Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Stephenson aka Bury

A while back, I wrote a piece about Neal Stephenson’s latest novel, The Confusion. I was, if you remember, highly enthusiastic about it, and in the past few weeks I have been searching for Stephenson's earlier stuff.

You don’t have to go far on a Stephenson fan-site to discover that Neal has written two novels under the name Stephen Bury. I have just completed reading one of these, Interface.

Well, I suppose you have to call Interface a piece of science fiction. Or maybe a techno-thriller. Personally I would prefer to avoid such categorisation and just call it a novel.

Basically, the book is a story about a group of extremely wealthy, powerful, and secretive people who want to control more or less everything. Which in today’s world means that they need to control the choice of US President. And, for preference, they need to control the President’s actions, too. And so, when a strong potential candidate for the Presidency suffers a stroke, said clique of rich, powerful et cetera sets about implanting a chip in the candidate’s head. This not only enables the candidate to make a speedy recovery from his stroke, but also enables the conspirators to control, to some extent, his thoughts, statements, and actions.

Maybe that doesn’t sound too interesting a story, but since this is a Neal Stephenson novel we’re talking about, it becomes interesting when he writes it. Trust me.

The novel is long, as usual with Stephenson, and sheds some thought-provoking light on the way in which modern political campaigns seek to influence the media. You may find that some of the dirty tricks, as described by this author, test your credulity a little. But hold. Just consider the past, if you will. Consider all those little incidents which have littered the electoral path of various candidates – Nixon, Muskie, Dukakis – and then you will perhaps need to reconsider your view.

My opinion – for what it’s worth – is that the US election machine is a lot less scrupulous, and a lot more ruthless, than even Mr Stephenson’s overheated imagination suggests. And let us not forget that we are in an election year right now. Just watch what happens over the next few months. Certainly even the most objective and idealistic observer can hardly deny that we have two parties and two candidates – one in power and one seeking power – who will do almost anything to hold the reins during the next four years. If you think I exaggerate, just read your papers.

In the meantime, if you would rather take refuge in the world of fiction, Interface is a highly entertaining read.

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