four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
11-July-Aug-2004
user_rating: 
0

A-ZenithAngleWhen Dr. Derek "Van" Vandeveer leaves a safe job to join covert U.S. cyber-security forces, he find himself in a Washington, D.C. slum cavorting with Beltway bureaucrats, high-tech geeks, and defeated dot-commers. His astronomer wife, meanwhile, is on a Colorado mountaintop. Things can’t get any worse. But then someone starts messing around with the nation’s premiere spy satellite. Van decides to catch the hacker at all costs, even if it means risking his life to uncover links among the maimed spy satellite, his wife’s telescope project, and an ambitious—and deadly—laser program.
Del Rey. 320 pages. $24.95.

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Cyberfiction legend Sterling takes three lackluster topics—politics, computers, and geek idealism—and produces a comedic thriller for the Homeland Security era." Noah Robischon

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Sterling calls his new genre ‘nowpunk’: fast-paced adventures in computer security, astronomy, particle physics and other areas of science-as-we-know-it." Nisi Shawl

Denver Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Sterling does manage to ratchet up the slam-bang factor near the novel’s end, which may be just enough leverage to ensure that Derek Vandeveer and company have more adventures in their future." Dorman T. Shindler

Salon 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The tale of a computer geek caught up in the dot-com crash and the fallout from 9/11, it is a novel that is not so much ripped straight from the headlines as it is an effort to process the blood, guts and greed of the new millennium. … The entire novel is a setup for an extraordinary rant that reads as if the author had just taken over the podium at a hackers conference, fueled with tequila, frothing from every pore." Andrew Leonard

Critical Summary

The Zenith Angle, notes Salon, "is an outburst of rage—broiling, tumultuous fury—directed at terrorists and amoral capitalists alike." In his not-too-distant future, Sterling (The Hacker Crackdown) switches from SF to thriller (or "nowpunk") mode, where terrorism, UFOs, computer security, technology, counter-espionage, and, of course, marital joy reign. Despite his uneven pacing, Sterling crafts his thriller with plausible characters (Van is no James Bond) and scenes (of course Van can’t install firewalls in systems without walls!). The Zenith Angle is an overall winner and, according to the Seattle Times, "one more star in th e dark, post 9-11 sky."