Book Review: Distraction

I finished this book months ago, and enjoyed it so little that I procrastinated writing my review. Distraction is a 1998 dystopian novel written in the not-so-distant future about an American society embroiled in an identity crisis and facing a highly divided and stratified population. Written by Bruce Sterling, it won the Arthur C. Clarke award, and was a Hugo nominee.

I found most of the characters within the story to be unlikable. And not in an endearing or forgivable way, but in the simple fact that their morals and motives I often found troubling. One of the few true political sci-fi novels I have ever read, I can see why this is not a genre I pursue more often. The story centers around a jaded former campaign manager that makes a research lab his pet project. From there it takes internet twists and Mad Max vibes to a new level, that often fail to surprise or titillate. I believe some of my hard criticism is most likely due to the story not holding up well over time. Perhaps using the internet as a means to blackmail, research and manipulate people was progressive and scary 20 years ago – but now it seems pedestrian. While I am unfortunately a bit young to remember the full political landscape of the late 90s, I get the impression (or at least hope) that many of the ideas and factions presented within the book are rooted in a larger critique of the political climate at that time.

I unfortunately enjoyed this book so little that I would feel bad recommending it to anyone.


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