I never really got cyberpunk. Friends did. Friends were terribly keen. I vaguely know someone who still dresses in a heavy leather coast and mirrorshades in a manner nominally derived from William Gibson, but despite there being decent scenes, I could never be bothered to read beyond Necromancer.
This is perhaps what cyberpunk has evolved into, and I rather enjoyed it.
Disclaimer: the book was somewhere between a gift and a bribe from the author who was trying to secure a nomination for the Hugo awards, by offering chips of his novel to anyone able to give it a nod. I do not know if such things are considered 'sporting', but I thought I should at least read the thing before allowing the bribe to work.
2040 or thereabouts. The terrorist weapons of choice by now are tailored bioweapons, especially those that allow criminals to subvert the will of innocent bystanders, nasty things that have hit America several times, rendering the authorities deeply jumpy.
Into this we mix an innocent, which might even be thought of as naive, researcher who is working to transform a party drug allowing fleeting impressions of others thoughts into a permanent enhancement to the human brain allowing effective telepathy.
The descriptions of the nanotech involved are reasonably convincing, especially given the recent stories about connecting rats' brains together (link). Kade, our naive hero is convinced that this kind of communication will bring only good to the world, despite the repeated evidence of it being really scary shit. Two way communications are great, but what about one mind controlling the nanotech in another's body? What if one could therefore cause someone to kill themself, or someone else?
But Kade doesn't worry about that kind of thing. Not at first anyhow. Open, free communications, that's the thing. Raided by the specialist anti-scary tech cops he is blackmailed into trying to infiltrate the research group of a particularly worrying Chinese academic who's work may be responsible for a wave of unexplained assassinations. So off he reluctantly trots to a conference in Bangkok, with a buffed out handler, who may herself be exactly the kind of post-human that she's supposed to stop. And shenanigans ensue.
There's a nice ambiguity to the book. Hardly anyone's evil, though many are pretty irresponsible. Given the awful things some of these emergent Telford can do, resisting them seems fairly sensible, even if their methods are extreme. The technologists for the most part are looking to build a better future, even if they've not much clue about the ways their tools could be subverted. Those that don't reject human culture and society in favour of the transhuman world they aim to create.
I remember years ago working in an office that was just getting internal email for the first time, with managers horribly worried about what uncontrolled communication might do to their sense of control. "How will I know who's been told what?" they would say. The same conversations happen now with regard to Skype, and must have done with telephones and telegraphs and probably the printing press. We fear the new, until a few years later when we can't remember being without it. There's a lot in the new here to be fearful about, but the telling is solid. The whole thing collapses into a firefight at the end which is less interesting than the socio-political questions, but I enjoyed it.
He didn't get onto the shortlist though.