In 2044, following the collapse of the information economy, America is run by permanent "Emergency committees": the government is so broke it can't afford to pay people in the Armed Forces, who put up road blocks in order to shake down travelers; a new Cold War is under way (against the Dutch); Anglos are a distrusted minority; privacy no longer exists (even banknotes are bugged); and cities are privately owned, outside of which nomad nation-gangs roam, building laptops out of grass. The campaign mastermind behind honest Massachusetts Senator-elect W. Alcott Bambakias, Oscar Valparaiso, has a "personal background problem": he's the adoptive son of a South American drug baron, and his laboratory-engineered genes aren't even entirely human. As a result, his body temperature runs higher than normal, and he sleeps hardly at all. Oscar's ambition is to save the US. Trading on Bambakias's connection with the Senate Science Committee, Oscar adopts a biological research center, intending to completely reorganize it, and soon embarks on a passionate affair with the center's director, neurology whiz Dr. Greta Penninger. But Oscar makes an enemy of a powerful senator, Green Huey, who, suspiciously, shows an intense interest in the lab's products. Greta and Oscar discover that Huey has tested a weird mind-altering agent on some illegal immigrants: they now have bicameral minds, and can do two things at once. Huey has dosed himself with the agent, which explains why he's so effective—but he's also crazy. Meanwhile, the President declares war on Holland, Bambakias goes loopy, and Oscar allies himself with a nomad gang to oust Huey. Huey gets his revenge, however, infecting Oscar and Greta with the same agent. After his ponderous Holy Fire (1996), Sterling, our former cyberpunk Svengali, is back with a bang with this uproarious, provocative, thoughtful, often hilarious, sometimes inspired medium-future deconstruction of politics, science, economics, and the American Dream.
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