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I'm trying to find a sci-fi book written before 1985.

It's set in the (then) near future, which is a kind of Blade Runner-esque cyberpunk-ish setting in which everyone has either a computer implant or something similar that allows direct interface with something like the Internet. There are a few unfortunates who can't adapt to the technology though, and the book focuses on one of these people, a man.

The other thing that sort of connects to this book is that they describe a game similar to Go in it (as far as I remember), but I could have my books mixed up.

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This sounds a lot like John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider, a fantastic proto-cyberpunk novel from 1975. In it we have:

  • An information-saturated society. I don't remember if everyone is physically plugged in, but everyone does spend a lot of time in the information system.
  • A Go-like board game called "Fencing", where opponents try to fence their opponent in. Naturally, people on the internet have taken it and created a real game out of it.
  • A protagonist who's on the run, but is a brilliant hacker who is covering his tracks, including writing a computer worm (the inspiration for the real-life malware) that erases his tracks from the network.
  • At some point he visits a village where no-one is connected to the network, and tries to find peace there.

It's an excellent book, too. Highly recommended.

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    The Shockwave Rider doesn't have any kind of cybernetic implants (it's more like they have the Internet), nor is the protagonist unable to access the network (except at some point as a self-imposed restriction to avoid being traced IIRC). – user56 Sep 27 '12 at 19:43
  • That's true, but I figured that the rest of the hints were close enough, so maybe that bit got muddled in memory. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Sep 27 '12 at 21:24
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The date would set this as very early cyberpunk. A lot of cyberpunk could be described as “Blade Runner-esque”, and the basic plot of having a hero who cannot fully participate in the cyber society is a fairly common one, so there isn't much to go on.

However, I will tentatively venture Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson, which introduced cyberspace (and the “Matrix”) and can be said to be the founding book for cyberpunk.

Case, the hero of Neuromancer, cannot use a brain-computer interface to access cyberspace because he has been infected with a toxin as a punishment. Case seeks a cure for the toxin and discovers an illegal AI.

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  • The more I read about Neuromancer, the more I want to read it. – AncientSwordRage Sep 27 '12 at 6:58
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    You should. Though it's a bit dated now, what with its projected future a bit anachronistic in some respects, but it's still very good. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Sep 27 '12 at 9:23
  • There are LOTS of cyberpunk stories before Neuromancer. The term was coined by Bruce Bethke in his 1980 novel but the concepts were there long before even that. For example, "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" (1974) by James Tiptree, Jr. is undeniably cyberpunk. You could even make a case for RAHs "Waldo" (1942), – Spencer Apr 30 '20 at 18:29
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It's a bit of a long shot and not near future but it could be Nova (1969) by Samuel Delany. The antagonist, Prince Red, has an artificial arm that prevents him from fully integrating with the ubiquitous, 'cyborg socket' technology that the galactic economy relies on. Prince is borderline psychotic about this 'defect' and has a track record of hurting people with his artificial arm (although he also hurts people for a number of psychotic reasons so it may just be his personality and entitlement).

I don't remember any mention of Go in the novel but a lot of the characters are quite keen on tarot reading.

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