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The Zenith Angle

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  626 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Pioneering computer wizard Derek "Van" Vandeveer has been living extra-large as a VP for a booming Internet company. But the September 11 attacks on America change everything. Recruited as the key member of an elite federal computer-security team, Van enters the labyrinthine trenches of the Washington intelligence community. His special genius is needed to debug the softwa ...more
Paperback, 341 pages
Published April 26th 2005 by Del Rey Books (first published January 1st 2004)
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Average rating 3.28  · 
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 ·  626 ratings  ·  57 reviews

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Aug 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
Bruce Sterling has written some fantastic SF books, however, this is one to avoid. Characterisations are very weak, the plot line is farcical, and gets worse as the book develops - no wait, it does'nt develop, it unravels completely into farce.
It really feels like Bruce lost interest after writing the first chapter and handed it over to a 10 year old boy to finish.
Do yourself a favour, and read a different book.
Sorry Bruce, but a very poor effort.
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
I keep wanting to really like Bruce Sterling, but then just - not. The Zenith Angle, is, reportedly, a techno-thriller about computer/Internet security. Sadly, unless you are the Special Adviser for Cyberspace Security to the Bush Administration (who wrote a glowing blurb for this book), Internet Security is just not that thrilling.
In this novel, the main character, Van, leaves his corporate job as a computer geek to go work for the government. He finds himself underpaid and broke, trying to co
Jul 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
A post 9/11 cyberterrorism something something satellites something national security something something techno thriller.

Full of enormous privileged white guy egos and annoying privileged white guy angst, with a gentle sprinkling of unconscious sexism. I hit a critical mass of bored irritation halfway through, skipped to the end, and rolled my eyes so hard I think I sprained something.

Saved from 1 star by the occasionally crisp dialogue, and a thin gloss of geeky-charm-humor. A very thin glos
John Defrog
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Sterling tends to be hit or miss with me – this is one of the misses. It's his take on post-9/11 Homeland Security, and it’s got some interesting ideas, but overall it's just an okay story, which is more annoying than it should be because I actually had to buy this book twice. I lost it about two-thirds of the way through and was sufficiently intrigued to buy another copy to see how it ended, and in the end it was a bit of a letdown. ...more
Peter Tillman
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Crackerjack storytelling up to the end, where it goes off into la-la land.
Clynt Keelan
Sep 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Brusce Sterling is preoccupied in this book with the transformations Cybersociety went through as a result of the September 11 terror attacks and of the dotcom and telecoms busts. To be honest the characters and events weren't quite as interesting to me as was the ambient commentary on events in technological development from 2000 to around 2007.
The confrontation between the main character as a cybersecurity worker and a government-recruited ex-hacker is informative and well-imagined, and the fr
Dec 01, 2008 rated it really liked it

Satire, people, satire. The main character shoots the villain with a titanium glue gun that looks like a Buck Rogers Death Ray. Anybody who doesn't find the humor in that isn't paying the right kind of attention to this book. Sterling is always having more fun than you realize.

As always, finely executed commercial fiction with the intellectual content of more serious stuff. I am hoping for a sequel about Van's adventures in Europe.
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This gets shelved with thrillers, but I read it more as a farce. The whole premise of 'douchebag turbo nerd turns spy' is such a delightful bit of self-deprecating humor, darkly comedic. As a thriller, this book is a total pass. But as a send-up of bureaucracy, computer professionals, and the whole genre of the pulp thriller, it's worth some time. ...more
L. Farmer
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I can't figure out why all of Bruce's books haven't been made into movies. This would be my first suggestion for someone like Kathryn Bigelow. ...more
Marsha Valance
In "The Zenith Angle", Sterling mixes cyberpunk, politics, irony and suspense to provide a satiric look at the high-tech security industry after 9/11. After witnessing the Twin Towers destruction on his TV at breakfast, Dr. Derek “Van” Vandeveer gives up his high-paying job to help the government plug the nation's most serious computer security leaks. Van soon learns that many of the worst problems are either too expensive to fix or politically sacrosanct. Rather than take time from rese ...more
Aug 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
I normally absolutely adore Sterling, his 'Zeitgeist' holds a place of honor on my bookshelf; I found it to be witty, poignant, and full of strangely likable characters. In essence, it's everything this book isn't. 'The Zenith Angle' is really the nadir of Bruce's work. An attempt to spin a tale about the clashing realities of cyber-security and real security in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, but instead, all this book does is clash. The story is a wandering, meandering mess that seems half-fi ...more
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thrillers
A fast, dull read. I know the author has done a lot better in the past.

