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Distraction
Bruce Sterling
Millennium paperback £6.99

review by Tony Lee

Oscar is an east-coast senator's aide whose reforming boss wants to shake up the US Congress. Greta is a successful neuroscientist hoping her biotechnology lab will save their once great nation and the planet. They live among wandering tribes of dealers, tinkers and sightseers, as their federal democracy threatens to collapse. Oscar's multimedia campaign tour bus ride across several States reveals what's going on in this hectic, uncertain world at every level. Will the itinerant networked proles win out against the wealthy but isolated over-class? Can Oscar and Greta balance important careers and casual romance? Is a silent war about to be fought on the landscape or the Internet? It's not that this 21st century future doesn't work. In Bruce Sterling's appealing comedy drama, the future works so well that everybody's out of a job!

Bruce Sterling has quietly become one of the big players in today's transatlantic science fiction. Although his work lacks the cosmic wonder of Greg Bear, the pure literary style of William Gibson, or the solemnity of Kim Stanley Robinson, this savvy novel is clear evidence of authorial cool and a sophisticated wit that's superior to many genre writers. If you want a book to amuse, enlighten, surprise and involve you - well, here it is. Alongside all the various satirical broadsides on funding for the military, civil disobedience, PR glamour, global conservationism and the rhetoric of power politics, Distraction delivers plenty of erudite speculation and imagination. This is insightful commentary on American futurism at its most rigorous and entertaining, tackling hard economic realities on high and low scales from corporate to car-boot sale.

Above all, though, Sterling is having enormous, rousing fun here - and in the end that's what makes the book so worthwhile.
Distraction

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