The transition from the Silver Age of science fiction to the New Age brought with it a change in perspective on mankind’s chances in space. Where Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and others took a Betty Crocker life in the solar system and beyond as par for the course, Ballard, Malzberg, and other authors had a more jaded view of our prospects. The 70s saw something of a return to space fervor, but cyberpunk in the 80s once again put a grittily realistic spin on humanity’s relationship to technology, socio-political evolution, and life in space. A lot of cyberpunk’s focus related to street tech and life, cybernetic enhancements, and data hacking thanks to the success of William Gibson, it’s easy to forget that its aspirations were broader in aim. Lewis Shiner’s 1984 Frontera, on top of being a debut novel, is a prime example of cyberpunk that does not fit the classic mold in aesthetic terms, yet adheres to its political and human tenets wonderfully.
With the collapse of world government in the face of mega-corporations, society has drastically changed form, and many public programs have fallen by the wayside. One such program is the terraforming Mars mission—the colonists essentially left on their own by Earth, NASA now disbanded. But one of the mega-corps, Pulsystems, has caught wind of a new technology that has evolved on Mars, and sends a ship with a few choice personnel, including the strange Kane, to learn more—in secret, if possible. Arriving planetside, Kane begins spending time among the colonists, digging ever deeper into their strange fabric to learn if any new tech exists, even as his own mind, and what strange things implanted by Pulsystems, threatens to shoot off course.