ISBN: 0553383434
ISBN 13: 9780553383430
By: Neal Stephenson George F. Jewsbury Stephen Bury

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Reader's Thoughts


If you had a massive stroke, and lost the use of most of your mobility, coordination, and speech, what would you be willing to do to get it all back? That doesn't sound like a story by Neal Stephenson, does it? But our protagonist had just announced his presidential campaign when the stroke hits, so he makes a deal. He'll have a chip implanted in his head, which not only gives back what he lost, but it allows info from polls, campaign aides, and news to be pumped directly to his brain. Of course, the organization behind the chip wants to recoup their investment, and who's to say that chip is completely controlled by the candidate?This was a fun read, with well-developed characters and interweaving plots. Both this book and The Cobweb were co-written with Stephenson's uncle, and in my limited experience I feel like they both reigned in Stephenson a bit. I like the man's writing, but he's not as long-winded in this pair and the plot moves along nicely. It's a solid, engaging thriller with many shades of grey.


I read Stephenson's "Quicksilver" w/in the last yr & was very impressed. His fictionialized acct incorporating real historical characters (many of them likely to be known only to scholars) was thoroughly worked out. It was over 900pp long & took me at least a mnth to read. Now I've just read his collaborative political/medical thriller cowritten w/ J. Frederick George & I'm less impressed. While "Quicksilver" might've been somewhat comparable to something by John Barth &/or Robert Anton Wilson, "Interface" is more comparable to Michael Crichton &/or Robin Cook. In other words, while it's carefully written & well-worked-out, it still reeks of writing aimed at a market rather than something written to develop original ideas. Take, eg, the title: There's already a SF bk by Mark Adlard called "Interface" from 1971. Not that that's such a big deal, the word's used in a significantly different way in each bk, but it immediately makes me think of mainstream cinema's seemingly endless remake mentality. An ad blurb on the front of the bk calls this most recent "Interface" "A Manchurian Candidate for the computer age" & that's entirely too true for it to be a compliment from my perspective insofar as the plot isn't really that original. Even the multi-culturalism of the bk seems forced: just about every character is a representative of a different ethnic group. Nonetheless, I'm thankful that the politics aren't as numbnuts as Chrichton's "State of Fear" even if they are more than a bit improbable: a black woman who'd attained prosperity as a banker married to an engineer experiences an economic downslide & other miseries: she & her husband end up in a trailer park, he commits suicide, her son gets shot, she teeters around bag-lady-ism, she criticizes a racist politician in public, the politician's career gets ruined as a result, she gets launched on a political career on her own b/c people are so impressed by her articulateness, & becomes, what else?, the 1st black woman president. Well.. I'd like to see it happen, so I enjoyed the story, so.. whatever. Anyway, it's 616 pages long so, as usual, any capsule critique is going to be grossly oversimplifying - as this one is. I read it quickly b/c I was sucked into it as I might be by any well-written thriller &, yet, wd I recommend it? Not really - there're so many truly great bks out there to be read: Read McCoy's "The Politics of Heroin" or Joyce's "Ullyses" if you haven't already - & skip this one.


Collaborative novels rarely in my experience enhance the gifts of a talented author. At the risk of being tedious, I refer to Sven Birkerts essay " 'The Fate of the Book' ", which ponders the future of discourse as we move from a literary culture to a mass-media culture. Mass-media (film, radio, etc) are never the products of a singular voice, but the products of collaboration, cooperation, and compromise. As we see more and more collaborative works of fiction, we can be sure that the act of reading them is not a communion with another singular soul, but the consumption of a product meant merely to entertain. Writers collaborating as equals form their own focus group; what is deep, complex and difficult to convey is neglected in favor of what can be expressed in simple, functional language. Style is on the chopping block here, and when it is gone so too will literature be gone.So. This collaboration between Stephenson and (I believe) an uncle of his is mere entertainment, and though there are flashes of Stephenson's insight and comedic wit, they don't make the whole into something more.


This is a wonderful political adventure novel, with a thin vein of science fiction running through it. If all political thrillers were this smart, snappy, funny, and thought-provoking, I would read a lot more of them. Or perhaps Clancy is a real knee-slapper and I just don't remember. But Interface follows an electoral campaign and along the way manages to ask some very profound, fundamental questions about the ethics of self-improvement and the nature of identity and life itself, all while being an enjoyable romp of a novel. The characters are well-developed and interesting (though from this and Reamde, we now know never to be a weaselly man with a problem with alcoholism who is ungallant toward women in a Stephenson novel), the story is well-paced, the plot is fiendishly clever, and the action is well-done. All this along with prose that occasionally made me chuckle out loud. Books like these make me wonder why Stephenson's novels have not already been made into sensationally popular blockbuster movies. The bones are all there: charismatic characters, adventure, special effects, and a joyous buoyancy that doesn't worry too much about being overly pedantic. Maybe people have offered and Stephenson is just being picky, which is laudable, but this would make a phenomenal movie, one I'd love to see, and maybe it would get more people reading Stephenson. Which can only be a good thing. I recommend this book to those who already love Stephenson, and to those who don't yet know they could.

