The Softwire

In March 2002, while much of the rest of the world was still on dial-up, author Gail Gauthier was starting her blog, one of the very first on children’s literature. She’s been posting her penetrating essays and reviews ever since, becoming one of the most influential bloggers in our sunlit corner of Internet.

Why she isn’t as big by now as Daily Kos can’t be explained in a rational universe, but we’re happy to have her on our Fanstasy/Science Fiction panel, where she’s plowing through the nominees at warp speed.

Today’s review is of a rarity these days: rock-hard science fiction, defined as a plot that relies on high-tech wizardry for its propulsion.

Virus on Orbis 1
involves a large group of human children, no older than thirteen, who were born on a spaceship after all their parents (and the other adults with them) died while traveling to begin a new life on Orbis 1. The kids are raised for years by a computer they call Mother. They know they are going to Orbis, they know they are going to live there.

When they arrive, however, they find that their parents had indentured themselves in order to make the trip. Since the parents are all dead, the kids will have to work off the debt working for various aliens who are remarkably into capitalist enterprises. In order to understand all the different lifeforms there, the children are implanted with a translator chip. (Remember the universal translator on Star Trek?) This device also makes it possible for them to upload infromation from computers and thus learn what they need to know to get along in this new society.

This interface between man and machine is the cyberpunk element.

One boy, however, doesn’t need the implant. He’s a softwire — a living being who can interface with computers without any kind of implant. He’s the only softwire known to have existed among humans.

Chilling stuff. Go read the rest.