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Distraction Paperback – 1 Sep 2000


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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New edition edition (1 Sep 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857989287
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857989281
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 3.3 x 17.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,050,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Politics is the art of the possible, the "doable", as Sterling's skewed hero, Oscar Valparaiso, keeps calling his wild improvised plans as if saying the word made them so. Oscar's usually successful schemes are as cobbled together as his own genetics--Oscar is not quite human. Investigating a genetic research facility for a Senate committee, he finds a potential power base, and an enemy worth his attention--the Governor of Louisiana has taken to conquering federal facilities using gangs of the homeless as his deniable mercenaries, and his interest in biotech makes the genetically anomalous Oscar, and the scientist he has fallen for, attractive acquisitions. Having a senator he has just help get elected go stark raving mad, and finding himself on the Net-wide hit list of every nut with a grudge, are the sort of things that Oscar copes with all the time--love and other altered states of consciousness are a bit more of a problem. Endless witty extrapolations of social and scientific paradoxes and a constant cheeky elaboration of already convoluted plot lines give this the brio of Sterling's best short fiction--if there is a more entertaining near-future SF novel this year, we will be in luck. --Roz Kaveney

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Latest full length novel from the key, award-winning author of ISLANDS ON THE NET

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul Johnson on 18 Mar 2002
Format: Paperback
An excellent piece of future-gazing, set in a plausible future of cheap technology and environmental collapse.
A pity, but towards the end the book really tails off. Sterling pans back from the main characters and devotes whole pages to reciting the off-stage action like a history book. The plot resolution seemed to resolve almost nothing.
Buy this book. Read it. The first 4/5ths is amazingly good. But don't worry if you can't plough through the last fifth. I get the impression that Sterling had to fight his way through it as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Dec 2000
Format: Paperback
I have enjoyed all of Bruce Sterling's recent books, though Heavy Weather was a little weak. Distraction, though a little less stylish than some of his books, is great fun and yet very thought-provoking.
It's so excellent it seems mean to say things like "less stylish than..." - so don't get me wrong - this is a great book.
Bruce Sterling takes some interesting strands of present-day politics/society (spin doctors, Seattle-style anti-capitalist demos etc) and extrapolates a quite realistic (though obviously exaggerated for narrative fun) near future.
The lead character is a very likeable political backroom guy, very smart, and the book is about his power-broking exploits and their trail of mayhem. Oh, and his odd romance with a nice scientist.
Then, just as the book is drawing to a close and it all seemed as straightforward as that, the "villain" (who appears superhuman in his ability to pre-empt our hero at all times) - throws in a classic twist which has nothing to do with the story so far and is yet another amazing Bruce Sterling idea - to do with changing the way we think (but I can't say more without spoiling it).
If you like Bruce Sterling, if you find current politics interesting, or you like "social experiment" sci-fi, you will enjoy this excellent book. I did!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Hind on 3 May 2001
Format: Paperback
The ultimate marketing wonk put-down:
"I really hate to dismiss that idea out of hand. It's so modern and photogenic and nonlinear."
How to succeed in a chaotic world:
"'Hmm. You're absolutely right about that, Yosh. That was not plannable. But it was doable.' Pelicanos sat down and knotted his hands. 'You know what your problem is? Every time you lose sight of your objective, you redouble your efforts.'"
And finally the terrible truth about modern politics:
"We don't have roots. We're network people. We have aerials."
Great stuff: Funny, intelligent and horribly convincing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Peter O'connor VINE VOICE on 13 Mar 2000
Format: Paperback
Sterling is a great author but this was not a great book.
The author tells the tale of Oscar Valparaiso, a geneticly tweaked near-human living in a near future world. Denied electability by his background, he works in the campaign team of a disintegrating politician while pursuing his own agenda involving the control of a government research base.
All through this, his world teeters on the brink of collapse as corrupt politicians and the onslaught of new technologies pile up waves of problems.
This setting has the potential to be a really remarkable novel but ultimately, it fails. None of the characters are satisfactorily explained. Too often, they select a course of action which, while necessary to the direction of the plot, seems not to fit in with the picture painted of their ambitions and motivations.
Finally, the story falls into an all too common trap in modern SF. It is almost as if the author realises that he has nearly reached the books allotted quota of words without having ended the narrative. So, the reader is presented with a frenzied winding up of the plot to reach the author's desired conclusion.
Die hard Sterling fans will find it essential but he is capable of producing much finer work that this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By nilsson@ibg.uu.se on 28 Nov 2000
Format: Paperback
Distraction by Bruce Sterling is a smart political thriller set in a not-too-distant, dark-ish future. A US electorial campaign team leader carries out his personal agenda. Bruce Sterling shows off his brilliant sociological insight both in describing the intricate game of political engineering as well as in characterising an over-commercialised scientific community deprived of peer-review, respect and vision and the large autonomous networked nomad tribal communities roaming the American continent. The technological setting is both believable and to large parts original, with some interesting forecasts on everyday biotech, wearable computing and datamining. I would recommend this book to any political thriller fan or sci-fi reader.
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By A Customer on 31 Dec 1998
Format: Hardcover
Imagine the ambiguous feelings of a tabby shut away with all of catnip toys, fat mice, and gold fish it could want . . . in a running clothes dryer.
That's how _Distraction_ made me feel. It has everything that endears me to Sterling's writing: imaginative but imaginable futures, cheeky humor, and a refusal to cleave to SF genre tropes. But this is a _political_ novel, with a hero who dresses to a tee and rolls his eyes at socially and stylistically clueless geeks. Science and technology don't come to the rescue; they just make a hopelessly complex situation more complex.
Campaign director-turned-would-be-national savior Oscar Valpariso isn't after trancendence or knowledge or personal freedom; he's a pol, and a driven and somewhat ruthless one at that. I never quite felt quite comfortable with or sympathetic toward the guy, probably because I'm a confirmed geek.
But _Distraction_ is a welcome return to the sort of near-future politically savvy SF novel that hasn't been seen much since Pohl and Kornbluth (_Gladiator at Law_) stopped collaborating, or at least since Brunner's hair-raising near future novels (_The Sheep Look Up_, _Stand on Zanzibar_). Most of the current political SF I'm aware of is of the fan-pleasing miraculous-libertarian-revolution variety. This one deals with politics in a world on the verge of becoming deeply strange, thanks to advances in neurology that threaten, or promise, to forever change human nature.
Sterling pulls off a difficult task, mostly. The ideas didn't keep me up nights, the way some of the notions in _Holy Fire_ did. A lot of the details of his Greenhouse-afflicted, economically-pummeled, fractious U.S. are told rather than being shown, rendering it kind of flat in spots. This is also a very talky novel . . .
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