DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Edited by Karen Haber
With essays by Darrel Anderson, Kevin J. Anderson, Stephen Baxter, Rick Berry, David Brin, Pat Cadigan, Paul DiFillipo, Alan Dean Foster, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Joe Haldeman, James Patrick Kelly, Dean Motter, Mike Resnick, John Shirley, Bruce Sterling, Ian Watson, and Walter Jon Williams
St. Martin's Press/ 24.95 / 272 pages
ISBN: 0312313586
(May 2003)

You never know quite what to expect from a nonfiction tie-in to a popular film or series. (I'm sure one of these days we'll see THE SCIENCE OF HARRY POTTER, THE RELIGIOUS IMPLICATIONS OF DOCTOR WHO, and HANNIBAL LECTER'S FAVORITE RECIPES and they'll be just as bad as those titles suggest.) But EXPLORING THE MATRIX, edited by Karen Haber, exceeds whatever the expectations are -- and with considerable brio.

Cover EXPLORING THE MATRIX offers far more than a choice of red or blue pill. There are predictable references to William Gibson, P.K Dick, Charles Dodgson, Jack Williamson, and Nick Bostrum; but there are also random flashes of the unexpected: "Punk fashion has always been protective armor. The spikes, the leather, the razors, the zippers, they are what you put on after flower-power has choked to death on its own vomit. It's Kevlar for the soft marshmallow core of youthful idealism." (Bruce Sterling)..."The result of figure _without_ ground is _Symbolism_." (Dean Motter)... "the most successful movements are always punished by becoming clichés" (David Brin)...Joe Haldeman muses briefly about interpreting the movie through the obscure mythology of sf fandom (and wisely tiptoes by that sleeping dog.)

You'll find some agreement and constant contradictions: THE MATRIX is nothing but style / THE MATRIX has spiritual depth. It has nothing to do with cyberpunk; it has everything to do with cyberpunk. And the essays say a surprising (and contradictory) amount about cyberpunk itself. Most of the essays are more entertaining than weighty. It's all well-written, formalized "sitting around the bar with very intelligent, witty friends at a great con" stuff rather than dissertation material. You'll find yourself wanting to continue the discussion -- "Well, yes, but what about..." or "Oh no! I have to disagree..."

Paul DiFillippo's essay on literary influences solidly connects everything and everyone from the Bible, Blake, and Baum to Michael Moorcock and Neil Gaiman. Haber considers the black joke that the high-tech sfx movie is profoundly anti-science. Alan Dean Foster proves that the movie's true meaning is that nerdy geeks can triumph. Ian Watson's essay connects THE MATRIX to French social theorist Jean Baudrillard and convincingly argues it should be seen as a superhero movie exploiting, rather than exemplifying, cyberpunk themes. John Shirley seems to be the only writer to recognize "the group of films galvanized by the same furnace of fermenting realization" along with THE MATRIX. Rick Berry writes on the ancient past of CGI and expresses refreshing optimism about cyberspace.

The essays are accompanied by the magnificent art of Darrel Anderson (who also supplies an essay) and Robert Zahrab (which, sadly I could get only an impression of since I have the galley and not the finished product) and spiffy design. A must-read for the film's fans, EXPLORING THE MATRIX it's highly recommended reading for science fiction buffs as well. -- Paula Guran (DarkEcho 04.06.03>

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Copyright © 2003 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.