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Islands in the Net

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  3,982 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
In the high-tech twenty-first century, a family of "corporate associates" descends into an underworld of data pirates and bootleg biogenetics to discover the identity of new-order terrorists.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 1st 1989 by Ace (first published June 1st 1988)
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Best of Cyberpunk
28th out of 250 books — 942 voters
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20th out of 140 books — 355 voters

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Community Reviews

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Sep 11, 2016 Brad rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
I grew up knowing that this was supposed to be a great cyberpunk novel right in the heart of the genre as it was a few years after Neuromancer, and I did eventually get around to reading his novel with William Gibson, The Difference Engine, which was pretty much a steampunk novel.

Other than that, I kept berating myself that I'd never gone back and read what should have been a staple of the genre.

So what did I think?

He was well ahead of the curve when it came to predicting the future, pretty much
Dec 17, 2008 Evan rated it it was amazing

Okay, we don't have personal watch-phones. We have personal phone-watches instead. Big deal.

The trajectory of this book, the whiff of cynicism, menace, strangeness, and internationalism -- it's basic arguments about the future of power, all of them are still relevant and still have the power to explain parts of the world.

You can hear Sterling's prose learning from the textural techniques of William Gibson, and benefitting from them, but the raw intellectual content of this book outst
People seemed to miss the boat on this one. Badly in need of a reissue, ditch the atrocious cover and update the text a little bit and this would be cutting edge or at least comfortably contemporary. Like Brunner or Moorcock’s Cornelius stories(and peer/co-conspirator Gibson) this takes a sci-fi lens to contemporary culture and stretches into plausible shapes. Sterling pretty much nails it(yes he gets some wrong but not enough to discredit the rest), with Globalism, the rise of the third world i ...more
Sep 19, 2007 Seth rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: cyberpunks, social theorists, terrorist fiction fans
Reading Islands in the Net now, it may take a minute to figure out why it's a cyberpunk classic. There is very little VR, and what is there is not described in detail. Most of the book is off the grid (but then again, much of Neuromancer is, too). The heroine isn't a hack, programmer, or counterculture sympathizer, in fact, she's a corporate worker.

But read further in and you'll see that it's about the essential cyberpunk issues. Corporations consolidating power and those who don't get any. The
Patrick Di Justo
Jul 13, 2016 Patrick Di Justo rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Damn you Bruce Sterling! You reminded me of the potential of the net, and how we have squandered it.

For those of use who were on the internets in the late 1980s (like Bruce, and me), this book perfectly captures the hopes that we had for the new technological future. Well, Bruce was always a much more cynical bastard than the rest of us, so we had the Utopian ideals, and he saw how human beings would fuck them up.

Except, he didn't. Bruce fell for the optimism, juust a little bit, in that he thou
Feb 16, 2016 Kelanth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantascienza
Isole nella rete, in originale "Islands in the net", è un romanzo di Bruce Sterling, chiave di volta nell'evoluzione letteraria dell'autore, senz'altro una delle voci più interessanti (e probabilmente la più impegnata) emersa nella fantascienza dell’ultimo quarto di secolo. Ideologo cyberpunk, forse troppo schierato sul fronte di sinistra nei primi anni ’80, Sterling sembra ritrattare molte delle sue tesi con questo romanzo, sfiorando in più di un’occasione una preoccupante deriva destroide. Que ...more
Jan 05, 2015 Marcos rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Me atrajo de él el hecho de que era una de las primeras novelas cyberpunk. Sin embargo, como a tantas otras novelas de esa época, les pasa que el tiempo no las ha tratado muy bien. Dicho lo cual, el trasfondo de luchas entre corporaciones, grupos terroristas y estados más o menos piráticos es interesante y tiene aún cierta actualidad. Eso sí, quienes esperen un Neuromante o un Snow Crash, con vívidas descripciones de la realidad virtual y/o Internet, van a quedar muy decepcionados, puesto que no ...more
Jul 22, 2016 Frédéric rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cyberpunk, book-2015
If you read this book, say, right now, just bear in mind it was written 25 years ago. Of course the actual world is not what Sterling described then but you gotta admit that what seemed pure fantasy in 1989 tends to be way more credible now.
Apart from that, this is a great book, with a real clever geopolitical plot (as opposed to Gibson's techie/social stories, of which I am a huge fan, mind you) with an awesome strong female lead character.
If you wanna know what cyberpunk is, there are 2 books
David Hall
This was a very intriguing and sometimes vexing read. As very early cyberpunk, it includes a lot of things we now take to be standard - including a lot of accurate predictions of things, especially technology - that have come true. But in many ways, this book shows more of the limitations of near-future fiction - that in extrapolation, one can easily go off target. The most interesting piece of this was the central role of nuclear weapons in the world culture - or rather their apparent absence s ...more
Jul 04, 2015 Tim rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf
This is a pretty highly regarded sf book, althou I am not entirely sure why. I like Sterling's editing (he edited the fine anthology "Mirrorshades") but am not a big fan of his writing. He exemplifies both the strong and weak points of the genre. My main complaint is one that I have about other SF novels: the ideas are engaging, the future world he posits is thought-provoking, but the characters are shallow, and there is very little real insight or feeling. SF too often ignores good prose and ch ...more
Jeffrey Hart
Jun 20, 2008 Jeffrey Hart rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
The theme here is how island developing nations might choose to become homes for illegal and quasi-legal information technologies and services, hence the title. The story deals with a particular type of dystopia that accurately mirrors the real world of island nations like Nauru, home of long-distance telephone scams, and Romanian PayPal scam artists operating out the the London suburbs. A similar theme is developed in Neal Stephenson's Economicon.
J.G. Keely
Has not aged as well as Gibson's work. I'm not certain what's more jarring, Sterling's enthusiasm for both nanotech and fax machines, or Star Trek's matter/energy conversion but inability to heal a spine.
Nelson Minar
Apr 10, 2014 Nelson Minar rated it liked it
Somehow in catching up on all that cyberpunk reading last year I skipped over Sterling. So I went to him, with the one I'd heard the most about - Islands in the Net. It's an ok book, enjoyable to read. The spin on cyberpunk here is odd, maybe a bit interesting - the politics of the information future, the dominance of terrorist / pirate states. The narrative is basically a tour of three distopias of the future - Grenada, Singapore, and Mali. His take on these futures is basically believable, if ...more
Ivan Milke
Mar 31, 2014 Ivan Milke is currently reading it
citam srpski prevod koji je objavljen u ediciji "Znaku Sagite" broj 19

