Steven Barnes

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Steven Barnes (born March 1, 1952) is an American science fiction, fantasy, and mystery writer.


Street Lethal (1983)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Ace Science Fiction Books (second printing, February 1984) ISBN 0-441-79068-2
  • It was on one of those terrible, fever-clouded days when the serpent beneath southern California awoke. It stretched from slumber, shedding its skin, the screams of its wrath heard in the shriek of tortured steel, of splintering wood and concrete.
    Maxine was torn from her slumber by the moans of the dying and the awful sound of her ramshackle apartment shifting on its foundations. “Earthquake!” She pulled herself from the bed, stumbled from her building into the street, and watched the lurching structures and snapping powerlines, the buckling sidewalks and exploding water mains, as a seismic debt long outstanding came due.
    • Chapter 1 “Maxine” (pp. 8-9)
  • The price of chemical ecstasy was a dear one, paid in flesh and spirit.
    • Chapter 5 “Knight Takes Pawn” (pp. 64-65)
  • “Chicken?”
    “Don’t want my feathers ruffled, it that’s what you mean.”
    • Chapter 6 “Cyloxibin” (p. 91)
  • And your life is ruined because you tried to do the Right Thing. Join the club honey—guess what, there are a few more of us out here who’ve had our brains beaten our with our own dreams.
    • Chapter 10 “The Scavengers” (p. 137)
  • I’m damned tired of being needed. Being needed is just the flip side of being royally screwed.
    • Chapter 10 “The Scavengers” (p. 138)
  • “You know, it isn’t that you can’t get information in electronic form, or microfilm, or disk, or cube, or any of the other forms—tape, holographic computer feed.” He paused. “Tell me, Aubry—what’s the similarity between all the modes of information storage I’ve just named?”
    Aubry scratched his head. “They don’t take up as much space as books, I guess.”
    “Yes, that’s true enough—but as far as I’m concerned, the difference is that they all require an external power source.” He cocked his head sideways, until he looked absurdly like a bird examining a piece of fruit. “Do you understand that that makes you dependent upon others?”
    Promise ran her hands over the spines of a nearby stack, then shook her head. “Not cubes. There are plenty of solar-powered cube-readers. One sunny day a week, and you’re set.”
    “True enough, but you are still dependent upon others to repair your viewer if it breaks down...the more advanced a technology, the more fragilely inter-dependent it is.”
    “So what?”
    Warrick shrugged. “It just seems to me that the most valuable thing that any human has is the ability to educate himself, to find out about the world around him, to program his primary organ of perception—his brain. And that basic, inalienable right should be as independent of external factors as possible. Once a book is printed and acquired, it’s yours. Nothing else is needed except a pair of eyes and daylight. Individual books have lasted for hundreds of year—do you really think you can say the same of your little viewers, or computers, or whatever? If you have a hundred libraries stored on cube, and your viewer breaks down, you have nothing. Give me an encyclopedia, and if it isn’t totally destroyed by fire, I can dig it out, dry it off, piece it together, and still have something of value.” His gaze became direct, and piercing. “There is nothing more important than directing the flow of information into your mind. It determines all—your attitudes, your actions, your life. You can rely upon the visual and audible media all you want—but they should be in addition to reading, not in place of it. If other forms replace reading, then your input is restricted, and much more dependent upon other people, who may or may not have your best interests at heart.”
    “So, that’s the most important thing you can think of in life? Reading?”
    Warrick sighed. “You are being obstinate, my friend. You learn if you learn.”
    • Chapter 12 “Out of Mind” (pp. 174-175)
  • Hate comes from the past, fear from the future. Pain and pleasure are now, and therefore their own trap.
    • Chapter 16 “Warrior” (p. 234)
  • Definitions are just words, just labels. And once you label something, the label gets between you and the thing.
    • Chapter 16 “Warrior” (p. 239)
  • “Don’t be afraid of dying. A Warrior lives with death, Aubry. Welcome it as an ally. All other fears are just fragments of death, forms of unbecoming. A fighter clings to life, and therefore cannot win. A warrior treats life and death as the same thing, and therefore cannot lose.”
    • Chapter 16 “Warrior” (p. 239)
  • The world doesn’t give a damn what we feel or want. Only what we are, and what we do.
    • Chapter 17 “Alpha-Alpha” (p. 250)
  • “It’s bigger than death, Aubry.”
    “You’re wrong,” he said, his voice utterly chill. “Nothing is bigger than death.”
    • Chapter 19 “Old Friends” (p. 275)

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