Rache Bartmoss is the greatest netrunner ever... or so he claims. (What is the percentage in billing yourself as the second best in your field, anyway?) Now, however, he's apparently dead. Or is he? At least he has found time to produce a sourcebook giving the low-down on the Net... which is apparently downloadable as a massive file from his website and edited by a fellow called Spider Murphy. The rest of us can get it from game stores or DriveThruRPG.
In an interesting attempt at representing a web document on paper, hyperlinks are highlighted with the text you'd find if you clicked on them in sidebars. Most are used to explain or expand upon things mentioned in the main text. At the moment, Bart's "meat body" is indeed deceased and frozen by the life support systems he'd installed, but his mind is still roaming the Net. That's how come this sourcebook has come to be written. Is that wierd enough for you? Don't worry, it gets wilder, as Bart spouts his philosophy about the Net. Don't rely on him for historical information, a lot of that is plain wrong, at least that before 1993, when the book was published. Later material may or may not reflect the alternate reality of the game. There are thoughts on the different kinds of Netrunners and why they are there in the Net. It's all rather reminiscent of the movie Hackers, which if you haven't watched it, go find a copy before even contemplating playing a Netrunner again. There's loads of stuff explaining how the Net works. You don't need this to play the game, but it's a good line of technobabble for a player who wants a Netrunner character to talk the talk... and it does explain how it works for those who are curious about what is going on. Just because the real-world internet works differently is neither here nor there. This section ends with a discussion of the nature of AIs... which sounds quite familiar to someone who hangs around a university computer science department! Next we hear about Netwatch, the online 'police' who claim a mission of keeping the Net safe. For who? From whom? Opinions vary depending on who you ask.
The rest of the book consists of detailed maps of regions of the Net and notes about places of interest and importance to be found there. Of course it's loaded with commentary and remarks from Bartmoss, snippets of information, and other stuff that make it an amusing read as well as an informative one. You'll get the most out of these if you read the associated sourcebook for that part of the world. This account gets right down to city-level grids, and will come in handy for both Referees and players if the Net action heads off that way. There are also individual data fortresses that Netrunners might have reason to visit. First up is Pacifica, then something called Olympia, a satellite based area covering the west of America. Then Rustbelt - pretty much what you'd expect, although it covers the North East as well and up to Canada. Tokyo/Chiba/Atlantis gives you access to Japan and South America; then of course there is Eurotheatre, covering Europe, along with a bit of North Africa, Turkey, Israel and the western end of Russia. SocSpace and Afrikani deal with the rest of Russia and Africa respectively, then it's time to get exotic with Orbitsville and Wilderspace.
Finally there's a Rules Appendix. New rules, new software and tech, even Rache Bartmoss' stats. Plenty to help you make your netrunning really come to life. A lot of people get twitchy when you try netrunning in game, some Referees even prohibit Netrunner characters. Don't. It can be great fun when both Referee and the Netrunner's player are prepared to work at it a bit. Two of my favourite Cyberpunk characters were Netrunners... and they found plenty to do in realspace as well as when jacked in. This book should prove an invaluable resource for the jacked in bit, with plenty of ideas, and even plots to be developed as you read through its pages.
[5 of 5 Stars!]