SIGNAL TO NOISE by Carla Sinclair


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 A mildly atmospheric snapshot of San Francisco's techno- publishing scene goes downhill fast when it devolves into a breathless kidnapping/romance. Jim Knight is talented, driven, and terminally stodgy: As the features editor of Signal magazine, he's scornful of interns and a slave to his e-mail. One fateful night when his relentlessly upwardly mobile fiancÇe is out of town, he goes to a scruffy party in hopes of hooking up with a famous novelist whom he wants a favor from. By a complicated chain of events, he ends up back at his own place with a pack of fun-seekers (not his usual gang), which includes 24-year-old Kat, aspiring writer and `zine intern, who's terminally insecure, attractive, and smart. Many drinks later, Jim is off feeling sick somewhere when Kat idly uses his computer to log onto a gambling website, where she proceeds to rack up almost $200,000 in debt. Jim wakes up the next morning tormented by a wicked hangover and baffled by threatening e-mail from the ``casino manager.'' Having little memory of the previous night, he pursues Kat, who shows up at his gig (he's also a jazz musician) the following night, glimpses his artist side--and falls for him. Then some shady characters start chasing the two; Kat's apartment building burns down; Jim finds himself increasingly on the outs at work and with his fiancÇe; and finally, he and Kat are kidnapped by emissaries of the casino, who drive them to a trailer park where they're held captive by an unsavory bunch. Various tepid adventures and quasi-escapes later, Kat's ingenuity springs the pair--though both must change and grow before they can resume their romance. First-novelist/cyber-celeb Sinclair (the nonfiction Net Chick, not reviewed) is engaging when she's sketching the clothes, lunch hangouts, and familiar ambitions of this self-consciously cutting- edge scene. It's the desperate criminals and the heated flirting that induce boredom.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-06-251533-0
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1997