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3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,530 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
Bruce Sterling's latest, longest, most rigorously imagined portrait of 21st-century American life, Distraction, is now available, and that is very good news. Anyone with more than a passing interest in science fiction anyone who appreciates fiction that illuminates the relationship between the vast, impersonal forces of social change and the increasingly beleaguered life ...more
Paperback, 489 pages
Published September 1st 2000 by Millennium / Orion (first published December 1st 1998)
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Best of Cyberpunk
51st out of 216 books — 907 voters
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Arthur C. Clarke Award Winners
12th out of 29 books — 54 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,934)
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3.5 stars. It has been a while since I read this and it is on my list to re-read. My recollection is that this was an above average near-future, dystopian novel.

Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1999)
Nominee: John W. Campbell Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1999)
Nominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1999)
Winner Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2000)
Michael Burnam-fink
This is my favorite book.


Okay, that's not a review. Let me explain why this is my favorite book. Distraction paints a picture of a world gone down the tubes in an all too familiar way, but unlike the usual dystopian moanings, Sterling has the guts to imagine a way out; a characteristically optimistic American faith in the endless frontier of science, technology, and freedom from any kind of notion of responsibility.

But there are three things that I really, truly love about Distraction. First
Nihal Vrana
Feb 03, 2016 Nihal Vrana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
I like data-heavy, hyperbolic stories and Bruce Sterling is the absolute master of this kind. I feel so close to the main character, Oscar (except the genetic background stuff; which was madly interesting by the way), that it completely positively biased me towards the book I think. His tendency to act like he is in control while actually going with the flow really reverberated with how I usually approach life.

Aside from Oscar, the book was brimming with interesting characters; particularly Gree
Scott Holstad
Apr 21, 2014 Scott Holstad rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I've enjoyed Bruce Sterling books in the past, so I was eager to start reading this one. The description of the book at Goodreads make it sound interesting. Unfortunately, the description of the book IS the book -- it's the entire plot boiled down to a few paragraphs. How Sterling got 500 pages out of this, I'll never know. I found it to be largely boring. There were some humorous moments, yes, but really, a book about a political spin doctor trapped in a Texas research facility just isn't that ...more
May 03, 2011 Besha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
From 2011, Sterling’s 1998 vision of 2044 is looking uncomfortably realistic. The US government is in a 20-year State of Emergency, half the population is unemployed, and the technological underclass have become scavenging nomads who rely on a classier Hot Or Not reputation servers to trust one another. Anyone who can afford to be a patron has their own krewe of flunkies. Environmental damage has physically reshaped the country. Ethically motivated bank robberies are crowdsourced.

The lead charac
Feb 11, 2008 Damian rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. It's one of the best near-future science fiction novels I've read in a long time. You won't find any interstellar travel, artificial intelligence or spandex-clad sex droids here, just a world very much like our own but 8-10 years in the future. A future where things have gone a bit wrong. Some of the things you're missing by not reading this book include: Reputation Servers, Air Force Bake Sales, the Politics of Squatting and BioTechVoodoo Haitians if I remember correct ...more
Feb 26, 2008 Lawrence rated it did not like it
Shelves: dystopia, near-future
One word defines how bad this book is: repetition. The author has some interesting ideas about problems in American society, and tries to extrapolate their impact in the near future. However, he also likes to repeat those ideas. So, if you're not really excited and into his theories, the plot drags during these America-is-going-to-hell for [insert random thought here] moments. And in case you don't get them the first time, they are brought up over and over. Additionally, the plot is advanced not ...more
Mad Russian the Traveller
Published in 1998, the story takes place in the years 2044 to 2045, but it is a thinly veiled commentary on what is going on currently (as of this writing--c.2011AD). Mr. Sterling is a skilled writer, so the story gets a higher rating because he has accomplished the first goal of publishing a book--it needs to entertain. I was entertained and found some of the ideas in the story quite interesting; it's worth your time to read this novel. I liked a number of passages in this book, so I'll quote t ...more
Apr 13, 2009 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Policy wonks of the future
(I originally wrote this in 2000; this version is adapted from the one on my website.)

Originally seen in a Seattle bookstore when it was brand-new, 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
I just read the best review of this book over on Boing Boing! and it reminded just why this is in my top ten favorite books list.

It also reminded me why I like Cory Doctorow, the author of the following review as well as several fun works of science fiction, so much:

"I just finished re-reading (for the nth time) Bruce Sterling's 1998 novel Distraction. I didn't mean to -- I picked it up in a used bookstore in Milwaukee on my way to a quick dinner in my ho
Feb 25, 2009 korty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sterling is an ideas man (and one of my favorites), and this near future political thriller is filled with them. Although some people have rightly complained that the actual story doesn't really begin until about 90 to 100 pages in, I still love every page of this novel. Although much less silly (in a good way) than Neal Stephenson's classic Snow Crash, I'd imagine that those who enjoyed all the funny throw-away bits of social commentary in SC will find just as much to enjoy in Distraction.
Kevin Lewis
Apr 06, 2007 Kevin Lewis rated it liked it
so far, it's either airport magazine rack crap, or pretentious elitist crap that's making a statement by parodying airport magazine rack crap.
Roddy Williams
‘Sex, science and spin… it’s your future and welcome to it.

