Author: Bruce Sterling
Details: (c) 2000 Bruce Sterling; Pub Bantam Spectra 2001; ISBN 0-553-57641-0
Verdict: Zeitgeist is way too cool for me.
Reasons for reading it: rysmiel told me to (rather forcefully, I should add), in order to C&C with American Gods.
How it came into my hands: I bought it new in a large commercial bookshop in Montreal. Which is a very unusual occurrence for me, but then new books in Canada are sensibly priced, and it seemed like a bad plan to argue with rysmiel just then.
I think Zeitgeist belongs in approximately the same genre as Only Forward, but it didn't grab me in quite the way the other did. It's pacy, and I cared about the characters (even Starlitz who is pretty unpleasant), and it pulls off weird extremely well; it is very weird and unpredictable and unreal, but still feels like a story, not just an random collection of surreal happenings. But I bounced off the consciously hip style, and I couldn't quite get past the problem that too much of the book is about things I don't really care about.
I have a feeling that Zeitgeist is not just too cool for me, but too clever as well. It's almost like self-parody; the zaniness, the calculated callousness, the constant movement and action, the obessions with violence and technology and all the rest are I think part of the point. I'm just not that clear what the point is. Maybe it's somehow mocking the kind of people who read the sort of book that it's superficially like and the society that markets and values that kind of writing. It is certainly a very mocking, satirical kind of book, but it's a style of humour that doesn't really appeal to me.
There are some very powerful images; I particularly liked the arc about Starlitz' father and the effects of the atom bomb, and the restoration of the aftermath of a shoot-out from film set to realistic. And in general I did want to keep reading, I was engaged in the story. The central story about Starlitz having to cope with his daughter suddenly showing up in his life made a good framework for all the wackiness. I found Zeta a little annoying; I really dislike cute children in books, but the portrayal Zeta is almost too much making a point of being anti-cute. I also had little time for the sentimentality about the miracle of fatherhood, but that's a very small part of the book.
Now, rysmiel, can you explain to me how you want to connect this with American Gods? I can see some points of connection but I'm not sure why you wanted me to read them together.