Aug 26, 2014 Nathanial rated it liked it
Compared to somewhat similar kinds of stories I've read (I'm thinking Neal Stephenson, William Gibson), this story reads kind of slowly. I think that threw me off at first, and didn't really match up with my expectations for cyberpunk. That said, there is a lot of action in this story, it just takes a little while for us to get there, because Stirling takes the time to set up his world (of course).

Ultimately, while I didn't find the book to be a page-turner like some, I came away from the story
Edward Richmond
Laura Webster is the director of a hotel owned by a multinational corporation in Galveston, TX, where she lives with her husband, David, who works as an architect for the same multinational and salvages scrap from the ruins of the old city (destroyed by a hurricane in the early 2000s). Their comfortable life with their infant daughter is irrevocably interrupted when the company chooses their hotel as the venue for a high stakes meeting between data pirates from Grenada, Singapore, and Luxembourg ...more
James Dunphy
Sep 25, 2014 James Dunphy rated it it was amazing
I was craving a science fiction read outside of my usual realm of authors. I picked up Islands in the Net for a few reasons;
1) It's an early cyberpunk novel (I love me some cyberpunk)
2) It's by Bruce Sterling (and I have only been exposed to William Gibson primarily)
3) It was $2.00 at my favorite local book store
Picking this thing up, wow, holy crap. You would think this book was written maybe a few years ago if it weren't for the dated frizzy tangle of 80's hair on the front cover. To think tha
Mar 28, 2015 Adam rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This is a fun read if you were/are a fan of late 80s classic cyberpunk. This is one I wished I had read back when it first came out but was still fun and maintained some of the prescient vision that makes good near-future sci fi. The main character is a rising star in her corporation tasked with mediating a dispute between rival data havens. When things go wrong she finds herself traveling the world as her corporation's representative. As is true of all good science fiction, the various situatio ...more
Jul 29, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Sci fi fans, cyberpunks, political imaginers
Recommended to Michael by: Tom Maddox
I finally got around to re-reading this after more than twenty years, and I’m amazed by how much of it I had forgotten. Certain parts of it had stuck with me very clearly – the submarine, for example, and the beginning of the revolt in Singapore, and a few bits from the beginning, but there were whole sections I had deleted, and I somehow remembered it all happening in a big rush, while this reading was far more leisurely (which may just reflect how I read now vs how I read then).
As I had recal
Curtis Butturff
Jun 13, 2010 Curtis Butturff rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
My version of this book isn't actually listed here I have the leather bound edition from Easton Press such was my regard for the work.

Sterling was a member of a younger generation of science fiction writers that were referred to collectively as the cyber punk movement in the 1980s and 1990s and having read most of his work this title always struck a chord with me.

Some of it's central ideas might seem not so far fetched these days but note that it was first published in 1988 prior to the fall of
Apr 11, 2011 Milele rated it liked it

Twenty years brings a lot of wrinkles to the face a near-future science fiction book. As always, some things change faster than the author can imagine (even though we're still 10 years away from the book's timeline), some things slower, and some things just differently.

The Net is much faster, cheaper and has more bandwidth than Sterling anticipated. His characters recorded video messages and used "telex" to send text to one another to save costs, rather than just go live.

