Nearing the End of the Week
When Turbiner, the author for whom McNihil converts the copyright-violating punk into a trophy audio cable, talks about the essence of noir-the-genre, he makes the point succinctly: "It was always about betrayal."
Betrayal is indeed the lifeblood of Noir. It moves the plot, it rounds out the characters, it's the essence of the obscenity in the word "connect." McNihil has betrayed his dead wife; McNihil wins over the punk before trophying him; November betrays the "trust" of the men she kills with her finger-zappers; Harrisch hands out betrayals like tchotschkes, big and small - he's made of them: the cube bunny, the squatter, McNihil himself, the train tracks... betrayal is the very essence of Harrisch's corporate culture, and the driving force behind TIAC and TOAW. Even Turbiner turns around and connects McNihil when Harrisch gets to him. There's gratitude for ya.
In fact, when articulating Harrisch's philosophy of business and capitalism, Jeter makes the point that the impetus of all commerce is to stick it to both your customers and your employees as much as you can while keeping yourself indispensable to them. Connect 'Em Till They Bleed: Pimp-Style Management, and all that. As a capitalist right-winger myself I found that hard to swallow, but nevertheless containing some truth.
Aaand on to the question: what points might Jeter be trying to make about today's world? Bearing in mind his thoughts on fitting punishment for copyright infringers, what do you think his perspective is on capitalism? Globalization? The wave of corporate sludge that's come to light in recent weeks? The Digital Rights Management (copy-protection technology) debate?
Okay, for today the question is going to start with one big Glossy ring around 'connect' becoming an obscenity, and some of the more obscure "how does it relate to the world" dilemmas Mary raises like the foam outside the End Zone Hotel.
One of the big deals about the world of Noir is that it's a severe dystopia: a world not simply in decline, but near collapse. The Gloss has lost its innocence, and in a big way. In that vein, whatever the syllables you speak it with, you can't really understand the word fuck, or use it properly, until you know in your gut what it means in terms of cheapening; of using-and-throwing-away, a la the "cheap-and-nastiverse" that McNihil has shut out by customizing his eyes; a la Connect 'Em Till They Bleed: Pimp-Style Management for a New Century; a la "You are well and truly connected, my friend."
...And that's the whole point: forming connections in Noir's world is a stupid, an obscene endeavor that endangers and cheapens a person. That's what makes the skin-dissolving goo outside the EZ Hotel so horrifying to November, and so titillating to the rest of the world that it commands news time, despite being a quasi-regular occurrence: it's the ultimate in obscene connection, having started with hundreds of copulating bodies, and become an embodiment of homogeneity and the untilmate in surrender and loss of self. One of the whole points of the existence of prowlers is that they keep risky connection safely at arm's length. What does it say about a culture, when it develops machines to do its "fucking"?
It's worth noting that November's introduced to us in as tawdry and debased a way as possible: her fast-forward lifestyle has forced her to make truly horrid 'connections' (in the back rooms of the Gloss's trains) to survive, and they're epitomes of just how obscene connecting can be in her world.
...And yet connection remains inevitable; Harrisch winds up forging a connection with both McNihil and November, in order to consummate his dealings around TOAW. The DZ execs were rumored to have their business-card-handshakes wired to their genitalia. The cube-bunnies survive among the cubapts through their ability to facilitate connection on all levels. And what's the point of a better audio cable, if not a more effective connection? ;-D Layers and layers.
...Which plays into the rather grisly depiction of the penalties exacted by McNihil and his fellow asp-heads for copyright infringement. The need to prosecute copyright violators so viciously arose from too much connectivity, in a way... The "all information wants to be free" attitude dances pretty close to the attitudes of the neo-hippie commune in the 747 that McNihil destroyed, too - for them 'connect' wasn't a nasty word... And look what they got!
I personally think Jeter could have done a lot more with language than focus obsessively on the change in one word's meaning, but he certainly got his mileage out of this one. Anyway, end of lecture (boy, I do go on).
On to the question: between the 'every person is an island' linguistic gymnastics and the weird narrative riffing that Jeter does, never giving a clear, unambiguous decription of some concepts or scenes (that "sight" thing again), it's telling that so much is left unclear about stuff like the Wedge after reaching the end of Noir. Is this just poor storytelling, or is Jeter doing something more interesting with "disconnected" points of view and objectivity?
Hey, everyone, seems like there's either little interest or little coherent thought on Noir so far. I'm gonna assume the latter; it's a dense book. :-)
Okay, per Mary's request, I'll forego the 'connecting' discussion I had for today and work with some of the fairly opaque technobabble Jeter uses...
The concepts of TIAC (turd in a can), and later TOAW (turd on a wire), get fairly short shrift as far as descriptions go - partly to heighten the "oo, sinister and mysterious" aspect of it all, is my guess. The gist, though, is pretty simple: give the sucker/customer as little as possible, at as low a cost as is possible, for maximum possible payback.
