates named Jack travel the world in their illegal submarine? Not many! That’s what makes the Robin Hood of illegal medicine such a cool chick. But when a batch of her drugs reprograms people to become addicted to work, Jack knows she’s got to set things right. That means figuring out where the drugs are coming from and stopping them by any means necessary!

Infomocracy by Malka Older

Even when the Internet finally takes over government, it’ll need scumbags to make sure the wheels don’t come off. Unfortunately, those are the same people who stand to gain from a little chaos. A corrupt politician. A radical dissenter. An employee of the search engine that rules us all. They will soon discover more than they wanted to know about how democracy really works.


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To The Audiobooks I’ve Heard On My Ride To Work

Image result for libby overdrive logo

Time spent behind the wheel of my car is time not spent engaged in productive activity, such as learning to play the flute or weeding geraniums. Whether I would become a musician or gardener with the time I now spend driving every day is an open question. However, there is still an opportunity to become, if not well-read, then at least familiar with a broad range of literature. This is especially true when the drudgery of the automobile is paired with Libby, the free library audiobook app.

Libby is an access portal for OverDrive, which is probably the most popular e-book and e-audiobook lending platform currently in existence. OverDrive hit the market early and hit it hard, rolling with every technological upgrade and innovation and shift. Within five years, CD audiobooks gave way to MP3s downloaded through OverDrive’s media app and loaded onto iPods, which in turn gave way to downloaded and then streaming audiobooks that never left the efficient angular nest of the smartphone. And it was all free.

I lean heavily on Libby for my audiobook joy. One of the things I most appreciate about it is that my demands are usually not met. If I had my way, I’d read nothing but bizarro apocalypse science fiction, in the same way that if I had my way I’d eat nothing but sushi and chocolate covered potato chips. Research conducted by me indicates that a diet of extreme, gore-oriented science fiction is about as good for your mind and social skills as a diet of carbohydrates and raw fish is good for your physical longevity. Literary fiction uplifts and transforms. It fosters empathy, cognitive skills, conversational awareness. That’s why it’s good, for my sake, that OverDrive is a veritable desert of screamingly weird garbage. When a book is available – and that is an event worth jumping for – it is normally an example of either Literature or Education. Currently, I am listening to Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth, a collection of short stories that wrestles with identity and place and is definitely Literature. My last audiobook, A Thousand Naked Strangers by Kevin Hazzard, was Education, albeit satisfyingly gory and strange. The combination has populated my dreams with pregnant ambulances agonizing about their relationships with their fathers, so I assume that whatever is supposed to be making me a better person is working.

I hear these books out as I plow microscopic furrows in the asphalt to and from my place of employment, usually listening at double or triple speed. That’s how I know I was born into the right era: I can listen to an audiobook at thrice the speed of speech. (Or half, if I’m working my way though a children’s book in Spanish.) Without the magic of audiobooks, my available reading opportunities would be consumed and expelled with my car’s exhaust every day.

In a world where I could ride the train to work, I could be more productive. I could pair my audio commute with my latest crochet project, for example, rapidly reducing my holiday gift and personal reading lists simultaneously. But I don’t live in a world where eco-friendly travel infrastructure is considered a priority, alas. I live in a world where I sit rigidly in a confined space, watching an hour-long movie about all the ways that other cars can barely miss my front fender. And in that world, audiobooks are more than entertainment. They’re a heartbeat in a sensory deprivation chamber. They’re the lone bulb in my mental safe room.