Here, it is data points in search of a plot. Any plot. The author attempts to impress with network concept term dropping, but it doesn't make that much sense.

Here, it starts as something about spy sats. Then network warfare. Then space war. The main character is brilliant, but is moody. A lot. He can't figure out how to work without alienating his family. I didn't care one wit for his whiny problems.

It could have been bette
Levent Mollamustafaoglu
Jan 31, 2015 rated it did not like it
The Zenith Angle is a relatively new book by Bruce Sterling. I had first read Bruce Sterling as one of the two prominent writers of the cyberpunk movement (the other being William Gibson).

The book I read was Islands in the Net and I had liked it a lot. Unlike the pessimistic post-cybernetics world of William Gibson, Sterling's world was more lively and - I must say - more realistic. In this book he was dealing with the 21st century where data is the most valuable commodity and data piracy is som
Nov 28, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi-fantasy
Bruce Sterling is one of the few writers whose work I will buy, new, in hardcover when I see it on the shelves. I generally find his work fresh and interesting, and it is always intelligent and accessible. Sterling's name is usually mentioned in conjunction with William Gibson as the leading authors of the "cyber punk" genre. I prefer Sterling's style over Gibson's.

Sadly, I think this is one of Sterling's weakest books to date. The technology described was sound, as expected with a Sterling nove
Dec 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
So maaaaaybe this is operating at some high level of irony. I can sort of see it in hindsight: Van's overwrought behavior and speechifying and take-so-seriously business at what is barely a first world problem of "cyberwar" and so forth. And I can see angles where the book peels away the veneer of Government work to show the overcomplicated bureaucracy, all politically-driven and working-at-cross-purposes.

And I can see messages about ideal technical solutions and situations--the Ivory Tower--bei
Thomas Litchford
Dec 11, 2009 rated it liked it
The Zenith Angle was disappointing. I ignored other reviews that said as much because I'm a fan of Bruce Sterling's work. Ah, well.

The ingredients of a good Sterling novel are here, but he over-seasoned the dish. Perhaps in an attempt at satire, he essentially turned his novel into a long rant on the state of security (specifically cyber-security) in the post-September 11th world. And it gets tiresome.

You follow his hero, Derek Vandeveer, on his odyssey from the world of the dot-com into the wor
Leonardo Etcheto
Apr 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great story, loved the characters, falls down at the end. Right up to the final confrontation with the evil genius, the book was spot on. Once Van went all cyber warrior and deadly it got pretty loopy. I found the relationship between Van and his wife Dottie pretty damn weird, but I don’t know many hardcore computer geeks, so it is probably fairly realistic. Especially because emotionally they are both “damaged”.
An interesting theme I had not thought much about before; is the ego hit many of th
Peter Petermann
Jan 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Now that escalated quickly.. About 40 minutes before I finished the book I formulated in my head "good writing, but it seems to lack a bigger story arc" I couldn't have been wrong more. In the last chapters the author manages to tie it all together, add a twist and make sense of it all. Well done.

So why am I only giving 4 out of 5 stars? Mostly because some of the minor details don't make sense, like that gag about using spam for the laser, or shooting someone with a hot glue gun. In some way i
Michael Coté
Nov 24, 2007 rated it liked it
I'm currently reading through Bruce Sterling's work, so obviously I like his stuff, sort of, no matter what. This book was fun reading until the cheesy - as another reviewer says - James Bond ending. But, giving Sterling the benefit of the doubt, I just chalked it up to him thinking one day: "man, I'd really like to write a sort James Bond meets The Hacker Crackdown mashup book." Of course, that was before the term "mashup," but hey, look over there, never mind that.

I'm a fan on non-fiction buer
Maria Longley
Apr 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy, ma, 2013
Bruce Sterling brings interesting ideas and thoughts to how the world is changing post-9/11 and the Internet, and the impossibility of a "war on terror". These bits were interesting. There was also a rather less-than-complimentary look at how things don't get done in Washington due to politics, red tape, and money which at times was quite funny. It was the end really... Geek turns into cyber warrior didn't really do it for me and the action/thiller bits weren't all that great, and the great deno ...more
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
While The Zenith Angle isn't one of Sterling's best efforts it's still more readable than many books out there. There's something engaging about his characters and dialog that just draws you in, even when the story is lacking. The Zenith Angle describes Sterlings feelings about the US government, 9/11, the military-industrial complex and how programmers and scientists could save the world if they just had the political power and funding. If you want to read some Sterling, try Distraction ...more
Mar 14, 2009 rated it did not like it
This book is a nerd-revenge fantasy. It's amoral: The protagonist kills his best friend for "treason" in a "cyberwar" where the hero isn't an agent of any government. This stupid book glorifies plain murder.

