"Like Tom Clancy on PCP." That's how Bruce Sterling describes his fin-de-siècle head trip, Zeitgeist
, a typically Sterling spectacle packed with verbal flash and digerati wit, along with the expected rail-gun-steady stream of well-thought-out ideas and references. His self-appraisal, as it turns out, is right on. This is a guy widely considered "another, hipper Alvin Toppler" (in the words of cyberpunk godfather John Shirley), an effortlessly intelligent master of both style and substance.
Fans will recognize Zeitgeist's antihero protagonist Leggy Starlitz from Sterling stories "Hollywood Kremlin," "Are You for 86?" and "The Littlest Jackal." The well-connected, world-class fixer is part mystic, part sleaze--sort of Uncle Enzo meets Templeton "Faceman" Peck--and his latest hustle is plying the Third World with merchandise from his all-fake, all-girl band, G-7. (Its seven talentless, Wonderbra-wearing members are known simply as the American One, the French One, the German One, etc.)
Starlitz makes use of a shady, flamboyantly weird network of state officials, bodyguards, photographers, and other assorted players to push the merchandise--action figures, lip gloss, shoes, you name it--on what one of G-7's savvier members calls the "Moslem hillbillies." But things get surreal as G-7 girls start dying, characters start explicitly referring to their purpose in the narrative, and one of Leggy's associates conspires to break G-7's most sacred rule: that the whole enterprise must end by Y2K. --Paul Hughes
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From Publishers Weekly
Rife with profound ruminations on the "master narrative" of life, Sterling's newest evokes vestiges of his collaboration with William Gibson (1991's The Difference Engine) as he journeys back to 1999 to detail the escapades of Leggy Starlitz and his latest marketing triumphDthe G-7 girls. Using his international girl band to move products such as G-7 lip gloss, candies and sparkly pantyhose, Starlitz embarks on a glamorous Third World tour that skids to an abrupt halt in Turkish Cyprus. Although the dialogue riffs along energetically while Starlitz and Turkish millionaire mobster Mehmet Ozbey discuss the future of G-7, politics and life's "deepest truths," fans of Sterling's fast-paced thrillers will find little suspense or intrigue in this experimental piece. Starlitz passively steps aside, allowing Ozbey to use the band as a front for his illicit negotiations, and dutifully assumes the role of father when his lesbian ex-wife suddenly appears with his telekinetic daughter in tow. Abandoning Cyprus to conjure up his "Javanese Navajo" father (who dematerialized as a result of being too close to an atomic bomb test in the '50s), Starlitz travels to New Mexico and stages mock-Christmas festivities. When the G-7 girls begin to die, however, Starlitz returns to Cyprus to engage in another aimless battle of wits with Ozbey. Although this tragicomedy resonates with Sterling's striking prose and strong characterizations, these do little to salvage a tale that reads more like a disjointed dream than a cohesive narrative. Nevertheless, Sterling's strong following will certainly buoy the sales of this leaden sinker. (Nov. 7)
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