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Book review

True Names

by Vernor Vinge

True Names by Vernor Vinge

A classic story from the early days of Cyberpunk, when the internet was a thing known only to a few academics and scientists, from 1987 and the dawn of the World Wide Web.

We meet hackers – Mr Slippery is the main protagonist – and we meet them as they fight their way across the global networks, or the Other Plane as it’s known. The fight each other, they fight cyber criminals, and they fight the government. But Mr Slippery finds himself arrested – or threatened with arrest – unless he helps the government (the NSA?) fight back against the Mailman, an international dark hacker, or Warlock, who is recruiting other Warlocks to his side.

The title comes from the believe that you need to keep your true name secret, for it will give others power over you. Mr Slippery’s true name becomes known to the government, giving them a hold over him. Now he must find the Mailman’s name, and protect his own.

The book is one of the defining works of “cyberpunk”, perhaps with less “punk” than William Gibson, but a full dose of “cyber”. It hasn’t lost its power, either way.

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