From the book lists at Adware Report:

All information current as of 15:41:59 Pacific Time, Tuesday, 11 January 2005.

Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century

   by Mark Dery

    Grove Press
    01 September, 1997


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Editorial description(s):
A high-speed tour through the high-tech underground and its denizens. Dery introduces us to those who embrace computer technology, figuratively and literally -- cyberpunks, cyberhippies, cybersexers, and would-be cyborgs who believe the body is mere meat, and await the day when man-machine union is much more than mere science fiction. Dery draws heavily on academic theorists such as
, Foucault, Baudrillard and McLuhan, yet his writing style makes for a highly accessible book.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly
Freelance cultural critic Dery takes readers on a strange, unsettling, often provocative tour through fringe computer subcultures. We meet cyber-hippies and "technopagans" who use the personal computer in New Age mystical rituals via echomail, a technology that links discussion groups into a communal conference. California roboticist Mark Pauline stages spectacles in which robots and humans are menaced by heavy machinery or remote-controlled weaponry, while Chico MacMurtrie's puppet-like robot musicians, acrobats and warriors enact ecotopian dramas. Australian cybernetic body artist Stelarc, plastered with electrodes and trailing wires, embodies the human/machine hybrid all of us are metaphorically becoming. Dery also profiles online swingers hooked on virtual sex, cyberpunk rockers, cyberpunk novelist William Gibson and D.A. Therrien's performance ensemble Comfort/ Control, which dramatizes popular anxieties over the autonomy of intelligent machines and the nightmare of humanity's obsolescence. Dery closes this adventurous inquiry with an appraisal of the "posthumanist" visions of novelist William Burroughs, techno-mystical SF author Vernor Vinge and Carnegie-Mellon roboticist Hans Moravec. Illustrated.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

The New York Times Book Review, Gerald Jonas
This book is our ideal guide to the cultural complexities of the computer age.

"Escape velocity" refers to the speed a body must achieve to escape the gravitational pull of Earth. Dery contends that cyberculture--an underground world of high-tech performance artists and philosophers, cyberpunk authors and musicians, and technosex aficionados--is reaching its own escape velocity and will eventually free itself of the gravitational pull of history, tradition, and perhaps even evolution. Drawing his raw material from a wide variety of sources, Dery has produced an exhaustive and exhilarating book. Cyberculture, he demonstrates, threatens to forge a whole new meaning not only for technology but for what it means to be human: he discusses the kinds of music, art, and literature created through computer programs, and he relates experiments in life extension as well as plans to store human consciousness on CD-ROM. Some of this material is not for the squeamish, especially the treatment of "cybernetic body art," which includes putatively artistic self-mutilation, body piercing, and tattooing. Still, for librarians struggling to understand how the Internet will affect their reference departments, this book will be a mind-expanding voyage. For the initiated, it will be a handy travel guide. George Needham --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Reader review(s):

Still applicable, March 27, 2000
I read this about 3+ years ago and I was just discussing it last night. This book presents "cyber-whatever" in a way that is not bound by your typical Newsweek-esque angle of "Boy genius makes millions, blah blah" or by the approach of overwhelming the reader with senseless techie watchwords and jargon that are made up to confuse and confound the reader into thinking that the subject is important because they don't understand it. Escape Velocity presents real people doing wierd things with more esoteric aspects of our accelerted culture. A man who attached his computer to the nerves in his arm to invoke spasms of thrashing and flailing, all the while injuring himself in the process of making performance art is a whole other realm from Bill Gates' pedestrian spreadsheet programs. Don't read this book expecting "Pirates of Silicon Valley" or "the Road Ahead" or whatever drivel Bill wrote. But DO read this book.

good job putting pieces together, March 2, 1999
His thesis hangs in mid-air, not fully articulated, but if you relax, it should wash over you. Well-written, flows nicely. Excellent job defining buzzwords/key concepts others don't bother to. I found his book to be the best on the topic I've found so far and invaluable in my own studies.

However, he does get a bit redundant and didactic, keeps resorting to catch-all phrases to explain what people are trying to escape from, e.g. economic inequality, environmental pollution, yah-dah-yah-dah. I wish he had drilled down a bit here.

