Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday is reading day - Interface

It's Wednesday - time to discuss what I'm reading. During the US Presidential election I picked up a copy of Interface, by Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George (who I understand is Neil's uncle). I've read a number of books by Neil Stephenson, including the excellent Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash, so I had high expectations. Unfortunately, Interface is a poor cousin of these must read books.

The central character in Interface is William Anthony Cozzano, a popular and intelligent politician, who at the start of the book is the governor of Illinois (hence why I thought it might be fun to read during the elections). Cozzano suffers a stroke while in office, which leaves him significantly incapacitated. To try to regain his facilities, Cozzano agrees to an experimental medical procedure, which involves implanting a micro-chip into his brain. The treatment is successful and, with his facilities restored, Cozzano agrees to run for presidency - much cyber-political intrigue ensues.

Interface is a tightly plotted book, which is typically my only criticism of Neil Stephenson's writing. The prose is very glib and the plot steams along at an enjoyable pace. Notwithstanding these points, I found the story dated, a bit predictable and very light in terms of science fiction and politic analysis - the micro-chip in the brain idea is not explored in any detail and the political side of things are left very high level.

Verdict: An unsatisfying read. If you enjoy cyberpunk fiction and have an interest in politics, grab a copy for a long flight. If cyberpunk and politics are not your cup of tea, I say give it a miss - instead, re-read Cryptonomicon or grab a copy of Last Samurai, which I think I'll talk about next week.

As Margaret Fuller said: “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”

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