Review: Bruce Sterling, Distraction (sf novel)

Alan P. Scott - Rants - Reviews

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Seen in a Seattle bookstore and put on my to-read list immediately.

When I actually got a chance to read it (I'd been distracted, heh), my hopes were confirmed. Bruce Sterling's Distraction is perhaps the most perfect novel it's possible to write under that name, a marvelous political sleight-of-hand, a Primary Colors for the 21st Century.

Oscar Valparaiso is a campaign manager of particular genius, a fast-talking manipulator who never, ever lies, because he never has to. The truth should always be enough, if you spin it right - and Oscar's the master of spin. But Oscar also has a longstanding "personal background problem" that even he can't spin enough, a problem that despite his talents and high-profile childhood keeps him from taking center stage himself.

As the book opens, Oscar has successfully shepherded an almost unknown architect into the U.S. Senate (not as wonderful an achievement as it sounds, what with unConstitutional "Emergency Committees" running almost everything and sixteen political microparties squabbling over the rest), and has been shunted off down to Buna, Texas, in an armored campaign bus with the rest of his election krewe for a little R&R.

But Oscar gets... distracted, in such a way that the reader also gets distracted, and neither he nor the reader knows what's coming until it gets there.

In ideas per second, Distraction is right up there with Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, and while it also shares with that book an abrupt and somewhat disappointing ending, that may just be the unavoidable letdown you feel at the end of a roller-coaster ride... damn, it's over, and so soon! Highly recommended.

©2000 Alan P. Scott. All rights reserved.

This document was last updated July 27, 2000.

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