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Computer freaks besiege Las Vegas (out to make a killing on roulette): a hiphectic, narcissistic tale of Silicon Valley culture with (distant) echoes of Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, and Tracy Kidder. Bass is a free-lance with a Ph.D. (in ""the history of consciousness"") from the U. of California, Santa Cruz, where he met a group of maverick physicists, mathematicians, hackers, et al. calling themselves the Eudaemonic Enterprise (from eudaemonia, the Aristotelean term for for happiness based on reasonable living). The idea was to program microprocessors to calculate all the known variables in the spin of a roulette wheel, conceal them in specially built shoes, and then send pairs of operators (one bettor, one data-taker studying the wheel and feeding information into the computer with his toes) to work the casinos. In theory, and sometimes in practice, the computer had a 44 percent advantage on the house, and the Eudaemonists enjoyed some very lucrative nights; but they really needed more capital than they had, and they never got all the glitches out of their various strapped to-the-body, battery-operated communications systems. One woman burned a hole in her chest when the solenoids on her stomach seized up and overheated the wires running to the computer stuffed in her bra. Seven years after its inception the Project fell apart. Bass has some usable material here but he drags it out to tiresome length (including belated and unneeded digressions on logic gates, information-generation in chaotic systems, etc.). He is awed by Projectors who can program a PDP 11/45 mainframe computer with Belousov-Zhabotinsky reactions one day and head off the next to practice betting patterns in a Vegas flophouse; but he never convinces us that these people are any more interesting than, say, the average pit boss or high roller. Electronics hardware fans will like Bass's detailed descriptions of gadgetry, but most others will find the story overblown.

Pub Date: May 27th, 1985
ISBN: 0595142362
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin