Female empowerment continues to be a theme in literature and Hollywood, from films like Navot Papushado’s upcoming Gunpowder Milkshake starring Karen Gillan to the Powerpuff Girls TV show coming to the CW.
Cyberpink is the story of five girls who met in detention back in high school and decided to — as Bowie once sang — “make it all worthwhile as a rock & roll star,” moving to Luna.
For those who have read the Cyberpink book series, the narrative itself is unexpectedly short on music and long on humor and embedded (and tastefully executed) social commentary, dealing with a post-racial world coming to terms with a sizable sentient robot population.
The narrative begins when a series of human disappearances in New Hollywood (the entertainment capital of Luna) are blamed on the robotic population without evidence.
When the CP girls find “Anti-Robot Coalition” signs posted outside the converted warehouse where they live, they begin ripping them down, unwittingly winding up in a fight with the nephew of the most powerful music booker in town.
Finding themselves banned from the local music clubs, they embark on a mission to get the booker discredited and kicked off Luna.
But what they find is far more complex.
Marvel-esque Twists and Turns
The author of Cyberpink is P.A. Lopez, known for the book RNWY, a mashup of sci-fi and fashion lauded by both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.
P.A. Lopez (also known as Pablo Starr) is an interesting character: a fashion editor and former musician turned novelist, and his eclectic background and familiarity with Marvel-esque worldbuilding shine through the storytelling.
Far from sticking to the “Josie and the Pussycats-meets-the-Spice-Girls” direction Cyberpink might have taken, the book branches into several backstories and B-stories, including: a Synth investigator and his human husband investigating strange water shortages (in a bit of a Chinatown nod) that may be linked to the human disappearances; an entrepreneurial robot girl building a coffee shop and hotel in a desert area called the Outlands; and an extended Gossip Girls-type backstory detailing the events that led to the Cyberpink girls coming together.
World-Building and an Ageless World
For those who may doubt Lopez knows whereof he speaks, the Cyberpink website includes a surprisingly comprehensive history of the 23rd century (one can even click to the RNWY website to see a history spanning the 25th century).
But interestingly, the world of the future goes beyond sentient robotics.
The biological clock has been stopped, which means people no longer grow older, in a seismic shift the book treats almost as an afterthought (and which features more prominently in RNWY).
The book series includes graphic-novel style illustrations created by Samuel Bermudez, a Venezuela-based artist.
And the book has some surprisingly detailed maps of the terraformed moon in an almost Tolkien style by Netherlands-based artist Peter de Jong.
Add an actual floorpan of the girls’ home for good measure, and it adds up to a fascinating project and package.
A world where robots are sentient and looking for rights — a future we’re probably headed to — has obvious parallels to our own.
A post-ethnic world (the girls’ surnames, such as “Lachlan Adaku,” “Björn Shivali,” or “Abrams Zhang” all hint at a mixed heritage), in a sense, brings a great sense of relief.
But Lopez does a great job of reminding us of the ever-present danger of “otherness,” as tribalism rears its ugly head in a new form.
And it does so without being preachy or overly didactic, relying on a silly sense of humor (Stacyÿ, for example, is momentarily obsessed with getting “abs on her butt”), a multi-layered narrative, and the interaction between the girls to successfully carry the story.
For those looking for a fun summer read or something to feel positive about in a difficult time, Cyberpink might be just the ticket.
You can learn more about Cyberpink at cyberpink.net.