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Distraction Mass Market Paperback – October 5, 1999

3.4 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's the year 2044, and America has gone to hell. A disenfranchised U.S. Air Force base has turned to highway robbery in order to pay the bills. Vast chunks of the population live nomadic lives fueled by cheap transportation and even cheaper computer power. Warfare has shifted from the battlefield to the global networks, and China holds the information edge over all comers. Global warming is raising sea level, which in turn is drowning coastal cities. And the U.S. government has become nearly meaningless. This is the world that Oscar Valparaiso would have been born into, if he'd actually been born instead of being grown in vitro by black market baby dealers. Oscar's bizarre genetic history (even he's not sure how much of him is actually human) hasn't prevented him from running one of the most successful senatorial races in history, getting his man elected by a whopping majority. But Oscar has put himself out of a job, since he'd only be a liability to his boss in Washington due to his problematic background. Instead, Oscar finds himself shuffled off to the Collaboratory, a Big Science pork barrel project that's run half by corruption and half by scientific breakthroughs. At first it seems to be a lose-lose proposition for Oscar, but soon he has his "krewe" whipped into shape and ready to take control of events. Now if only he can straighten out his love life and solve a worldwide crisis that no one else knows exists. --Craig E. Engler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

It's 2044 A.D. and America has gone to the dogs. The federal government is broke and, with 16 political parties fighting for power, things aren't likely to improve soon. The Air Force, short on funding, is setting up roadblocks to shake down citizens and disguising its tactics as a bake sale. The governor of Louisiana, Green Huey, is engaging in illegal genetic research and has set up his own private biker army. The newly elected president of the U.S., Leonard Two Feathers, is considering a declaration of war against the Netherlands, a country that finds itself half under water due to global warming. Trying desperately to hold things together is Oscar Valparaiso, political consultant and spin doctor extraordinaire, who has just engineered the election of a new liberal senator for the state of Massachusetts, only to discover that his boss suffers from severe bipolar disorder. Looking for a new challenge, Oscar takes a job with the U.S. Senate Science Committee. His first assignment is to investigate the scandal-ridden Collaboratory, a gigantic, spaceshiplike federal lab in East Texas. Oscar, himself the result of an illegal Colombian cloning experiment, immediately falls head over heels for a gawky but brilliant young Nobel laureate, with whom he sets out to save both the lab and the nation from Green Huey. In his latest novel (after Holy Fire), Sterling once again proves himself the reigning master of near-future political SF. This is a powerful and, at times, very funny novel that should add significantly to Sterling's already considerable reputation.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (October 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553576399
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553576399
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,304,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel H. Bigelow VINE VOICE on January 3, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Bruce Sterling eats Neal Stephenson's lunch with Distraction, a near-future techno-political thriller that's strongly reminiscent of Stephenson's Cryptonomicon and Interface (which Stephenson and his uncle wrote under the pen name Stephen Bury). I don't mind this because I loved those other books, though it's strange to see Sterling borrowing rather than being borrowed from.
Sterling's technological and political speculations are interesting and plausible, and his plot moves right along, propelled by informal but evocative language and a lot of humor. The best part of the book, though, is its protagonist, Oscar Valparasio, who combines the genius and audacity of Lois Bujold's character Miles Vorkosigan with a personal reserve and opacity that makes us even more interested in finding out what he's really like. Sterling actually manages to keep Oscar mysterious even though we're seeing through his eyes throughout the book.
Distraction is mostly about the ride -- like another of my favorite Sterling books, Heavy Weather, it has little pretension to epic scope or deep literary meaning -- but it has enough depth to make it a worthwhile read. My chief complaint is that it drowns in cynicism towards the end, leaving us with a downbeat and overlong ending and nothing much in the way of climax. A classic character like Oscar deserved a better sendoff.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've recently felt compelled to re-read 'Distraction', and I've been really enjoying myself. The character of Oscar Valparaiso has snuck up on me and won me over; my copy is all marked up in pink and purple highliner. There are so many great and clever lines.
The people who don't like the plot are probably looking for a conventional Triumph of the Individual Against All Odds adventure. "Distraction" is that rarity in speculative fiction, character-driven Sci-Fi. For an S-F novel to be character-driven, the character(s) must be recognizable and well-observed, but also modified by some speculative concept. The ability to observe well a person who cannot yet exist requires an intuitive vision that, if successful, confirms the whole genre of Sci-fi as a literary artform. I think Bruce Sterling pulls it off.
The whole delightfully wierd rambling plot, about feuding anarchistic nomad bands and the power-grappling over a national
biological laboratory by 16 political parties and neurological Gumbo a la Bayou, are loaded with flip ideas and throw-away shaggy-dog genius, but are ultimately a... well, a distraction. The real story is about Oscar himself, whose plight as the ultimate outsider seems like it must be a sublimation of something the author knows about personally. I'm sorry to say that I worry that Oscar's in-vitro birth as a genetic experiment in a black-market off-shore Columbian Mafia baby-selling operation may be occurring in real life right now. How the scary dark unavoidable abuses of our unprecedented technology impact on human souls is the real subject of this book.
Oscar's dark alter-ego, Green Huey, says to him,"I finally got you all figured out...
Read more ›
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By A Customer on August 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have read one or two of Bruce Sterling's short stories butonly picked this novel up on the strength of it's Hugo nomination. Iam glad I did! This is gloriously cynical satire. Sterling examines the twists and turns of a very plausible future US political landscape. Worryingly plausible!!
Other reviews here have alluded to the main characters of this novel being two-dimensional. I disagree - Sterling's protagonist is engaging and witty, brilliant and suave and wonderfully flawed to boot. I found great pleasure being in his company for the duration of the book.
Much of the book is cleverly and compellingly written in dialogue form - allowing the author to warm to his subject through his characters instead of off-loading his political philophies as wordy exposition. Sterling handles this expertly, drawing the reader in and entertaining them thoroughly in the process.
Worth the bother? Definitely!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Bruce Sterling has changed tack from the elegaic feel of his previous book HOLY FIRE for a fast and furious satire of the American political system. In the form of a genetically mutated political spin doctor and a brilliant neuroscientist, the hero and heroine are hopeful monsters, brilliant outsiders able to see a better future that no one else can, and have set out against the odds to bring it on, even if it kills them. Readers with short attention spans have accused the characters of being two dimensional when the opposite is true; Sterling depicts them from a standpoint of total objectivity, as if they were specimens being examined from the outside, yet with complete understanding of their inner workings. The twists and turns are fast and furious, and the portrait of an insanely fractured American political system is exhilarating and not improbable, with a deeply cynical twist at the end when the President unveils his solution to America's political mess... a twist so unexpected that even the hero loses his remaining shred of innocence. As the world changes, so the protagonists adapt, and thrive, retaining their curiosity to see what comes next. A wise and funny novel, filled with enough throwaway ideas that usual fill up dozens of lesser writers' books.
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