Reviews

Wired for Chaos by Brett L. Renwick

N.A. Hayes

If Wired for Chaos is not flawed in execution, then maybe it is flawed in vision.


Wired for Chaos

Publisher: Creation Books
Length: 320
Price: $15.95
Author: Brett L. Renwick
US publication date: 2005-08
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Cacophony. Brett L. Renwick's voice tumbles and churns in Wired for Chaos. The chapters blurp from the page, a titling twirl of Cyberpunk speculation and sports bravado. The narrative frets itself into dense narrative globules that confound and prevent a simple forward motion to the reading.

But this is not an accident, not a flaw. Renwick has put his virtual reality athlete, Brice in these words to amp up the frenetic energy of carefully researched futurescape. Most genres preference a certain audience and Renwick has done this to the assured exclusion of all non-cyberpunk devotees. The casual reader finds little narrative clear enough to follow and even a traditional space opera science fiction fan would have a challenge to piece together the apparently sloppy prose.

The publisher claims a kinship between Wired for Chaos and Blade Runner. The dim (but not actually bleak) corporate future tries to puff itself into the struggling and wasted humanity of Ridley Scott's cinematic story, but Renwick provides an even limper facsimile of Philip K Dick's complex vision of the future. The essential if not essentialist question -- what does it mean to be human is unasked.

The focus for all of Wired for Chaos's frenetic energy is a quotidian meditation on celebrity, especially the bravado and greed of sports stars and the world of excess and vice that is generated by their presence. Renwick has played a shell game of arenas hiding his cautionary tale of the African American sports star destroyed by his sport's business interests by replacing the basketball court or boxing ring with a cyber arena. What little complication there is in this story comes from the fact Brice must face the Japanese menace. True to form the stereotypical Japanese corporations are inscrutable with clandestine and vindictive practices.

Readers are instructed that this book is not flawed and maybe it is not. The shallowness of the prose's investigation is echoed in the minds and actions of its inhabitants. But intent is not a justification for the obtuse and insular material, more given to the artist's vague ideas and ideals than that of the reader's enjoyment and engagement.

The sheer list of acknowledgements testifies to Renwick's intense desire to complete this project. But would it have been so horrible if this project were flawed, if this project surrendered some of its proprietary rights of vision, to the accessibility of the reader? Certainly there is brilliant art and literature that does not grant easy access to the reader. But this art always rewards the careful reader with insight and new avenues of thought. Staring into a Rothko, crawling along with Samuel Becket's How It Is gives very little reward, but the reward is pure. The careful attention those works require open up possibilities.

Renwick does not provide this reward for the reader with the strenuous reading required to follow his story. Not only does the story demand this close attention but the attention forces the reader to, at most, question the underlying skill. Renwick is a competent writer but does not have the skill that drives complicated literary architecture. Instead of having his work stand alone, it almost needs him at the reader's shoulder saying, "So ok, whoa. This is what I meant. Ain't it cool?" Such questing for so little or no reward frustrates even the most patient reader.

Even as we are assured that the writing style of this book is not flawed, the reader must wonder if that statement is an apology, a justification. Furthermore if Wired for Chaos is not flawed in execution, then maybe it is flawed in vision. Certainly there will be readers who can look past the flawed aspects of this text and find an enjoyable story chopped into bits and scattered over the pages with neither the strategic beauty of Pressburger's Teeth and Spies or the hectic élan of a cut-up text.

Intent although essential to any work of art must be permeable to the reader. Vision must give way not only to readability, but to alternate interpretations. If this does not happen, the work has no potential in it and is a husk. Renwick knows his intent and vision, but has allowed them to strangle Wired for Chaos. What satisfaction can there be in producing exactly what you want, but having it be both unintelligible and lacking in meaning? I sincerely hope that the readers of cyberpunk with their vast context of this genre can counter an uninitiated reading to prevent the tragedy of so many words spilled for no reason.


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