"Dervish is Digital"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark JUL 20, 2001)
"...nothing was true, everything was a lie and all of it in billable time."
Detective Lieutenant Doré Konstantin is Chief Officer in charge of TechnoCrime, Artificial Reality Division. As such she spends much of her day in a very expensive hotsuit jacked into an environment that, by its very design, is a lie. Her job is to prove copyright infringement, product piracy, industrial espionage, theft of credit, fraud and confidence games, all which she privately refers to as "aggravated mopery and dopery," further exasperated since nothing in AR constitutes a legal contract.
On this particular morning, her AR caseload consists of a meeting with an arms dealer with "a very serious weapon" in a cheesy hotel and a visit to the casinos with a cyborg called Darwin who believes that low-down Hong Kong is involuntarily brainwashing visitors. She's successful on nailing the arms dealer with counterfeit charges, but on the other case, only seems to have attracted the attention of Japanese-Occidental blackjack dealer who accuses her of interrupting his stakeout in low-down Hong Kong.
After what would have been lunch, if she had remembered to eat before suiting up again, her assistant, tells her that they have one case that could be related to the brainwashing complaint. A clothing designer named Susannah Ell claims that she is being stalked in artificial reality by her extraordinarily rich ex-husband, Hasting Dervish. In fact, she believes he's done the old "switch-ola" exchanging places with an AI giving Dervish enough processing power to do some very creative harassing. Konstantin doesn't believe anything, really, but that's her job, so she investigates. Before she's done she's feeling like a Looney Tune cartoon character and comes close to being brainwashed herself.
Just like the best of any noir mystery, Konstantin's opinionated, running narrative describes her view of the environment and from that we get to experience not only the visuals of AR, but the psychology. "Violate not the kayfabe, shall be the whole of the law." Basically if AR is to work, there has to be an agreed upon reality, or kayfabe, between players (like wrestling and its audience). Under no circumstances does one drop the charade. The AR kayfabe assumes that everyone lies about everything in AR, even when they're telling the truth. To investigate in AR is to keep up the illusion, never allowing a moment's candor to reveal it's all an act. Everything in AR should look explainable, no matter how weird it gets. Cadigan's talent is that she does make it very weird, yet simultaneously, more real than "normal" reality.
There are some tricks the police and other law enforcement agencies get to use that's only the stuff of urban legend to the rest of the folks. For example, Konstantin can interview a complainant in non-billable time, that is, she can freeze a person's surrounding AR illusion long enough to get the required information without either party incurring charges for that time period. Pretty neat trick, until it's done illegally to her. In fact, the criminal elements she's charged with investigating have some fairly good tricks of their own, such as hiding exit signs.
Naturally, Konstantin isn't alone in her investigation, but of all the people that help her out, her ex-partner, Taliaferro, is the most unique. He's a claustrophobic. When his meds aren't working he's forced to work on the department's roof and sleep on his own roof. He commutes to to work by hanging out the door of a helicopter. He doesn't go inside a building and certainly not AR.
All in all I'd recommend this novel to not only a hard core cyberpunk fan, but also to the mystery reader looking for a different kind of sleuth read. I'd also recommend this novel if you have a thing for Key West - you really must see Cadigan's vision. This is one of those novels where the ending has to sit a bit, and requires rereading parts of the novel to fully appreciate. But that's a plus and is one more element to the challenging smartness of this novel.
During an SF Site Interview, Pat Cadigan said "I have one criterion for a good book, in whatever style or genre. And that's: while you're reading, if the words go away and you're watching the movie in your head, that's a good book. " Judging by this criteria, Dervish is Digital is a very good book.
- Amazon.com reader rating: from 11 reviews
(Reviewed by Judi Clark FEB 15, 1998)
It's been awhile since I read these books and I see they are out of print now. It's a real shame because they are fun, very intelligent and the language is just plain punchy. This is cyberpunk at it's literary best.
The plot in Fools requires at least two reads to fully appreciate. Marva wakes up in a hologram pool in an exclusive club, with the memory of a murder in her head. Marva, a Method actress, must find out who's life she is living, and fast, as she's being pursued by assassins. Soon however, we realize that Marva is in deep undercover (meaning she doesn't even know she is undercover) and is really Mersine, a Brain Police, who's goal is to break the cover of Some Very Nice People, a personality franchiser. Thus Marva (again who doesn't know that she is really Mersine) wants to sign with Some Very Nice People so that she can become Famous (that is license her own personality). This has got to be one of the most unique plots as it continues to twist and turn between personalities and memory junkies. It's incredible!
- Amazon.com reader rating: from 3 reviews
(Reviewed by Judi Clark FEB 15, 1998)
(I borrowed this text from the UK book jacket...) Mindplayers are tomorrow's psychoanalysts, linked directly to their patients using sophisticated machinery attached to the optic nerve. In one-to-one Mindplay contact, you can be inside someone else's head, wandering the landscapes of their consciousness. Allie is a sensation-seeking young woman, obtaining illicit thrills from her shady friend Jerry Wirerammer. But Allie goes badly astray when Jerry supplies her with a "madcap" - a device that lets you temporarily and harmlessly experience psychosis. There's something wrong with Jerry's madcap, and the psychosis doesn't go away when it's disconnected. Allie ends up undergoing treatment at a "dry-cleaner," and she is faced with a stark choice - jail, for her illegal use of the madcap; or training to become a Mindplayer herself.
- Amazon.com reader rating: from 12 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Mindplayers (1987)
- Patterns: Stories (1989)
- Synners (1991)
- Home by the Sea: Stories (1991)
- Fools (1992)
- Dirty Work: Stories (1993)
- Tea from an Empty Cup (1998)*
- Avatar (The Web) (1999)
- Dervish is Digital (July 2001)*
*Featuring Detective Lieutenant Doré Konstantin
- The Ultimate Cyberpunk (September 2002)
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- Wikipedia page for Pat Cadigan
- Zero News Datapool interview with Pat Cadigan (1996)
- SF Site: An Interview with Pat Cadigan (1998)
- CNN.com review of Tea from an Empty Cup
- Curled Up review of Tea from an Empty Cup
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About the Author:
Pat Cadigan was born in Schenectady, New York in 1953, but grew up in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. She attended the University of Massachusetts on a scholarship majoring in theater, and eventually transferred to the University of Kansas where she received her degree. Pat was an editor and writer for Hallmark Cards in Kansas City for ten years before embarking on her career as a fiction writer in 1987. Cadigan is the only person to have won the Arthur C Clarke Award twice, in 1992 for Synners and in 1995 for Fools. In 1996 she was divorced from Arnie Fenner. She has one son.
She now lives in England with her second husband, Chris Fowler.