This is one of those books that won all the awards and seems roughly pretty beloved and maybe even achieved a status of instant classic, a weird state for a book published in my lifetime (and since I easily could have read it when I was old enough to read when it came out). I liked it or rather, I did think it was interesting and understood why others liked it. To me though it was missing a kind of….heft in the middle to give it that status as more significant than I found it.
The novel is narrated in two ways, and this both works and is clever. Julian Class is an engineer who runs drone technology in asymmetrical warfare. The world of the future is like the world of the present, which since this book came out in 1997, the world of the past. War is designed to protect capital and property and not territory. It’s mostly been about that anyway, but now it’s very much like that. And given that these elements of the book feel very much drawn from the US experience in Vietnam, this seems apt. Anyway, to run the drone Julian and his fellow engineers “jack in” to the drones and run them remotely. This offers up the necessary distance from danger, but also allows the team to sync up their thinking and feeling as well.
This also means that romantic relationships are more complex.
From here our plot involves the development of a new technology that could be used to either destroy the Earth and the local space around it, or completely equalize human experience on Earth, depending on the breaks.