Ivan Idris

“Interface” was written by Neal Stephenson and Frederick George. I have read almost all of Neal Stephenson’s books, so I can quite safely say that “Interface” feels a lot like a Neal Stephenson book.The story is about William Cozzano who is running for president. A governor who due to a stroke gets operated. A biochip is inserted in his skull. This chip is linked to an advanced polling system giving him feedback from the electorate. The operation is paid by a group of powerful investors. The group has existed for centuries and they like being in control of governments.The GoodThere are so many good things to say about this book that I don’t know where to start. I think a lot of people would love to have a chip like that in their head without being controlled of course. Or be part of a global conspiracy.The BadA super happy end would be nice. I guess this would spoil it for you a bit. Yes, happy endings are great.The UglySome stories in the book seem unrealistic or over dramatized. But it was necessary probably. Also I don’t think an international audience is that interested in American Football.ConclusionI would highly recommend this book. Who knows it might be predicting the future of politics.

Matt Hartzell

I have mixed feelings about this one. I've never before read any Stephenson, and this book was given to me as a gift. I think the behind-the-scenes look at politics was interesting, and the sci-fi / technology bend carried it along. However, I thought that the book was very slow to start, and took a long time to get to where it was going. Things finally picked up by the very end, but then the story finished rather quickly and abruptly. As far as structure and pacing goes, I think things could be a lot better.Stephenson has an interesting style as an author. He tries a fair bit of humor, some which of was entertaining, and some of which, while fairly witty, I just didn't think was all that funny. One thing I did appreciate about his style is that he didn't leave unanswered questions linger for very long. He was quick to provide answers and not force the reader to dwell on things for too long. The problem, again, is that the pace is just a little bit too slow for my tastes. I'm not sure how this book compares Stephenson's other novels, and I'm not sure what how much the co-author contributed to the actual writing. All in all, I'm glad I read the book. I hope that most of this book isn't true, because it would confirm my darkest fears about the political process and presidential elections.


I didn't think there were any Neal Stephenson books pre-him going off the rails I hadn't read. I own Zodiac, I've read The Big U. But, there was this. It's about a presidential campaign, but it's really about media consultations, shadowy conspiracies, and nanotechnology's ability to help stroke victims.Despite the fact that it was written in the mid-90s, there were only two parts that seemed really dated - using floppy disks to load an OS, and the presidential campaign not kicking off until Labor Day (which may have been for the sake of the story anyway).I was trying to figure out what the politics here were. There seems to be a libertarian push, but there is also a part where the huge governmental water and public land subsidies are called out for being a form of welfare; that's not something that you hear a lot. Really, that is a minor part, (just something I'm interested in) so don't let it distract you from your enjoyment. Mostly I was happy to be be immersed in another old-school Neal Stephenson.

Michael Murdoch

From his triumphant debut with Snow Crash to the stunning success of his latest novel, Quicksilver, Neal Stephenson has quickly become the voice of a generation. In this now-classic thriller, he and fellow author J. Frederick George tell a shocking tale with an all-too plausible premise. **There's no way William A. Cozzano can lose the upcoming presidential election. He's a likable midwestern governor with one insidious advantage—an advantage provided by a shadowy group of backers. A biochip implanted in his head hardwires him to a computerized polling system. The mood of the electorate is channeled directly into his brain. Forget issues. Forget policy. Cozzano is more than the perfect candidate. He's a special effect. “Complex, entertaining, frequently funny."—Publishers Weekly “Qualifies as the sleeper of the year, the rare kind of science-fiction thriller that evokes genuine laughter while simultaneously keeping the level of suspense cranked to the max."— San Diego Union-Tribune*“A Manchurian Candidate for the computer age.” —Seattle Weekly From the Trade Paperback edition. Review "A Manchurian Candidate for the computer age" Seattle Weekly About the Author Neal Stephenson is the author of The System Of The World, The Confusion, Quicksilver, Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and other books and articles. J. Frederick George is a historian and writer living in Paris.


