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May 03, 2004
New Sterling: Not Sci-Fi, But Still Recognizably Sterlingby Ron Hogan
Last Friday, Salon kicked off a new recurring feature--reviews of science fiction and fantasy novels--with a look at the latest from Bruce Sterling. But is The Zenith Angle really SF? Andrew Leonard asks the same question about this "tale of a computer geek caught up in the dot-com crash and the fallout from 9/11," ultimately suggesting the novel's just "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." And for that very reason, he adds, impossible to ignore.
I'll wait to see for myself, but my initial reaction isn't one of surprise, as earlier Sterling novels (I'm thinking most of Heavy Weather) showed a similar tendency to ramp up towards such outbursts--one of the hazards, I suspect, of using (science) fiction as a vehicle for covert (or not-so-covert) social criticism. Take writers who believe they know how the world works, and/or how it should work, have them work in a genre with characters who often find themselves explaining things, and the results seem almost inevitable. But as I say, I'm withholding final judgment until I see for myself...since I am a fan, and since I do find much to appreciate in Sterling's social criticism, especially in his most recent nonfiction book, Tomorrow Now.
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