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Literature / The Shockwave Rider

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The Shockwave Rider is a science fiction novel by John Brunner, originally published in 1975. It is notable for its hero's use of computer cracking skills to escape pursuit in a dystopian future, and for the coining of the word "worm" to describe a program that propagates itself through a computer network.

It is also one of the first books to ever describe the internet (although the book calls it the data-net) as something prevalent in everyone's everyday life. If you read it when it came out, you might have trouble understanding why the threat to destroy the data-net is taken as almost the ultimate threat. Today, it is pretty easy to realize the economic and other disasters that would happen.

Tropes in this work:

  • Abstract Strategy Game: The fictional game known as Fencing, a futuristic version of Dots and Boxes. The objective is to claim points on the board, and then create triangles that do not enclose dots owned by the opponent. The game has a hidden information aspect, as the player also claims a concealed point along with a visible point. It's claimed to be an automatic win for the first player.
  • Deus Est Machina: Well, the machine isn't exactly God, but it does see all and the ending is, without giving it away, interesting.
  • Everything Is Online: In the near future, everything is.
  • Flashback: Plenty. Justified in-universe. By the beginning of the story, the protagonist has already been captured by the Tarnover, and the investigators are putting his brain on regress mode so they can look into his memories before his capture, which we see as flashbacks.
  • How We Got Here: At the beginning of the book, Nick has already been captured. The majority of the book is the Tarnover agents inducing Nick's brain into recalling his memories before his recapture (which the audience sees as third-person flashbacks), with Nick and Free commentating between every regress mode session.
  • Heroic BSoD: Known in-universe as overloads, and quite common. Entire towns have popped up simply because of mass-Heroic BSoD among the populace, and the protagonist recalls several numerous people from his past personas succumbing to overloads. He himself experiences not one, but two of these.
  • The Mafia: We find out they are running the government.
  • The Men in Black: Paul Freeman, a Tarnover agent who is very tall, very thin, and usually calm and collected. He even gets compared to Baron Samedi at one point. Interestingly, the "intimidating" factor is downplayed; to Ina, Freeman is just someone who keeps pestering her answers she doesn't have, and the protagonist isn't the least afraid to argue about his organization's ethics with him.