I grimaced when I began this book, but smiled as it engaged me over time.
I grimaced because Y2K is so, well, Y2K. Why has Sterling, a modern sci-fi writer, decided to take us back to 1999?
In Istanbul, of all places?
But while each joke about something bad happening in Y2K rubbed wrong, there were other elements that felt right.
The lead character is Leggy Starlitz, who is in the middle of a big scam involving the G-7 girls, which the book jacket describes as “the cheapest, phoniest all-girl band ever to wear Wonderbras and spandex.” Think about what would happen if the Spice Girls followed more of the Milli Vanilli style of music.
While Leggy is worried the act is losing popularity in other parts of the world, he thinks he can make a mint by having them do a big show in Istanbul.
Oh, and the whole band project has this as its main rule: The project ends in 2001.
Sterling has wisely added an assortment of other characters around Starlitz such as two Russians who help with security.
And one-third of the way into the book the story grows more interesting as Vanna, the mother of Leggy’s sole child, brings their daughter, Zeta, to him and then leaves. It was the first time dad and daughter met and spent time together. This results in much depth as the personality of Starlitz changes in response to his daughter’s arrival in his life.
Overall, it’s a good book but far from a great book. And it is not nearly as good as recent works by other cyberpunk masters like Neal Stephenson and William Gibson.
If you want to try a Sterling book, read Distraction. I’d only suggest this one for die-hard Sterling readers.