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The Zenith Angle Hardcover – April 27, 2004
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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The Zenith Angle, futurist Bruce Sterling's first novel since Zeitgeist (2000), tells the story of Derek "Van" Vandeveer. As The Zenith Angle opens, Van sits peacefully at his breakfast table, enjoying life as a new homeowner and happily married man, with a new son and a fortune in stock options. Then the morning news reports a jetliner has crashed in nearby Manhattan--colliding with the World Trade Center. Like many other Americans' lives, Van's will never be the same. He leaves his corporate job to work fighting terrorism for the U.S. government. He soon finds himself sequestered at a top-secret undisclosed location while his fortune vanishes, his former company sinks into a morass of lawsuits and arrests, and his wife and son move to the far side of the country. And as Van is transformed from cyber-whiz to spook, he finds himself changing in ways he would never have imagined.
A novel from Bruce Sterling is always cause for celebration, and The Zenith Angle is one of the finest contemporary novels and finest techno-thrillers of 2004. Sterling operates at the cutting edge of both technology and pop culture, and he possesses innumerable literary strengths. However, his strengths don't usually include deeply-penetrating character development, and that injures the believability of The Zenith Angle, which is the portrait of a man undergoing an enormous and shocking transformation. --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
The godfather of cyberpunk abandons SF in this satiric look at the high-tech security industry after 9/11. Dr. Derek Vandeveer gives up his high-paying job in private industry in order to try to help the government plug the nation's most serious computer security leaks. Unfortunately, he soon discovers that many of the worst problems are either too expensive to fix or impossible to deal with for political reasons. Vandeveer finds himself living in a slum in Washington, D.C., up to his ears in red tape and surrounded by a cast of would-be cyber warriors and failed dot-com entrepreneurs. Even worse, he's paying for the equipment he needs out of his own pocket. Worst of all, Vandeveer's wife Dottie, a world-class astronomer, is off on a mountaintop in Colorado. Meanwhile, something or someone is playing games with America's most sophisticated spy satellite and Vandeveer stakes his reputation on solving the mystery. Sterling (Zeitgeist) knows the world of cyber-security inside out, and he does a fine job of talking the talk without losing his readers. The Vandeveers have a convincingly believable geek marriage and their scenes together are particularly well done. Sterling has always been more comfortable with satire than action, however, and the shift near the end to techno-thriller mode isn't entirely successful. Still, this novel should please the author's fans, many of whom will be interested in the latest innovations in computer security.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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The technology in the books is awful too, it's a glossed-over mix of internet buzzwords, MovieOS fakery, and over-simplified pulp fiction; The sort of schlock I'd expect in a novel by Dan Brown or the other authors that make their coin writing New York Times Bestsellers, but I expect -much- better from Bruce Sterling.
This book is so badly written, so trite, so lacking in depth or emotion that it even made me not care about 9/11, not as it was happening in the book, anyway. Listening to 'Van' snivel and worry about it as it happened on his TV toward the beginning of the book, I mostly found myself wishing one of those planes would hit his house and save me from having to wade through a few hundred more pages of schlock.
If you want to read a poignant, witty, thought-provoking book set in the modern post-9/11 Information Technology world, pick up William Gibson's 'Pattern Recognition' and 'Spook Country'. If you want to read a half-baked rant that appears to have been assembled from rejected bits of other Sterling works, pick this book up. I still hold Mr. Sterling's work in the greatest esteem, and I'll happily read his next effort, I just hope it's far better than this was.
At least the book is short, with big type.
I don't really want to dump too hard on Sterling: I actually laughed at a few of his amusing turns. But he covers much of the same territory as, say, Crytonomicon, while his main character is completely stereotypical "computer genius". This pretend character, who's technical background is of the Hitchcock "McGuffin" variety, is unlike any real hackers, crackers, or computer programmers you're likely to meet. The fine use of that loveable plot device--the deus ex machina--is on display here. It's all a bit disappointing. I mean: some of Stephenson's recent books had half the plot of this thin marshmallow, but the writing was so brilliant it hurt to put down. By intentionally drawing comparisons with Stephenson, Sterling is just asking to be lambasted, if not roasted over hot coals or forced to edit his next novel on a PDP-11.
On the other hand, this is about as intelligent as, say, Da Vinci Code and intended for the same middle-of-the-road non-technical audience. Using his ultra-slick, but apparently content-free Wired magazine credentials, and considering Sterling's not after impressing the grungy 2600 audience with this stuff, I guess he succeeds. I mean, I managed to READ the accursed thing. Nonetheless, this book will be entirely forgotten inside of a month. Buy it in paperback, if you must (although it is too short to be good beach reading). If you like Sterling, buy something else of his, like Islands in the Net and shun this book so he gets back to honest work.
Most recent customer reviews
Bottom line: Sterling's obligatory 9-11/dot-bomb novel/rant. Entertaining almost to the end, where it suddenly flies off the rails.Read more