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Mean Streets

By Pete Tzinski, author of God in the Machine

Nov 29, 2008: There is a great deal of material present, in "Street," and if you take to reading it regularly then you’ll have a large archive to while away your days reading. And that’s just fine, because it’s a fantastic way to lose a few hours.

I’ve never been a fan of cyberpunk. I enjoy William Gibson a great deal—and I see pieces of him in the first novel, "Empathy," which I am nearly done reading as of this writing— but the genre that appeared around his works never quite won me over. They always felt like snotty 90’s Super Hero comics (if you get the reference, then you have my sympathies for having endured it).

I liked Street, however. Firstly, because it reminds me more of Bill Gibson’s work than of the cyberpunk genre. Clear, strong writing, strong dialogue that sounds like human beings talking, always a plus. I think what really won me over, though, was the VOICE of the narrator. It’s never so overt as to detract from the story, but the voice of the story reminds me very strongly of old film noir movies and novels, of which I am a huge and adoring fan.

Ryan Span understates more often than not, another good thing. We tend to know less, rather than more, about his characters, the politics and global situation of his world, the drugs, and so forth. Frankly, that’s fine by me, as it keeps the reader attentively reading and looking for clues. It’s far across the spectrum from an info-dump, and much preferable.

Now, the negatives, none of them fiction related: I’ve tried the web-site on three different computers of varying power, two of them pretty strong, and for some reason, the Street web-site works dodgily for me. While in the chapters, I find that I can’t get it to scroll smoothly. It jerks down the page. This is distracting when I’m otherwise immersed in the story. I’ve had a couple of times where I’ve reached the end of the visible text and stopped reading to go do something else for a little bit, just because the page-scrolling was distracting me. It’s not the end of the world. You can read through it (and you really should). But it DOES distract from immersion.

My other problem is that the text is black against a blue-gray background. It’s readable, to be sure, but less readable than, say, white on black, or black on white. Combine this with the fact that there aren’t spaces between paragraphs (and whether or not that’s a necessity with online fiction is up to debate; I can take it or leave it, except in this instance) means that the eye has to work to parse everything out and continue reading.

No major problems, then. Anyway, it’s all probably a clever scheme on the part of the author to get you to go buy the first novel, Empathy, from Gryphonwood Press. Which, frankly, isn’t a bad idea. I know I’ve mentioned it to my family, as a possible Christmas present. Why not go do the same?

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