2044, and the US is coming apart at the seams. The people live nomadic lives fuelled by cheap transport and even cheaper communications. the new cold war is with the Dutch and mostly fought over the Net. The notion of central government is almost meaningless.

This is your future. Oscar Valparaiso’s too – or it would be if he wasn’t only half human and could sort our his love life…’

Blurb from the 2000 Millennium paperback edition

Bruce Ster
Mar 17, 2011 Mohamed rated it it was ok
Just finished and it was a bit of an ordeal. The book is chock full of interesting ideas, some subtle wordplay and other fun with the language but I was disappointed with the shallow characterization and too pat interactions. Who talks like that? Why are all these people responding the way they do and changing against their nature so quickly? It got pretty exasperating. I sometimes felt like it would play better as a movie and that Sterling intended that all along. Moreover I never felt any conn ...more
"Tutti vanno nel futuro per morire."

Un mese intero per leggere questo romanzo fantapolitico di cinquecentoventicinque pagine.
Che faticaccia!
L'idea di fondo è interessante, relativamente originale. E' scritto bene, l'autore sa di che cosa sta parlando. Ma è fin troppo tecnico. E prolisso. E pieno di dialoghi senza motivo, di scene che dimentichi voltata la pagina... E fa venire un sonno mostruoso.
Poteva venire fuori un bel romanzo fantapolitico fantascientifico e fantatecnologico tagliandone anch
Jul 12, 2012 Bruce rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Maybe my favorite Sterling novel. I just reread it 10 years later and loved it even more than the first time.

It crackles with ideas, energy, and humour at every step. It builds from deep clear eyed (cynical?) understanding of american and international politics, scientific culture, male and female dynamics, and general all around human behaviour.

It describes a future USA that is fallen apart... or has it fallen up? Utopia or dystopia?

The names and neologisms are both hilarious and pure poetry...
Nicholas Karpuk
Sep 30, 2008 Nicholas Karpuk rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Dystopia fans, political junkies.
Recommended to Nicholas by: Cory Doctorow
"Distraction" is one of the more didactic books that I've actually enjoyed.

Oscar Valpraiso is the hyper-motivated adopted child of Hollywood elite who starts the book working as a senatorial campaign manager in a near future where the US economy has collapsed and the government has been rendered nearly irrelevant.

The world presented in Sterling's novel is intriguing to be sure, full of roving nomad gangs equipped with cheap food sources and cheaper information networks. An amazing amount of tho
Dev Null
May 26, 2009 Dev Null rated it really liked it
Politics in the post-environmental-holocaust US. Its snappy and funny and at the same time slightly disturbing. Its also more than a little prescient, considering it describes the president of the US using an overseas war to distract people from domestic issues... in 1998, two years before W took office. But W is far from the first leader to use that tactic, so thats not too shocking a guess.

One of the neat if scary ideas in the book is how cheap, easy food and mechanisation makes employment an
Dec 29, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Bruce Sterling's 1998 novel *Distraction* was highly recommended to me by a friend who absolutely loved this book and thought since I'm a science fiction fan I might like it, too. Where *Distraction* really shines is that the number of plausible and implausible near-future ideas that Sterling crams into this novel -- particularly fascinating to me were some of the futuristic architecture ideas and the "proles," groups of people banded together by social network reputation ranking systems. While ...more
Aug 03, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
Bruce Sterling's 1998 novel *Distraction* was highly recommended to me by a friend who absolutely loved this book and thought since I'm a science fiction fan I might like it, too. Where *Distraction* really shines is that the number of plausible and implausible near-future ideas that Sterling crams into this novel -- particularly fascinating to me where some of the futuristic architecture ideas and the "proles," groups of people banded together by social network reputation ranking systems. While ...more
Dec 11, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
This book was written in the 1990's but it seems more relevant to today than the first time I read it when it came out. It depicts the world of 2043 or 30 years from now. The Federal government is paralyzed by politics and indecision, permanently in a state of emergency. Louisiana has been devastated by floods and the whole country by unemployment (up around 33% not 8% but still. There is a huge disparity in wealth to the point that the only people with jobs work as private "krewes" of personal ...more
Raymond Rogers
Dec 02, 2013 Raymond Rogers rated it really liked it
And the millennium prognostication prize goes to: Sterling/Distraction
I recently reread it and sadly my earlier opinion of it being just a story/fantasy was wrong; it's very real now.
In my experience (and it's a lot in SciFi) SciFi writers have a very poor record at prediction; of course that is not their purpose.
But for Distraction printed in 1998 about 2040
lets give it grades 1-5: (I think you will find we are well on track)
1) Dysfunctional government -- Got that nailed 5 points
2) Southern/Sou
Oct 08, 2013 HerodotusMao rated it it was amazing
Sterling is the Futurist America Deserves

