Review: Cybernetrix

When you pick up Cybernetrix, there’s not much information about what’s in store for you.  For me, all I’d heard was the phrase “Tron sex,” and that was enough for me to buy it.  You kinda have to be a Tron fan (or at least know about it) to get all the visuals in this story.  But pretty much everyone already likes Tron.  If you don’t like Tron, give it another try, or at least see the super-CGI sequel.

But don’t be fooled.  This isn’t some “Scary Movie” parody that takes the Tron story and slaps a few gags and perversions on it.  In fact, Mellick tells this story with complete seriousness.   It’s set in a world whose culture is permanently stuck in the 80’s.  This was somewhat interesting, but almost unnecessary, as Mellick doesn’t stray too far into the real world to show us why people are so obsessed with the 80’s.  The main theme of the real world seems to be the debasing drudgery of the modern cubicle drone (similar to another great movie, Office Space).  And since the real world kind of sucks, everyone yearns for the escapism of Cybernetrix, a vast virtual reality world similar to Tron.  The Cybernetrix is almost exactly like the Tron world, but Mellick renamed it seemingly to avoid a lawsuit from Disney.  It works out, since it doesn’t hurt the story and NOBODY wants to see Disney angry.

The protagonist is Wesley.  He’s a normal guy who’s never experienced Cybernetrix, so he provides us with a fresh perspective.  We see what Cybernetrix means to the human populace, and Mellick shows us the details of this world that really do make it seem better than real life.  There are some people who spend their entire lives in Cybernetrix, playing games and doing normal stuff that seems so much cooler with all the neon colors.  Wesley begins as a skeptic, but soon falls in love with an artificial intelligence, or “bot.”  If that weren’t enough, the bot begins to love Wesley back.  This is forbidden and impossible in Cybernetrix, and the story becomes a twisting romance that shows us how far things must go for them to be together.

Wesley is in over his head, and spends a lot of his time afraid for his life.  His bot lover, Xiva, is committed with the sort of absolute logic that an artificial intelligence would have.  She feels her emotions so completely that it makes humans seem shallow and one-dimensional, and nothing will stop her from making sure she and Wesley are together.  To her, they might as well be one person.  When the Cybernetrix begins to melt into the real world, the bots begin to destroy everything and take the humans as slaves.  And in the midst of the invasion, Xiva makes sure that Wesley will survive to be with her.  It’s a cold and logical dedication, but more intense than anything Wesley’s ever experienced before.

We all know people who are obsessed with virtual worlds, whether its video games, World or Warcraft, or even LARP.  But in Cybernetrix, people have lost interest in the real world, which leads to the bots taking it from them.  They show an appreciation for the real world that the humans seem to have forgotten.  So there’s more to Cybernetrix than “Tron sex.”  So far I consider it one of Mellick’s coolest and most heartfelt of books.


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