Jonathan Dotse from AfroCyberPunk just posted an abridged version of the first chapter of his upcoming novel on his site: Virus!. Go check it out, then continue on for some of my thoughts.

When I stumbled across Jonathan’s site while doing research for this site, I was excited. Some of the research done for a game document pointed to Africa as being important in the future as it might relate to cyberpunk. Here was an actual African who agreed and was going to write from his personal point of view. As Jonathan has said in some interviews, he was inspired by seeing the city of Accra from the sky as he was flying in.

As far as my personal cyberpunk definition goes, this hits all the sweet spots. “High tech, low life” for certain. There are a few modern twists, such as the implantable “biocores” similar to technology in other science fiction books. There’s definitely a heavy cyber component, with a reference to “a virtual reality simulation”, with a slight echo of Inception‘s murky definition of reality. The ending reminded me of Ghost in the Shell, demonstrating the dangers of having technology that can affect one’s health and wellbeing. The pervasive wireless network reminded me of Vinge’s Rainbows End and the interesting elements that can bring up. But, the setting is unique; Africa isn’t usually a setting for science fiction stories, despite the fact that Jonathan makes a great argument that Africa is science fiction.

My one complaint about the story is that I really did want more, which is not always a bad thing! I realize this is an abridged version of the first chapter of an upcoming novel, but I wanted to know a bit more about the characters. Why should I care about Dela? What is Khadija’s angle? Why is the run something that requires two people? If this were a story to stand on its own, I’d want to know more about this. But, these are topics that I assume would be handled a bit more in the full novel.

At any rate, it’s a great glimpse into how cyberpunk can be reincarnated and modernized. Old cyberpunk may be old news, but there is room for exciting new things.

What do you think? Does this story get you excited about a full novel in the setting? Does it work well as a standalone story as well?