Interface – by Stephen Bury (aka Neil Stephenson)

A picture named interface.gifOn this last trip, I finished reading Interface by Stephen Bury. (Bury is Neal Stephenson’s pen name.) It’s not traditional Stephenson fare – while he definitely gets the technology right, this is much more of a political thriller. There are threads of Robert Ludlum in here, what with the shadowy multi- national syndicates and vast sums of money controlling corporate America.

The plot is intriguing: an Illinois governor suffers a stroke, and is offered a chance to experiment with a new therapy that involves the implantation of a chip in his head to help reestablish the brain’s “circuits”. He recovers from the stroke, but the resulting presidential campaign – and the fight for control of the campaign and the candidate – is fascinating.

It is a very funny book at times, and anyone with political interests will love the chapter where the pollsters explain their demographic cross-section of the U.S.A.:

  • 400 pound Tab drinker
  • Burger-flipping history major
  • Economic roadkill
  • Pent-up corporate lickspittle
  • UFOs ate my brain
  • Debt-hounded wage slave

The list goes on. And you know that Stephenson had a ball coming up with these terms. (What’s frightening is that they may not actually be original to him.)

If you’re not familiar with Stephenson, you should be. His Cryptonomicon remains the single best hacker story I’ve read. Employees at tech start-ups will love his boilerplate business plan – so accurate it’s almost eerie. Hackers will love his in-depth explanations of phreaking, data havens, and cryptanalysis. History buffs will love his attention to detail, his weaving of multiple WWII plot lines (Enigma, Bletchley Park, sub warfare, the battle in the Pacific) and his ability to connect the past with the present. In short, there’s something for everyone. It’s hefty – at 900+ pages, it’ll take you a while to get through. But it’s worth it.