Cyberpunk Book Review: Sleep State Interrupt (BetterWorld trilogy #1)
Sleep State Interrupt is book one of the BetterWorld Trilogy by T.C. Weber, which is available on Amazon now as part of the three-book set called The War for Reality. It follows a motley Cyberpunk crew of characters set in a more near-future but focuses on Waylee, an ambitious but downtrodden, recently unemployed, Baltimore journalist who wants to bring down the oppressive corporations around her to help change the world for the better. To do so, however, she will have to enlist the help of Charles, an amateur teenage hacker who just recently wound up in juvenile detention.
Less High-tech, more Low-Life Hacking & Journalistic Espionage
BetterWorld is an advanced version of our present-day Metaverse. It’s a place where people shop, make friends, play games, and interact in a virtual world, a bit like Ready Player One. And just like Ready Player One, there’s high-tech and low-tech immersion gear, depending on how wealthy the user is. But unlike Ready Player One, a lot of the action in this novel takes place in the real world, while only a small number of things happens in the BetterWorld virtual universe. I like reading a variety of near-future and distant-future cyberpunk tales, so this was a nice variation for me. In this sense Sleep State Interrupt felt a lot closer to our current world, and a lot less high-tech as the technology described doesn’t feel so far-fetched at all. There are data glasses that record (much like Google Glass was supposed to be) but other than that, very little cyborgs or advanced tech you might find in similar Cyberpunk stories like Ghost in the Shell. And so far, no androids to speak of (we’ll see if any pop up in books 2 or 3 of the trilogy).
But where the novel lacked in high-tech, it made up for in low-life punk hacking. The novel is filled with hacking jargon and events, which makes sense considering the plot surrounds the team breaking a hacker out of juvie to help them with the greatest hack of all time to expose the malicious plans that the mega-corporations have. Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks, server rooms, malware and viruses, clone and shadow programs running routines and subroutines within the BetterWorld network…it was great reading a hack-focused cyberpunk novel with language I could actually understand. For those that aren’t familiar with the lingo, the novel does a great job explaining the terms as the lead hackers explain what they’re doing to the other non-hackers of the group.
A Fun, Varied Cast
Unlike other Cyberpunk novels that tend to focus on just a couple main characters (such as Neuromancer, Ready Player One, Snowcrash, etc.) Sleep State Interrupt has a very fun, believable, and varied cast. And although I pictured them differently in my head, Ted Weber actually commissioned an artist to create digital renderings of what they look like, so take a look for yourself.
The cast in order clockwise are Waylee, Pelopidas, Shakti, Dingo, M’Patanashi, Kiyoko, and Charles. Each one has their own motivations, eccentricities, strengths and weaknesses. The novel’s chapters are often labeled with one of these seven characters, which gives the reader a chance to understand which point of view they are reading from, but also to follow different characters to understand them. While other writers might struggle with this writing style, Weber is able to make this work, as a lot of the story unfolds with the members above all living and working together at the time. So the change in perspective or storyline isn’t confusing, and the reader is able to follow along and also understand the thoughts or emotions of each character, without the story feeling too explanatory or confusing.
A Strong Sense of Paranoia and Suspense
While there is some action in this novel, the main overwhelming feeling in the story is a strong sense of paranoia and suspense. I’ve never felt quite as uneasy (in a good way) following the characters in a story as I have with Sleep State Interrupt. Ever since the team bust the hacker out of juvie (which happens at the beginning of the novel), from that point on the authorities are hot on their tail, and the reader really feels it. It makes one imagine what it must have felt like for the likes of Edward Snowden to be on the run from the government.
Final Verdict: 8.5/10
With a steady pacing, good writing, a varied cast and an interesting storyline, T.C. Weber’s Sleep State Interrupt is a Cyberpunk novel that you won’t want to miss. It’s a brilliant futuristic hacker story, and a fun thriller for those who enjoy that style. My only complaint might be it lacks a little imagination or depth of ideas, but that only applies if you like stories set in a distant future, so it’s not even something that I can really hold against the book, it just explains why I’m not giving the novel a perfect 10. I prefer more futuristic tech and brutal action (a la Altered Carbon), but that’s just a personal preference.
So make sure you don’t miss reading this fun hacker tale, and if you’ve already read it, let me know what you thought of the book in the comments below!
P.S. Many of the main characters are members of a band called Dwarf Eats Hippo. On Weber’s website you can find a fun interview of the band here.
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