His video-phone/organi
Alain Dewitt
Oct 31, 2013 Alain Dewitt rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
This was the second Sterling book I read. Prior to reading 'Islands in the Net', I read 'The Artificial Kid'. I didn't care for it at all. Originally I had this one at three stars and 'TAK' at 2 but I have deducted a point from each.

This one is better than 'TAK' but since I basically thought that book sucked, that's not saying a whole lot.

It's set in a fairly near future Earth. The lines between corporations and government have almost blurred into nothingness in the US. The protagonist, Laura W
Jul 23, 2012 Dean rated it it was amazing
This was a great read. The scope of this novel is tremendous, I had to keep reminding myself that this was written in 1988. Bruce Sterling has created a fine character filled adventure that manages to excite, philosophise and predict in an unerring way a speculative future that reads like some corporate slash revolutionary playbook. He manages to do this while never falling into excessive techno-fetish or a particular dogma.
We are dragged through a comprehensive geographic and geopolitical mael
John Jr.
Feb 11, 2012 John Jr. rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf
As far as I can tell so far, the online Science Fiction Encyclopedia, launched in 2011, aims to be authoritative in the manner of traditional reference works: broad in its perspective, knowledgeable in its scope of reference (entries are apt to allude to many styles, trends, subcategories, and the like, whether it be historical literary forms such as the picaresque or more SF-oriented groupings such as the Ruined Earth and Steampunk approaches), concise but thorough in its summaries, and evaluat ...more
Sterling est un des grands du cyberpunk, et ce roman nous le prouve. Alors que d’autres nous propulsent allègrement dans un futur post-gouvernemental où les "corpos" font la loi, Sterling, lui, préfère s’intéresser au basculement, et c’est à ce moment précis que se situe l’intrigue des Mailles du réseau.
Dans un monde où les entreprises prennent de plus en plus d’importance, Laura Webster est l’une des associées d’une démocratie économique, la puissante multinationale Rizome. Et en tant que memb
Nick Black
Dec 19, 2008 Nick Black rated it did not like it
Not only was the book itself an execrable waste of $5.95 USD, the title's bad enough to elicit wincing, and to top if off there's some $8-an-hour model doing softcore on the front, looking for all the world like the cover of a Def Leppard album. Pyromania! Hysteria! Islands in the Net! How the hell did Bruce Sterling come to be so respected? Yet another few hundred pages of crap yielded up from the "Cyberpunk" genre; aside from Neuromancer, there was really not much going on here. It's a shame, ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]A really good read, set in an early 21st century future but written in 1988. It is of course not intended as a work of prediction, but it's impossible not to read it in that way now - yes, end of Cold War; no, didn't see collapse of communism; yes, video-recorders obsolete; yes, non-state actors capable of major damage to industrialised society; no, rogue states on the whole not providing havens for "data piracy". The passages explaining how ...more
Jan 10, 2012 arjuna rated it really liked it
Sterling's ability to accurately predict in principle just how we as a species bend and shape the world - and just how irredeemable we are - is a joy. Written decades ago, this reads as if it were put together yesterday, with a full knowledge of the excesses and stupidities of global culture and politics and technology and its abuse in the post 911 world. Fresh as a daisy. Where other writers' predictions appear naive, Sterling's are essentially on target, even when the astronomical changes in t ...more
Jan 17, 2016 Brent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, scifi
This book doesn't feel very cyberpunk in today's age, mostly because Sterling got so much right back in 1988. It's a testament to his creative foresight that this tale reads largely like a mainstream fiction novel.

Not as fast-paced as Gibson's works but with deeper grounding in world politics.
Oct 12, 2014 Steve rated it really liked it
I reread this after many years. Didn't love it quite as much as the first time though, though still a great story. For the late 1980s, author Bruce Sterling anticipated many facets of the modern information age. Global information network, cyber crime, cyber terror, changing roles for women, desolation of Africa, corporate neo-liberalism, deadly drones, nuclear terrorists, shifting balance of power away from the West.

Laura Webster makes for an intriguing and admirable character, pulled from libe
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Michael Bruce Sterling is an American science fiction author, best known for his novels and his seminal work on the Mirrorshades anthology, which helped define the cyberpunk genre.
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“The rhythm built up, high resonant notes from the buzzing xylophone, the off-scale dipping warble of the flute, the eerie, strangely primeval bass of the synthesizer.
The others punctuated the music with claps and sudden piercing shrieks from behind their veils. Suddenly one began to sing in Tamashek.
"He sings about his synthesizer," Gresham murmured.
"What does he say?"

I humbly adore the acts of the Most High,
Who has given to the synthesizer what is better than a soul.
So that, when it plays, the men are silent,
And their hands cover their veils to hide their emotions.
The troubles of life were pushing me into the tomb,
But thanks to the synthesizer,
God has given me back my life.”
More quotes…