Friday, April 30, 2004

At the zenith

Salon today begins biweekly reviews of new science fiction and fantasy books.

Starting with The Zenith Angle, by Bruce Sterling.

Forget about the plot, a contrivance that barely holds the weight of the passions Sterling is striving to release. The entire novel is a setup for an extraordinary rant that reads as if the author had just taken over the podium at a hackers conference, fueled with tequila, frothing from every pore.

Ooh. I love a good rant.

Sterling's outburst, his choice of protagonist, his rants about computers and the Net, all struck so close to home, to my own daily intellectual life, that it became almost impossible to evaluate, dispassionately, anything so absurdly binary as whether "The Zenith Angle" is good or bad. Instead, like all great rants, it is breathtaking. It is a document of the age, a summing up by one of the digital revolution's pioneer artists. That such an ex post facto manifesto would be filled with tears of rage instead of joy is something few of us would have imagined when first we logged on.

We don't know if it's "science fiction, or a mere techno-thriller," but we don't care.

"Viruses. Worms. Scam artists. Porn. Spam. Denial-of-service attacks. Organized crime. Industrial espionage. Stalking. Money Laundering. The specter of infowar attacks on natural gas pipelines, aircraft control systems, dams, water reservoirs, sewage systems, telephones, and banks. Black horses snorting and stomping in the stables of the Digital Apocalypse."

I just knew there was an apocalypse comng on. Quick, get me a copy of this book.
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