Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: Cyberstealth

Book Review: 'Cyberstealth' by S. N. Lewitt

1 / 5 Stars

‘Cyberstealth’ (232 pp.) was published by Ace Books in August, 1989; the cover artwork is by Luis Royo. A sequel, ‘Dancing Vac’, was also published by Ace in February 1990.

It’s the future, and war is raging between the worlds of the Collegium and the worlds of the Cardia coalition. Both entities have ringed their major planetary system with sophisticated early warning satellites and patrol ships, making direct assault too costly to attempt. Therefore, much of the war involves small, but vicious, conflicts: the destruction of unescorted merchant ships, terror raids on unsuspecting cities, hit-and-run sorties on enemy bases, and other acts of attrition.

Cargo – real name Raphael – is a hot shot fighter pilot. His co-pilot Ghoster is a member of the alien race of the Akhaid. Together, Cargo and Ghoster have been so successful that, as the novel opens, they have been among the lucky few selected to train, and fly, the ultimate space fighter plane, the ‘cyberstealth’ aircraft of the book’s title: the Batwing.

Crucial to the operation of the Batwing is its cybernetic interface with the pilot; once jacked into ‘the Maze’, or cyberspace, the plane is capable of responding instantly to conscious or even subconscious commands from its pilot.

As Cargo and Ghoster start their Batwing training on the windy and desolate planet of Vanity, some unsettling events come to cast a shadow over the squadron: one of their number may be a spy for Cardia. And an unknown stealth craft has been observed in orbit above the planet.

As Cargo and Ghoster set out on their first mission as a Batwing team, unknown to either of them, the stakes have grown higher in the conflict between the Collegium and Cardia…..and at the center lies a conspiracy that involves Cargo’s own mentor……..

‘Cyberstealth’ is one of the most boring sf novel’s I’ve ever read. I got to page 136 before giving up in exasperation. 

The story’s premise is seemingly entertaining, if not unduly original, and given its 1989 publication date, author Shariann Lewitt certainly had ample time to absorb the cyberpunk ethos and apply it to her novel.

But ‘Cyberstealth’ suffers badly from over-writing. Too many empty sentences, too many strained metaphors, too many interior monologues that go on way too long and suck all the life out of the story. 

For a novel designed around a military theme, the necessary action sequences are few and far between. For example, much of the book’s first half is preoccupied with documenting the emotional and spiritual backgrounds of the characters, their personality clashes, their inner doubts and fears, etc., etc.

So much of the narrative is wasted on this tangential material that, when I reached page 136, I discovered that Cargo had flown his Batwing exactly…..twice….! 

‘Cyberstealth’ reads as if the author had decided to not just emulate the dense prose style of a novel like ‘Neuromancer’, but made the fatal decision to try and top it. The result simply doesn’t work. The verdict ? There are plenty of first-gen cyberpunk novels that are more worthy reads than Cyberstealth.

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