The Zenith Angle

The Zenith Angle

Bruce Sterling

Publisher: Del Rey

Publishing date: Apr 27, 2004

Genre: Science-Fiction
Quality: 4

Description: Review

The Zenith Angle, futurist Bruce Sterling's first novel since Zeitgeist (2000), tells the story of Derek "Van" Vandeveer. As The Zenith Angle opens, Van sits peacefully at his breakfast table, enjoying life as a new homeowner and happily married man, with a new son and a fortune in stock options. Then the morning news reports a jetliner has crashed in nearby Manhattan--colliding with the World Trade Center. Like many other Americans' lives, Van's will never be the same. He leaves his corporate job to work fighting terrorism for the U.S. government. He soon finds himself sequestered at a top-secret undisclosed location while his fortune vanishes, his former company sinks into a morass of lawsuits and arrests, and his wife and son move to the far side of the country. And as Van is transformed from cyber-whiz to spook, he finds himself changing in ways he would never have imagined.

A novel from Bruce Sterling is always cause for celebration, and The Zenith Angle is one of the finest contemporary novels and finest techno-thrillers of 2004. Sterling operates at the cutting edge of both technology and pop culture, and he possesses innumerable literary strengths. However, his strengths don't usually include deeply-penetrating character development, and that injures the believability of The Zenith Angle, which is the portrait of a man undergoing an enormous and shocking transformation. --Cynthia Ward

From Publishers Weekly

The godfather of cyberpunk abandons SF in this satiric look at the high-tech security industry after 9/11. Dr. Derek Vandeveer gives up his high-paying job in private industry in order to try to help the government plug the nation's most serious computer security leaks. Unfortunately, he soon discovers that many of the worst problems are either too expensive to fix or impossible to deal with for political reasons. Vandeveer finds himself living in a slum in Washington, D.C., up to his ears in red tape and surrounded by a cast of would-be cyber warriors and failed dot-com entrepreneurs. Even worse, he's paying for the equipment he needs out of his own pocket. Worst of all, Vandeveer's wife Dottie, a world-class astronomer, is off on a mountaintop in Colorado. Meanwhile, something or someone is playing games with America's most sophisticated spy satellite and Vandeveer stakes his reputation on solving the mystery. Sterling (_Zeitgeist_) knows the world of cyber-security inside out, and he does a fine job of talking the talk without losing his readers. The Vandeveers have a convincingly believable geek marriage and their scenes together are particularly well done. Sterling has always been more comfortable with satire than action, however, and the shift near the end to techno-thriller mode isn't entirely successful. Still, this novel should please the author's fans, many of whom will be interested in the latest innovations in computer security.
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