Wetware (1988) by Rudy Rucker

Don't miss out on other works in the series:
Software (1982) Book Review
Freeware (1997) Book Review
Realware (2000) Book Review
Available works by Rudy Rucker


Wetware is the second book in Rudy Rucker’s Ware tetralogy (1982-2000). Spaced out over 25 years (2020-2054), the series follows the lives of a number of west-coast, counter-cultural families, their haphazard and often accidental relationship with rapid technological change defining the narrative dynamic. Based on the idea that life and ultimately consciousness can be expressed by information, it envisions different patterns of consciousness, allowing the character of Cobb Anderson who feature in all of the novels to leave his body behind and live ’life’ in different material formats: cybernetic organism, digital storage unit, computational bio-plastic, and four-dimensional space – always insisting that he is a human. Wetware won the PKD Award (1989).

Wetware takes place in 2030, ten years after the events of Software (1982). Humans successfully quelled the big boppers’ attempt to harvest human brains and subjugate the small boppers, and the anarchic life of the small boppers is again flourishing on the Moon. Additional laws have been implemented to control AI, computers now fitted with behaviour locks. Boppers and humans, while dependent on each other – not least in the area of commerce – still enjoy an uneasy relationship though, the boppers unhappy with being treated as second rate citizens. The bopper Berenice, who makes a living growing and selling human organs, has started to bioengineer a new race of humans, designed to outbreed humans and pave the way for the boppers’ return to Earth. Meanwhile, a small group of humans are developing a virus that targets boppers.


Continuing the often humorous and deliriously absurd style presented in Software (1982), recalling PKD’s style, both humans and boppers get up to some very weird things. Many boppers chose to base their speech patterns on literary stars such as Kerouac and Poe making for some very bizarre conversations. A new drug called Merge has hit the market, which allow people to merge on a cellular level, literally melting together, inducing an orgasmic feeling of being one with everything. 

The trope of moving beyond what it means to be human, experimenting with getting rid of the human condition, plays a major role in Wetware. Cobb Anderson who died 2020 has spent the past ten years stored as a digital wetware file in a Lunar storage facility. When resurrected – uploaded to a cybernetic body – not only does he rave about the blissful state of being ‘dead’, but he also loves his new form: smarter, younger, all his insecurities gone, no longer afraid of death, one with the One. The One is a bopper construct, a sort of collective consciousness, which performs an important role in bopper’s everyday life: boppers are designed to see themselves as part of a whole and routinely they jack into the One to experience wholeness.

At the end of the day though, the boppers fall victim to old human follies. Berenice’s plan to design a flawless version of humans known as meatboppers, in what is ultimately an an attempt to beat the humans at their own game, quickly backfires. By deconstructing the drug Merge, she manages to plant engineered eggs in the womb of Della Taze, Cobb’s niece. After a few days of gestation, Della gives birth to Manchile, a transliteration of ‘man child’, and barely a month old, fully grown and insanely handsome Manchile impregnates ten women on Earth. Inspired by human history, Berenice conspires to lay the foundation stones for a new religion by staging Manchile’s martyrdom on live television, betting that mankind can’t resist killing what they do not understand. It goes horribly wrong.

Meanwhile the plans of the small crew of human resistors to unleash the virus called Chipmold fare little better. While they do manage to unleash an all-invasive plague – the virus eating away at the boppers’ brain circuits – the virus causes the boppers to bio-metastasise which in tun gives rise to a new race of soft boppers called moldies. Quite accidentally they have invented a malleable, computational material, the onset of a gold rush that attracts a new generation of entrepreneurs, including characters such as Stahn Mooney who was one of the resistors behind the virus to begin with.