Gareth Branwyn is not, first and foremost, a science fiction writer. His career has branded him as a technical writer (having worked with such monolith magazines such as Wired, Esquire and bOING bOING) even though, according to himself his first and foremost object of fascination has been people. Borg Like Me is a collection of essays and articles written throughout the span of Gareth Brawnyn’s career, presenting his own worldview on how we inexorably shed our wholly human makeup and gradually become infused with the machines we surround ourselves with.
What’s important to note, before going into this review is that this is not a work of genre fiction and I do not intend to review it as one. Instead, I will treat it as what it is: a semi-autobiographical account of the cyberpunk genre, seen through the eyes of the author. As such, Borg Like Me is a mixed bag. The essays regarding the ascension of the cyberpunk genre in pop culture, along with the masterfully written essays regarding the birth, development and application of robotics all the way from Grey Walter to today are exceptional and very informative. Even though I considered myself well-versed in the subject, Gareth Branwyn found ways to surprise me at every turn.
However, the more ‘personal’ pieces, while occasionally very moving, clashed with the powerful flow that the author had set up in his book and might have worked better if they were moved to the appendices. His his excellent ‘Tips on Suck-Less Writing’ essay included there was one of my favorite non-cyberpunk pieces of content in the book.
Katie Walker Wilson’s design of the cover fits the book perfectly, preparing the reader to dive head-first into the secret history of what we now call ‘the cyberpunk movement’. So if you always wanted that shiny new plasteel arm and designer kidneys but really didn’t know how those ideas came to exist in popular culture, this book is just for you.