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Distraction
Bruce Sterling
Bantam Spectra Books, 439 pages


Art: Cliff Nielsen
Distraction
Bruce Sterling
Bruce Sterling was born in 1954. He edited Mirrorshades, felt by many to be the definitive document of the cyberpunk movement. He writes a popular-science column for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and a literary-critical column for Science Fiction Eye. He has appeared on ABC's Nightline, BBC's The Late Show, CBC's Morningside, on MTV, and in Newsday, Omni, Whole Earth Review, Details, and Wired. He lives in Austin with his wife and daughter.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Interview: Bruce Sterling

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Ernest Lilley

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[This review originally appeared in the December 1998 edition of SFRevu.]

2044. America just isn't what it used to be. The Chinese posted all our patents on the web and declared them free. The poles are melting and the Dutch are building dikes everywhere. Federal funding to military bases has sunk low enough that the Air Force is shaking down the public and holding bake sales. Genetic engineering is rampant, nomadic tribes roam the land in post-apocalyptic counter-culture and the French are about to invade Louisiana, which is a cesspool of pollutants and bayou biotech. Other than that, it's business as usual. Hey, life goes on.

Oscar Valparasio is an unlikely hero with a personal background problem. He's just won a senate race for his idealistic architect candidate and a coveted seat on the Senate Science Committee for himself. Now he's off to trim the fat off a pork barrel federal genetic lab built under an isolation dome somewhere in Texas. Just over his event horizon are a brilliant neuro-scientist to fall in love with, a Cajun Governor with a plan for the future of the human race, numerous assassination attempts, a revolution in science and a frenetic ride through the next century's politics and technology. He's quite a character, savvy and driven, in the centre of the political storm dancing between the raindrops. He always seems like a reasonable guy... but somehow he talks everyone into doing extraordinary things.

Distraction is full of ideologue and world-building; terrible, wonderful and believable all at the same time. After cybernetics and genetics comes the real science of the mind: Cognition. Oscar and Louisiana Governor Green Huey Long form wrestle for control of the next wave of neuro-scientific breakthroughs and incidentally redefine the way science is done in the future.

Distraction is Bruce Sterling's best novel yet. He doesn't just imagine the future, he puts flesh on the bones of the present and the promise of tomorrow's technology -- then puts a flame under it and serves it up Cajun-style. After every page I added another person to the list of friends I really wanted to read Distraction. It's got ideas, it's got great characters: scientists, politicians, revolutionaries and lovers. Many all at the same time. And they're all well done.

Sterling's insight gives us a look at the alternative to living in the past, reminding us that the end of the world as we know it isn't the same as the end of the world. Welcome to the future... by the way, you're standing in it.

Copyright © 1998 Ernest Lilley

Ernest Lilley is the Editor and Publisher of SFRevu, a monthly 'zine for science fiction reviews, news and interviews. It can be found at http://www.sfrevu.com.


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