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Interface by Neal Stephenson
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Jul 13, 2008

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bookshelves: sf
Read in July, 2008

I read Stephenson's "Quicksilver" w/in the last yr & was very impressed. His fictionialized acct incorporating real historical characters (many of them likely to be known only to scholars) was thoroughly worked out. It was over 900pp long & took me at least a mnth to read. Now I've just read his collaborative political/medical thriller cowritten w/ J. Frederick George & I'm less impressed. While "Quicksilver" might've been somewhat comparable to something by John Barth &/or Robert Anton Wilson, "Interface" is more comparable to Michael Crichton &/or Robin Cook. In other words, while it's carefully written & well-worked-out, it still reeks of writing aimed at a market rather than something written to develop original ideas.

Take, eg, the title: There's already a SF bk by Mark Adlard called "Interface" from 1971. Not that that's such a big deal, the word's used in a significantly different way in each bk, but it immediately makes me think of mainstream cinema's seemingly endless remake mentality. An ad blurb on the front of the bk calls this most recent "Interface" "A Manchurian Candidate for the computer age" & that's entirely too true for it to be a compliment from my perspective insofar as the plot isn't really that original.

Even the multi-culturalism of the bk seems forced: just about every character is a representative of a different ethnic group. Nonetheless, I'm thankful that the politics aren't as numbnuts as Chrichton's "State of Fear" even if they are more than a bit improbable: a black woman who'd attained prosperity as a banker married to an engineer experiences an economic downslide & other miseries: she & her husband end up in a trailer park, he commits suicide, her son gets shot, she teeters around bag-lady-ism, she criticizes a racist politician in public, the politician's career gets ruined as a result, she gets launched on a political career on her own b/c people are so impressed by her articulateness, & becomes, what else?, the 1st black woman president. Well.. I'd like to see it happen, so I enjoyed the story, so.. whatever.

Anyway, it's 616 pages long so, as usual, any capsule critique is going to be grossly oversimplifying - as this one is. I read it quickly b/c I was sucked into it as I might be by any well-written thriller &, yet, wd I recommend it? Not really - there're so many truly great bks out there to be read: Read McCoy's "The Politics of Heroin" or Joyce's "Ullyses" if you haven't already - & skip this one.
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