When is cyberpunk not cyberpunk? What is the sound of one hand jacking in? Who is wearing your face today?
Pat Cadigan knows. She's written a novel which mixes the tropes of cyberpunk and the tone of a noir mystery in masterful ways, ending up with something that's a bit of both but a bit more than either. Reading Tea from an Empty Cup is one of the best things you could do to occupy your time while you're waiting for your turn at the artificial-reality parlor. It's got hotsuits and smart drugs, maybe even some mirrorshades, and a detective who's trying to be as hardboiled as she can. But Cadigan didn't stop with that - then she poured in a whole can of whup-ass and stirred it up real good.
Damn, now I've broken the tone. Cadigan wouldn't do that. Pat Cadigan writes well, consistently - tough, scintillant prose that picks you up and takes you along until you get where she's taking you. The rapid-fire banter that opens the book is only the beginning. Sometimes it takes a paragraph or two to catch up with the changes she's ringing, the literary equivalent of cinematic jump cuts, but that's the peril of reading her book unaugmented. It's a fast-paced, amphetamine-fueled romp through a very plausible future... this may not be the way virtual reality really goes, but it very well could be.
Jack in and ride - but watch those billable hours.
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Pat Cadigan, Tea from an Empty Cup. Tor paperback published September 1999, ISBN 0-812-54197-9, US$6.99.
©2000 Alan P. Scott. All rights reserved.
Last updated December 10, 2003.