Eric Nylund's fourth novel is touted by the publisher as "hyperpunk," but what is that, exactly? Is it the spastic child of CyberPunk? The willful offspring poking Father Gibson in the eye? WhileSignalToNoise introduces some fascinating virtual sleights of hand, the overall impression is of a continuation of the nano-techno-cyberpunk genre rather than a leap in evolution to a new form of fiction.
fThe brilliance of SignalToNoise is in the science: the idea of looking out into the swirling sea of the cosmos and finding patterns hidden amongst the static hiss of the births and deaths of stars. At times, the math itself has more depth than many of the characters, who tend to be reminiscent of stock figures in pulp fiction. Which isn't to say that there's no fun to be had here. As the novel progresses, the ante is upped until Jack is bartering the alien for Earth itself. An extra implant crammed into Jack's brain against his will is starting to burn out his optical nerve, and he's no longer sure who his friends are. Log on to SignalToNoise to find out who the bad guys are, and who, if anyone, is going to survive.