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Black Glass: The Lost Cyberpunk Novel
Date of Review: 
Paul Witcover
Locus Magazine

John Shirley's Black Glass is billed as "The Lost Cyberpunk Novel." It was begun "in the early days of cyberpunk" as a collaboration between Shirley and William Gibson, but both writers moved on to other things before doing much more than sketching out the plot and characters. Many years later, Shirley recalled the book and mentioned it to Gibson, who gave his blessing to turn the abandoned joint project into a solo act. The result is a fun, fast, irreverent novel of action, ideas, and rock and roll that imagines an environmentally degraded near future in which corporations run an America whose government has been essentially privatized and technological advances in surveillance, AI, and digital representation have almost completely erased the line between original and copy: more and more, people rely on their "semblants" to give them the ability to virtually be in a number of locations simultaneously, or to stand in for them altogether. Now an uscrupulous businessman, Grist, plans to merge semblants stolen from his rivals into a "multisemblant," believing the resulting personality will give him an edge in the cutthroat corporate world. In doing so, he opens a Pandora's box, as the multisemblant, which christens itself Destiny, turns out to have ideas of its own.