The book is overloaded with narrative and the characters are poorly sketched. The author can't help pontificating. Technology isn't illuminated in this book: it's name-dropped and bandied around.

The book reads like it wasn't ever edited.

Plain trash. I'm glad I read a library copy. It reads
Jul 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
The book is about a computer scientist that does a lot of angsty thinking about how his precious interwebs are all under attack from cyber terrorists - and only one "intruder" was mentioned after 200 pages. The story does pick up quite a bit towards the end, but the ending felt goofy - as if the author realized, "Oh dang...I need to make this story come together now."

I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to feel unfulfilled after reading it. Or, to anyone that liked "The DaVinci Code
David Gross
Jun 09, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, sci-fi-esque
Feels like it wants to be some sort of "men's action adventure" book, but most of the action involves boring bureaucratic infighting, the hero is a computer geek who navigates acronym agencies with aplomb, and the romance is the hapless introspection of a married guy with borderline Aspergers Syndrome. Then, suddenly, in the last chapter, there's a ridiculous James Bond movie climax with huge laser space rays, dueling spies with eye-rolling dialogue, and ginormous assplosions. ...more
Addie GS
Nov 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: colonialone-hall
Bruce Sterling is a new author for me, but I'll definitely go in for his other works. The Zenith Angle was excellent; it was plot driven and action filled, technologically interesting, and had characters who were provided enough depth to feel real, but not so complex as to subvert the plot. It took turns between funny and scary (the book depicts a frankly realistic slide towards a dystopia in present day), and is thoroughly entertaining. ...more
Dec 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Not up to Bruce's best, but still a compulsive page-turner. Actually my favorite line is one that Bruce has one of the characters quote from Heinlein: "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, write a sonnet, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, solve equations, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
raht awn, raht awn, raht AWN!
Jack Lavelle
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a cool, cool, read. Sterling uses his characters to float huge, complicated ideas.

His protagonist is an angular, wildly over-educated and massively intelligent computer engineer with an unlimited ceiling. Until.

Until the 1990s end, al Qaeda attacks and the world-as-we-knew-it isn't anymore. Welcome to Van's World. It's an awful lot of fun. And dangerous. And like most Bruce Sterling's oeuvre, it's thoughtful and instructive. I recommend it highly.
Stephen Dorneman
Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
Although I've greatly enjoyed many other Sterling books (HOLY FIRE, SCHISMATRIX, etc.) this techno thriller never engaged me, and seemed more a primer on cybersecurity and post-9/11 politics than anything else. The conflict doesn't materialize until well after half-way through the book, and the main character does an awful lot of patently ridiculous things that were never justified well enough for me. Can't recommend it. ...more
Enjoyable, but slight. Interesting insights into technology wrapped in a James Bond Lite shell. Cool gadgets but ultimately unsatisfying. Tried to find the humor touted on the jacket, but I just didn't see any.

Nicely written anyway - I'll be looking for another Bruce Sterling as I see that his readers regard this as one of his lesser works.
Apr 17, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
A little slow in the beginning, but really fast and gripping wrap-up in the final chapters. A bit weird to be reading this as sci-fi when it's set a few years in the past, but that's more my fault for reading this now rather than when it first came out. ...more
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Bruce Sterling is an author, journalist, critic and a contributing editor of Wired magazine. Best known for his ten science fiction novels, he also writes short stories, book reviews, design criticism, opinion columns and introductions to books by authors ranging from Ernst Jünger to Jules Verne. His non-fiction works include The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier (1992 ...more

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“There was something inhuman about being dutiful workaholics, something that wrecked marriages, shattered families, and made a man and woman shrivel up inside. It was going to kill them both someday. Without his wife and his child, hinges had popped loose in Van’s soul. He could feel that something quiet but vital to his humanity was slowly going down the shredder.” 0 likes
“To run the world, you had to find it in yourself to grit your teeth and just fake it. Just stare them down, never back off.” 0 likes
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