Heavy Weather

Bruce Sterling, Author
Bruce Sterling, Author Spectra Books $21.95 (310p) ISBN 978-0-553-09393-3
Mass Market Paperbound - 320 pages - 978-0-553-57292-6
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Cyberpunk prophet Sterling, whose last book was a nonfiction exploration of computer hackers and the law (The Hacker Crackdown), returns to SF with a near-future thriller. In 2031, the world suffers from ``heavy weather''-tornadoes and typhoons caused by a runaway greenhouse effect. While most people wisely try to avoid the storms, one group of counterculture techno-enthusiasts calling themselves the Storm Troupe chases them through the badlands of Texas and Oklahoma. Led by the visionary scientist Jerry Mulcahey, the Troupe studies the storms with an array of high-tech equipment, trying to document what Mulcahey believes is coming soon-a superstorm, the ``F-6,'' a tornado far more powerful than any ever seen and which might even prove unstoppable, a perpetual violent disturbance ravaging the landscape. When Mulcahey's lover, Juanita (``Jane'') Unger, drags her brother Alex (who suffers from some strange disease as well as an irritating anomie) from an illegal Mexican clinic back to the Troupe's camp, tensions are ignited among the Troupers. But those plot threads are abruptly dropped when the F-6 hits, and the Troupe pulls together to fight the elements. Some similarities between this book and Sterling's previous fiction are evident: the Troupe uses the word ``hack'' as computer users do, saying they ``hack'' heavy weather, and they've got a similar case of technophilia, but it lacks the scope and the big, innovative ideas that gave novels like Islands in the Net their power. This one has some sharp moments and intriguing characters, but it never offers that exciting sense of vision. (Sept.)
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