As a long-time William Gibson fan, I have known about Bruce Sterling for a long time. Sterling came up with Gibson in the 80's American Cyberpunk scene, and was one of the most vocal cheerleaders of the genre through editing the famous Mirrorshades anthology, and writing things like the now seminal 'zine Cheap Truth (which can still be located at and is very much worth a read for every cyberpunk fan) and the non-
Jun 28, 2008 Toby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Toby by: cory doctorow
Bruce Sterling is as "on" a futurist as you're likely to get without giving in to magical thinking. Published a decade ago in 1998, Sterling gives us a good old fashioned American future in which the government is bankrupt, splintered, and operating through an endless bureaucracy of Emergency committees. Global warming has sunk islands, atrophied coastlines and engaged the US in a cold war with Holland. At the middle of this stew of discord is Oscar, a fast talking political operative who, havin ...more
Aug 08, 2012 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery, sci-fi
I picked this book because I've read Sterling's writing in Wired magazine and enjoyed it. And Distraction definitely proved that he is a creative thinker... but the book itself, not so good. It's set in the United States about 50 years in the future. Some of the elements of this future society are interesting, from a "what if?" perspective. For example, the US economy has collapsed due to the Chinese posting American intellectual property free for the pirating on their web servers. And the two m ...more
Nov 23, 2007 Monk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Polisci-Minded Sci Fi Lovers
Shelves: world_builders
I was one of two people in a group of about thirteen who liked this book, and I don't know why.

Oscar has always been different. He's a cloned human being using mostly human DNA wioth some amphibian genes to complete the process. He's also political mastermind with a working Krewe that can do the impossible.

Naturally when you're too damned smart for your own god, you tend to get into all kinds of trouble. This is something else Oscar is exceedingly good at. When he takes up the cause of a bio-pre
Jun 05, 2012 Warwick rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
Bruce is always worth reading but Distraction doesn’t do it for me.
Near future science fiction, really a bit of a rumination on new economies and the possible failure modes of the “American” future mashed together with an absurdist extrapolation of American political campaigning. The narrative produces a literally closed environment in which to watch democracy fail and succed and fail and become irrelevant mirroring what is happening at the traditional (state and federal) scales elsewhere in the
Aug 22, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bruce Sterling was, I understand, a kind of cyberpunk god. I never read much by him that I recall (probably some short stories) except for the very cool novel The Difference Engine that he wrote with William Gibson, another cyberpunk god. Thing is, neither The Difference Engine or this novel are cyberpunk, and that is OK because I hear cyberpunk is dead. This story is about US politics in the year 2040. He sets up a very plausible scenario about a bankrupt, fractured nation that is rapidly decli ...more
Jim Jewell
May 13, 2008 Jim Jewell rated it liked it
An interesting look at politics in post-collapse US. China undermining the entire US economy by pirating every English-language piece of intellectual property possible brought some interesting implications, like all commercail programming falling off and replaced by hacker-programmersn from the nomadic "dropout' tribes.

But, all in all, less than the sum of its parts. Where Sterling succeeds at fiction-of-ideas, he doesn't create characters for whom I feel much of anything. The lead character, r
Mar 13, 2010 Christopher rated it really liked it
A fantastic collage of ideas and "what-ifs" that span the prescient (auto industry bailouts) to the fantastically farfetched (end plot point, not spoiling it here!) and attempt to look at how they would play in a near-future scenario. The plot was idea-porn, the characters servicable archetypes or caricatures, as needed. The parade of ideas was astounding, though. From small ideas of "self-aware" building materials helping flashmobs raise buildings to the disconnected and disenfranchised mobs to ...more
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Michael Bruce Sterling is an American science fiction author, best known for his novels and his seminal work on the Mirrorshades anthology, which helped define the cyberpunk genre.
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“America hadn't really been suited for its long and tiresome role as the Last Superpower, the World's Policeman. As a patriotic American, Oscar was quite content to watch other people's military coming home in boxes for a while. The American national character wasn't suited for global police duties. It never had been. Tidy and meticulous people such as the Swiss and the Swedes were the types who made good cops. America was far better suited to be the World's Movie Star. The world's tequila-addled pro-league bowler. The world's acerbic, bipolar stand-up comedian. Anything but a somber and tedious nation of socially responsible centurions.” 20 likes
“We're so intelligent now that we're too smart to survive. We're so well informed that we lost all sense of meaning. We know the price of everything, but we've lost all sense of value. We have everyone under surveillance, but we've lost all sense of shame.” 5 likes
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