From Publishers Weekly
The 13 entries in this welcome fourth collection from postcyberpunk Sterling (Distraction
) run the gamut from SF to ghost stories, but all deal with the impact of the strange, be it supernatural or scientific, on the individual. "Junk DNA" (with Rudy Rucker) deftly captures the fast-paced ethos of the 1990s, with its dot-com startups and meltdowns, as does "Code," in which a male computer geek, faced with that most troubling of all creatures, a woman, reduces our patriarchic civilization to a system he can hack. "User-Centric," told as a series of corporate e-mails among a team launching a new product, spins into something far odder as we learn what that product is. In an intriguing time-travel tale, "The Blemmye's Stratagem," an abbess and an assassin work for a man who can only be an alien. Sterling is that rare author who writes witty, humorous thought-experiments centered on great ideas. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Sterling's short stories run the gamut of sf's potential suggested by the diverse headings of this collection's sections, which include "fiction for scientists" and "the past is a future that already happened." An example of fiction for scientists is a story about talking bugs that was inspired by an entomologist's paper on firefly biology. Stories of the past as future that has happened include the ghost story "The Denial" and a semihistorical piece about the Crusades and encountering aliens, "The Blemmye's Stratagem." Sterling's work resists those oversimplified descriptions. His stories run deeper than can be accurately suggested by a phrase, into the realm of decisions yet to be made and currents of political thought that resonate with the contemporary reader. "User-Centric" is a further example; stemming from the fascination Sterling contracted, while serving as "visionary in residence" at a design school in California, for the way designers work and think, it demonstrates thinking outside the box taken about as far as it can go. Sterling is a perceptive and far-seeing storyteller, whose work features both entertaining surfaces and penetrating commentary. Regina SchroederCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved