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SuperMegaNet by Jesse Gordon

Ultimate Collaboration 

Four unlikely friends are permanently linked together when they install a beta “ultimate collaboration” tool on their computers—that allows them to teleport to and from each other’s homes at ease. Of course, they get more than they bargained for when they discover they can’t turn their connections off . . . .

Note: SuperMegaNet contains some graphic violence and harsh language.

A serialized novel, updating sporadically

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Listed: Dec 31, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

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Four Tweens and It

By Linda Schoales, editor

Jan 19, 2009: “SuperMegaNet” is the fast, zany story of four gifted 12-year olds who discover some software that takes chat to a whole new level.

The three boys and one girl are smart enough to be starting high school and worried about how they’ll fit in. They’re met on their first day at the school by a sarcastic, chain-smoking guidance counsellor, who gives them an assignment for their second. They are to hook up in a chat room, get to know one another, and hand in a list of 5 things they’ve learned about each person. One of the kids has a slow computer so they decide to look for newer software. They find SuperMegaNet and discover they can teleport using the new software. The story is about how each kid makes use of this new technology.

The characters come up with some really interesting ways of using the new software. I’m not sure how they’re all keeping this secret from their parents but I had to laugh at some of the stuff that happens. The effect of using SuperMegaNet on slower computers is interesting. The author has obviously thought about the ramifications of the idea a lot.

Leaving aside the oddness of the initial premise (a guidance counsellor giving an assignment?), the story is fast-paced, fun and light. The dialog is snappy and feels real for the age group. The story’s main web site has a banner that reads, “Now with 10% more potty mouth!”, which sets the tone of the piece very well. Most of the characters have potty mouths.

The narrator changes from segment to segment. The first segment is told in first person by the guidance counsellor. The next, by one of the four kids. The characters start out as stereotypes: the nerd, the jock, the fat kid and the budding princess. As each character gets to narrate, they break away from that, becoming more real and interesting. The characters are all distinct, although so far I found that two of them are better “fleshed out” than the others.

I did find segment 1.4a a bit weird. The author has a disclaimer at the beginning but I really didn’t think the segment added anything to the story. It seemed to be some kind of dream sequence. It didn’t really fit in with the tone of the other segments.

All in all, “SuperMegaNet” is a fun, young adult romp with some futuristic technology. It’s not for those easily offended by coarse language, silly pranks or manipulative kids, but it’s perfectly fine for those willing to suspend some disbelief and have a good laugh.

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Most Helpful Member Reviews


Improbably Precocious

By S. D. Youngren, author of Rowena's Page

Jul 26, 2009: The mentally-gifted tech-savvy kid is a popular cliché these days, but in Jesse Gordon’s SuperMegaNet we’re told right up front that actually being such a kid can be problematic. Theo, Jan, Eva, and Ernie are only twelve years old and already having to survive their first day of high school. This is difficult enough, but it seems they also have to survive each other.

Theo is smart and serious, a nice guy with a trendy, health-conscious mother. Jan, who’s from Czechoslovakia, is, despite his poverty, a budding heartthrob described as a “closet jock”—meaning, apparently, that his feminine-looking name (by American-boy standards) somehow outweighs his rather improbably well-developed muscles. Eva is perky, petite, and athletic, apparently a gymnast, complete with pony tail. Ernie, on the other hand, is a caustic “fat kid” with two obsessions: junk food and sex/pornography; the latter in particular is the basis for much or most of the humor in the story. The foursome, none of whom have ever met before, have been thrown together by their guidance counselor, who is concerned that their youth and gifted status will leave them friendless among the older kids at their high school. She gives them an assignment—to get to know each other a little by spending half an hour chatting online—and when they find that Jan’s computer has a hard time with this they innocently decide to try a new social networking program: SuperMegaNet.

It turns out, though, that SuperMegaNet, which is still in beta, gives new meaning to the term “vaporware.” Rather than putting its users into a virtual chatroom, SuperMegaNet actually teleports them through their computers and into each others’ homes. The kids, who had not actually been warned about this, are confused and alarmed at first, but they soon see the possibilities this offers . . . especially Ernie, who plans to try for something better than regular old pornography. And the adventures begin.

So what’s the story about? As a work-in-progress this can change at any time, but so far it’s mostly about the four kids and their relationships with one another. At the time of this writing there are fifteen episodes, and although SuperMegaNet features in most of them, it’s only actually used in about half, and often just to cause some kind of social difficulty, as when Ernie pops uninvited into the home of a complete stranger, or a complete stranger does the same to Ernie. (So far this has happened to Ernie twice, and although either of these intruders could have become important to the story, they appear, six or eight episodes later, to be one-offs.)

As the kids get acquainted both with each other and with SuperMegaNet, author Gordon makes but does not belabor some points about technology, reality, reality TV, and privacy, not to mention friendship. SuperMegaNet does not allow the user to turn his computer off and does not allow deletions from the user’s buddies list. It does allow complete strangers to watch each other around the clock and, as mentioned above, to barge into each other’s homes. Not only can SuperMegaNet appear to take over one’s life, but it turns out that it’s literally possible to end up with no other life whatever . . . like one “Jack SQL” who as a result of a computer crash lost his body and no longer exists at all outside the system. “This was, as I said, the early days,” he tells Theo, after barging via SuperMegaNet into his bedroom. “We now keep a backup copy of every SMN user on our servers, just in case.” This is intriguing, and has definite plot potential; I’d like to see more of it, though I have no particular reason to believe that I will.

Gordon’s writing is, for the most part, fluid and engaging, though the kids, unfortunately, don’t always sound like kids. As they’re gifted, I don’t have a problem with their use of words like “ergo” (currently rendered here as Ere go—a mercifully uncharacteristic slip-up). And I suppose it’s possible that a twelve-year-old girl might, out of whimsy or for some other reason, address her female friend as “babe.” But the kids’ many reflections (and lectures) on human nature don’t ring true.

There’s also the matter of sex. I know that adolescent boys are somewhat obsessed with sex, but when two of them tear their attention from a schoolyard fight to ogle—and trade comments about—a female motorist dropping off one of their fellow students, I have to wonder, especially as the woman doesn’t even get out of her car. The nature of the kids’ sexual interest is problematic as well; Ernie in particular seems way too interested in adult women, even to the point of trying to “score” with one, and all but indifferent to girls his own age. His yearnings, indeed most of the sexual feelings that crop up in this story, seem too hard-boiled and lasciviously clinical for a twelve-year-old. Even Eva, who unlike Ernie does not spend most of her free time checking out porn sites, is a tad precocious here; rather than merely sighing about how “cute” Jan is as the girls I grew up with would have, she focuses on his studly twelve-year-old bodybuilder muscles and all-but-irresistible “buns.” Perhaps times have changed, and perhaps the author means us to take Ernie’s perpetual horn-dog attitude to be a result of his Internet habits, and not the other way around. But for me the only plausible adolescent attraction in the story so far is Theo’s crush on Eva. He admires her quietly, though not so discreetly that no one notices, agonizing later over the enthusiasm of his greeting when he encounters her at school. It seems that the thing he most wants to do to her right now is to make a good impression. His self-doubts as he attempts this should feel familiar to most readers.

Given that SuperMegaNet is comic speculative fiction, Gordon does have a certain amount of leeway with his characters’ personalities. Comic characters, of course, tend to be exaggerated, and can be quite wonderful, as any reader of Dickens well knows. If crude, crass Ernie is to your taste you will probably enjoy SuperMegaNet very much. I find him a little hard to take, but I don’t expect he’ll keep me from checking in again to see how the story plays out.

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