[ISN] Book review: The Zenith Angle by Bruce Sterling

From: InfoSec News (isn@private)
Date: Sun Jun 20 2004 - 23:18:58 PDT

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    [http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345460618/c4iorg  - WK]
    Sunday Book Review 
    Published: June 20, 2004
    The Zenith Angle
    Bruce Sterling
    Hardcover - 352 pages (April 1, 2004) 
    $24.95 - Del Rey Books ISBN: 0345460618
    THE ZENITH ANGLE, by Bruce Sterling (Del Rey/Ballantine, $24.95), also 
    deals with bureaucratic foot-dragging in the face of clear and present 
    danger. Sterling, one of the progenitors of cyberpunk, allows his 
    hero, Derek Vandeveer, a computer genius nicknamed Van, to win one for 
    the C.C.I.A.B., the Coordination of Critical Information Assurance 
    Board. A family man whose astronomer wife handles the child care, Van 
    builds a security system -- based on something called a ''Grendel 
    supercluster'' -- to safeguard the federal government's computers 
    after 9/11. ''Grendels,'' he explains, ''are made from obsolete PC's, 
    but clustered in parallel without any von Neumann bottlenecks.'' 
    And that's just for starters: ''Van was planning to implement 
    distributed streams within the Grendel. That was overkill, really. 
    There wasn't a kode-kid, cracker, hacktivist or even intelligence 
    agency in the whole world that could break into a Grendel. But a 
    Grendel running streams -- man, that would be beyond all coolness.'' 
    This is the way Van talks, and Sterling sees no reason to translate 
    his professional enthusiasms into ordinary English. Indeed, Van's 
    story floats on a Sargasso sea of jargon and bureaucratic acronyms 
    that grows ever thicker as the threats escalate from ''infowar'' and 
    ''cyberwar'' to vintage mad-scientist ''spacewar.'' At some point, 
    even Van can't do his duty within the system, so he goes rogue with 
    some ex-Special Ops to take down a satellite-killing laser. 
    Van's adventures inside and outside the Beltway are treated with some 
    amusement, but Sterling underscores their plausibility by dating them 
    from September 1999 to September 2002. Which raises the question: how 
    much of this is science fiction and how much is fact? When Van visits 
    the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force base that commands America's ICBM's, 
    he shares this technical detail: ''The entire base was supported on 
    giant, white-painted steel springs. If half of Cheyenne Mountain 
    vaporized in a 50-megaton first strike, the deep bunker would just 
    bounce on its springs a little.'' I'm not sure about the Grendels, but 
    this I believe. 
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