Also, his groupings seems a bit forced, he seems to have dug himself a hole in his overall design. But it was probably a difficult project, so you have to forgive him that.

Cybersourcebook, September 4, 2002
"Escape velocity is the speed at which a body...overcomes the gravitational pull of another body," begins Mark Dery in his non-fictional amalgamation of the current state of computer culture, Escape Velocity. Dery uses the concept as a metaphor for what is happening to the many memes--concept viruses--of the on-line and turned-on and their relation to the greater society (mainly American, although some service is given to Japan and Europe). Like the emergence of the Internet (and the 'net concept of on-line connectivity) into the mainstream, the ideas of body sculpting, merging with machines (either virtually or prosthetically), and transhuman growth, among others, are just below the cultural surface, according to Dery.

To be a cultural historian to the fast-paced world of computers is a difficult one, because the cyberculture, far more so than any subculture before it, is as varied in its parts as it is separated geographically. It exists on change. In ways, the myriad differences in the cybercrowd is what makes it a culture rather than a cult--it encourages the free range of expression from left to right, and all the fringes top and bottom, and there is no single authority to consult. Mark Dery's job, therefore, was to piece together a picture of a living community that is less than 30 years old and is more malleable than one of his favorite images, that of the T-2000 liquid-metal android from the movie Terminator 2. He assembled this jigsaw by grabbing at the outward manifestations of the culture--its art--rather than focusing on the nuts and bolts of how it came and stays together. Dery's goal was to achieve a focus on where cybernauts and cyberpunks are headed, rather than where they have been. Within the cybernetic expressions in print, screen, music, body art, performance, and philosophy lie the seeds of a cultural revolution that began with the home computer, according to Dery.

Any cultural representation requires a polymath to untangle the multitude of threads that bind it together. When that culture is the front end of the runaway train of technology, the examiner must also be moving at the speed of information. Dery, for the most part, rises to the challenge, able to quote both fiction writers and art critics, social commentators and "hackers" within the same page. His profiles of those on the fringe and those with the mainstream are balanced, except when he pauses to regroup his thinking at the end of each chapter and his own impressions slip in. One of the most rewarding aspects of Dery's compilation is that he went beyond the most visible proponents of cyberculture (William Gibson, Mark Pauline of the Survival Research Laboratories, Hans Moravec) to also get the equally important contributions that have not engendered cultish followings (in fiction, for example, Dery quotes the work of Pat Cadigan and John Shirley as well as that of Gibson and Bruce Sterling), as well as progenitors to the culture (again in fiction, the work of Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard).

As a document of fact about what happened and is happening in the computer subculture, Escape Velocity is hard to fault. But Dery's goal was to portray where the culture is headed (in his eyes into the larger mainstream), and it is herein that trouble lies. To extract the future of society from this mismatch of ideas would be like portraying the future of cinema in the 1960s by examining both Easy Rider and La Dolce Vita. Yes, these movies had a profound effect on the cinematic culture at large, but it was subsumed into the larger whole. Dery quotes Gibson's oft-touted refrain, "The street finds its own uses for things." Just so, the mainstream often finds its own uses for the street, as evidenced in the music business by the commercialization and marketing of punk, rap, and grunge, each a thriving subculture at one time.

Escape Velocity is an intriguing volume, and Mark Dery is to be commended for attempting to achieve a cyberculture gestalt. For those interested in what is happening "in there," Escape Velocity is a one-stop shop, a veritable sourcebook of cyberdom.

Slightly outdated, but still an excellent survey, March 28, 2001
Mark Dery does an excellent job in this book of presenting elements the post-industrial fringe culture to the reader. This is a bookshelf essential for those with an interest in cyberculture, robotics, trans-humanism, body modification, and cultural criticism. Some of the references are now outdated, but that is inevitable in the print medium, given the rapid advancement of technology.

Sober observation of the hyperbole, March 3, 1998
An entertaining and insightful analysis of cyberculture from a man with the sense of detail of an archeologist and the wit of Voltaire.

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