Book: The Zenith Angle by Bruce Sterling

Something like a thriller but slow in the middle

Bruce Sterling
The Zenith Angle
Del Rey, 2004
ISBN: 0-345-46061-8
306 pages

The Zenith Angle is a sort of techno-thriller. Dr Derek Vendeveer is a very clever geek with a good deal of experience. In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he leaves his job at a large but failing high-tech company (a sort of a cross between Enron and and a dot-com bubble company) and goes to work for the U.S. government in computer security. Van, as he is generally known, doesn't suppose that it will be entertaining work, but he thinks that he can make a difference there. That's on page 87. On page 262, he Realizes Something and the last 45 pages of the book are mostly about a sort of extra-geeky version of a Tom-Clancy-style covert operation.

And that's kind of a problem for the book. Van doesn't expect that working for the government will be very interesting and, alas, reading about it isn't all that interesting either. That's not to say that the middle of the book is bad or boring (though Van is subject to bouts of introspection that get close to being tedious and trite), but it's not exciting. In something like a thriller or a spy novel, you expect the pacing to pick up in the middle, and in this book it doesn't. All of the excitement is stuffed into the last chapter.

There are a small number of errors in the book: The copy-editor nodded a couple of times and gave us "solar-water heaters" (p. 194) and "camou" as a spoken abbreviation for "camouflage" (p. 273). And Mr Sterling suggests that lots of electricity can be run through fiber-optic cables and that they'll heat up if you do that (p. 269).

Posted: Thu - June 10, 2004 at 10:05   Main   Category: