[By Nic Lindh on Friday, 03 June 2005]
Bruce Sterling’s The Zenith Angle is a hard-nosed and satirical look at the time during and shortly after September 11, and how the terrorist attack and its consequences change the life of a genius-level computer scientist from the lap of luxury at an Enron-like company to a cyber security specialist.
Following Derek “Van" Vandeveer as he becomes involved in the shadowy world of three-letter-acronym agencies and his struggle to make government officials “get" the vulnerabilities of a networked world is an amusing journey, and the novel is peppered with observations and knowledge that—to this outside observer, at least—seem plausible if ratcheted up to a satirical pitch.
The first three quarters of The Zenith Angle is a fun and thought-provoking romp and recommended reading, but unfortunately Sterling decides to end the novel by creating the kind of scenario Tom Clancy would hatch at the end of a week-long bender, and Sterling does not carry off the shift into techno thriller mode, ending the novel with a resounding thud.
Despite the unsatisfying ending, The Zenith Angle is well worth picking up for anybody interested in geekhood, cyber security, and the fight against global terrorism. It elicits chuckles and head nods in many places.