Video Star • 1986 • Cyberpunk novelette by Walter Jon Williams


Synopsis: Ric is on the run, fleeing from Spain to Los Angeles with a lot of money in his pockets, allowing him to retire in the age of 27. He gets poisoned aboard the plane, gets cured in a hospital. The hospital AIs decide that they can protract the treatment in order to get all of his money.

After leaving the hospital, Ric looks for a heist scheme to fill his pockets again. He remembers that the hospital has a huge storage of drugs.

With the help of a local gang and a cool lady, he starts to brew explosives. The gang makes an action movie flick from the whole heist which feels like real for the audience, changing faces with AI technology.

Review: This Cyberpunk novelette is a shallow copycat of Gibson’s short stories, e.g. Johnny Mnemonic (review). Details like “Urban Surgery” where plastic lenses cover the eyes or kids get fingertip razors implanted lets one instantly think of Neuromancer’s Molly Millions (review). The story clearly rides the heights of the Cyberpunk wave in the mid of the 1980s.

It loosely connects to the setting of his novel Hardwired, this time with a drug heist that won’t let you sit back.

Ric is second to none in the first half of the scheme, demonstrating ever more abilities, like the detailed chemical process to fabricate small bombs. But some errors fire back, and he sees himself confronted with them later on.

The story is highly enjoyable like a popcorn movie, and would deserve a higher rating than those 2.5 stars. But I’m angry about the scandalous copying of Gibson’s atmospheric details, and that took away part of the joy reading this story.

Recommended for readers of action oriented Cyberpunk stories.

Meta: isfdb. I’ve read it it in the collection Best of Walter Jon Williams published by Subterranean.

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