Some spoilers are present. You have been warned.
The main characters of Software feel like actual people. They deal with their own personal problems, they enjoy things normal people do, and they behave the way most people in their situations would. Many stories have characters that act logical 100% of the time, even when they’re supposedly out of their minds, and do not respond and react to stimuli the way an actual person would, but that is not Software. Dr. Anderson willingly gives up his body for a new one, knowing a fair amount of what that would entail, because he doesn’t want to face his own mortality. Most sane people wouldn’t want to face their inevitable demise if they felt that they still had things they wanted to do, and he is no different. After getting his new body, one of the first things Dr. Anderson does is see if he can still enjoy the effects of alcohol. Sta-Hi doesn’t break his drug habits cold-turkey just because of all of the things happening in the story, either. The characters act and behave like they would if they were actually real, and that’s something I do not often see.
The setting isn’t explored too much, but a basic knowledge of the location (Florida) and a little bit of imagination does wonders for it. Like most cyberpunk works from the same time, the setting is a 1980’s envisioning of what the not-so distant future of our own world would look like under X circumstances. In this case, robots designed using Asimov’s laws are adapted to have free will, the inevitable chaos that follows the reveal of sentient AI happens, the sentient robots go to the Moon, and something about senior citizens being given Florida as a “sorry” about Social Security being pissed away. Other than the background details, the setting isn’t too far removed from . . . 1980’s Florida, but with a lot more senior citizens and new drugs. Rucker’s slang for the youth of the future, while off-putting at first, is used with such regularity that it became easy to understand what it meant, and that is something I appreciate.
The story feels more like an extended-short story than a novel. I am doing this review before reading the rest of the tetralogy, so I can only assume this, but Software reads a bit like Asimov’s first Foundation novel in the sense that it is the foundation (no pun intended) that the rest of the series will be building upon. With the story mainly centering around Dr. Anderson, the man responsible for the robots attaining their free will, Software feels like that foundation. Having read this after experiencing tons of media inspired by it, the existential themes explored in Software seem rather basic, but, like I said, I have read and watched a lot of the media released in the 30 years since Software‘s release that has expanded upon the ideas touched upon in it. The ideas presented in Software weren’t even new at the time of its release, but it is a well-written story based around those concepts.
Software is a fun read that I’d recommend to any fan of 1980’s cyberpunk literature. The short adventure of Dr. Anderson and Sta-Hi was enjoyable the entire way through.
- Characterization: 10/10
- Setting: 7/10
- Story: 8/10
- Overall: 8/10
Released: January 1982
Author: Rudy Rucker
Genre: Science Fiction (Cyberpunk)