TIAC is clear enough, but TOAW requires a bit more explanation: essentially the eggheads at DynaZauber figgered out which biochemical "switches" make addictions happen in the human brain. They wanted to flip those switches in such a way that relief could only come from getting an operation that would allow DZ to send electrical jolts into the brain (after payment, of course) and ease the addiction pangs for a short while. Essentially free for DZ, and leaving the "customer" with nothing at all in return but the need for more relief.
DZ and Harrisch wanted first Travelt's Prowler, then McNihil himself, to act as carriers of a tailor-made disease that would spread TOAW sensitivity throughout the Wedge (the proletarian world, as I read it), and make everyone slaves to the electrical "product" DZ would peddle.
Very much like the noh-flies ensured the supremacy of the railways by killing flight, DynaZauber wanted to make themselves indispensable by infecting everyone with a malady only DZ could treat.
So, on to the question: would people ever fall for / put up with that kind of pigeonholing? Viruses cause antivirus makers; ICBMs cause missile defenses; cryptography causes codebreakers; arms races are a fact of life.
Do you think we'll ever let ourselves get into that sort of vise?
Tomorrow: the connecting point. :-)
All righty, everyone, it's time to kick off the bookblog discussion of Noir!
First off, general impressions. Mary made the good point that once you get past the dark SF trappings and become familiar with K.W. Jeter's world, it reads a lot like a detective story. For the SF newbies or seldom-readers, how did it strike you? Like? Dislike? Moved to throw away? Moved to construct a shrine? Inquiring eyes wanna read!
Speaking of which (leading artfully into the first question), eyes, sight and appearance are a big deal in the world of Noir. McNihil's own modified sight, and its benefits and weaknesses; his dead wife's eyes with the X's in places of irises, and the peculiarly penetrating in-"sight" that the indeadted seem to have; the fast-forwarding numbers in November's palm that only she (and her collection agents, of course) can see; the memories Verrity planted in McNihil's mind of the burning hotel that he never actually saw, the cube bunny's ability to see things about McNihil that he would have otherwise thought were too subtle to notice, and of course the prowlers' main function: to see and experience what their flesh-and-blood users are either too wise or too cowardly to seek out for themselves.
...So, anyway, obviously sight, insight and eyes are a major theme throughout the novel. What did y'all think of Jeter's use of the theme? Heavy-handed, compelling, revolting, under your radar, how did it grab you?
Tomorrow: connecting around.
Again - Anyone not have the book yet?
I asked before, but people may have been sleeping as it was so early in the month...
Please post if you want to participate in the Noir discussion but haven't yet been able to snag a copy. :-)
Everyone enjoying the read?
Hey, everyone, sorry for the late start to the month, but of course there aren't going to be any discussion questions until the 21st-ish, anyway, right? Is everyone who's got started enjoying the book?
I also wanted to ask, who of the gang here assembled is having trouble acquiring Noir? So far we've got Barbara and Jeff still waiting; anyone else?
Has anyone started Noir yet? I got about 1/2 way through it so far. I like it.. I think Rich might have converted me to SciFi!
I just purchased my copy of Noir from Amazon. Just so everyone knows, the book is out of print. If you can't find it at your local new/used bookstore or library and decide to go with Amazon, you'll have to purchase it from one of their Marketplace Sellers. As of right now, there are 10 copies of the hardcover and 30 copies of the paperback available which is more than enough to meet the demand of our little book club.
Please note that buying through a Marketplace Seller is sort of like buying from a seller at eBay. The transaction is safe since Amazon guarantees your purchase, but it takes a little bit longer for the item to reach you since the seller is usually a regular person. If it takes him/her a few days to get to the post office, it adds to the delivery time. My purchase from today is supposed to take 4-14 days to arrive, so you might want to buy early in order to have enough time to read it before the next discussion starts.
And, if you buy from Amazon by using one of the links on this site, I get a little commission on your purchase. It's not really a way for me to make money since it comes in the form of an Amazon gift certificate, but it does help offset the wads I spend on books which in turn leaves me some cash to pay for this web site. :)
Okay, I finished Invisible Monsters last night, and will be able to discuss it when it all starts up.
Since I'm responsible for next month's book, I thought I'd float a few authors and titles here to make sure I'm not going to be assigning stuff people've already read and are bored with.
So, first: how many here are familiar with Neal Stephenson? His Snow Crash, The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon are all great material, but I fear they're so widely known that there won't be any surprise. Let me know if any of these hold interest - I'm leaning toward Snow Crash if it's relatively new here.
Failing that, Jack Womack's Terraplane and/or Elvissey are also great reading: time-travel novels in a post-cyberpunk world, but Womack does a lot of playing around with linguistics, so he can be trying to get the hang of at first.
And if all else fails, I have Noir by K.W. Jeter (get the paperback). Dark, dark, dark SF book. Not as sardonic as Invisible Monsters, but can make the grodier scenes in IM look tame.
Actually, now that I think about it, Noir is likely to be the least-known and best-appreciated of the above titles. If there are no objections or rootings for any of the above, that's what I'll go with.
Please comment! :-)