Good stuff. Not the typical Stephenson fare of Snow Crash/Diamond Age/Cryptonomicon/etc, this was written mid-90s about a nigh-modern-day possibility. What I did enjoy was how the characterization evolved, Stephenson and J. Patrick George (his father, I believe) get deep into the dramatis personae, how they act, why they act, and interesting details that give a very intricate landscape of their players. And the broad range of personae that they bring into the story, even towards the end, really makes the book (the may-have-needed-may-have-not aside of Jeremiah Freel was pretty d--n funny). The storyline is plausible, as they say a "Manchurian Candidate for the connected world," which is more or less the overall idea. But the interesting part, for me, was using that setting (and the ins and outs of Washington DC) to play out a media-centric world with very intelligent, very conscious, and often hyper-aware people.

Ren the Unclean

Interface is a sharp departure from the other fiction I have read by Stephenson. It is set in the present, but has technology that is pushing the envelope of what is possible today. This book does a really good job of simultaneously examining what might be possible with neurological implants and the way our political system actually works.The strongest feature of this book, is that Stephenson does a really good job of pointing out how easily manipulated the general populace is by political maneuvering. The things that the political experts in Interface do are at the same time believable and totally horrifying, both because they are immoral and because they would probably actually work.If you are interested in the possibilities of politics or neurological implants, I would definitely recommend this book.


Großer Spaß.Wüste Räuberpistole um einen Gouverneur, der nach einem Schlaganfall einen Chip ins Hirn implantiert bekommt. Strippenzieher des Big Business steuern Verhalten des Politikers dann entsprechend der Umfragewerte ausgeklügelter Demoskopiemethoden und machen ihn so zum perfekten Kandidaten für den Präsidentschaftswahlkampf.Reichlich satirische Spitzen gegen US-Medien, Politzirkus und Wirtschaftsirrwitz. Viele Handlungsstränge aus angenehm unterschiedlichen Milieus. Struktur ungewöhnlich; einige Figuren stehen länger im Zentrum der Handlung und verschwinden dann fast völlig, sobald sie ›Funktion‹ erfüllt haben; andere treten plötzlich aus dem Nichts in die Handlung ein. Hat zwar durchaus Methode, aber deshalb ›NUR‹ 4 Sterne.Wie immer bei Stephenson: feine Passagen mit kurzweiligen Technikausführungen und haarsträubend aufregende Äktschnpassagen. — Leider ist dieser Roman aus dem Jahre 1994 bisher nicht auf Deutsch erschienen.Ach ja: Mit Eleanor Richmond haben Stephenson & George eine sehr feine Heldin geschaffen!

Mad Russian the Traveller

Entertaining book that captures the socio-political zeitgeist of the USA for the last ten years.For me, this book falls into the "mainstream fiction" category; a category of books that I don't often read. And with this expectation I embarked upon this novel and have been enjoying the mind candy aspect. But throughout this book I often found myself chuckling at the so very true social commentary. Great entertainment and great gallows humor as we all get to experience the decline of American civilization.UPDATE: Just finished this book; it was a lot better than I thought it would be. I liked the ending and the many eery parallels to current reality. Written in 1994, it seem so appropriate for today's political struggle between the few who believe in liberty and the status quo that believes in control and tyranny. Recommended.


Interface was a good read, and very funny in places, but never really managed to make it past irony into telling a real story. It starts with the President declaring (just before elections) he's going to stop paying interest on the national debt, resulting in a shadowy network of gazillionaires who stand to lose money making the decision to take over the presidency to stabilize it. They do so by developing technology to implant a chip in a person's head, and then control their actions by monitoring the public's response to everything the person does, and feeding it back into the chip. A beloved governor has a stroke at just the right time to be the test case for this new technology, and a mighty team of experts begin their quest to catapult him to the Presidency.It was funny to read this during the recent presidential campaign -- though the candidates were fictional, and the race in the book was 1996, there were some eerie similarities. And the book very effectively poked fun at the whole election process, and American culture. But like many Stephenson books, it failed to give characters more than a caricature of personality, and zoomed to a completely off-the-wall finish. Still, it was fun, and I'll probably pick up other books they write together.


I always think authors who set their sci fi in current times and base it in real technology are, um, courageous? What's wildly bleeding-edge in 1994 sounds lame and antiquated in 2011. I guess that's the real problem with describing actual instead of "near future" technology. Luckily for my commuting sanity, the story here is ok (think mid-grade Crichton?) and knowing the awesomeness that is to come from one half of this writing duo, I can forgive nearly anything for the price of a single Audible credit.19/2/11Finished listening to this yesterday. Demoting it to 2 stars,because really, other than my affection for Stephenson, it doesn't have much going for it. In fact if it was by any other author I would probably give it one star. It is interesting to see how an author develops over time- this book, while crappy, touches on a lot of interesting and familiar Stephenson themes: secret power structures; currency and the relationship between events and value; technology; a female protagonist (in this case two). The story is complicated (and made overcomplicated by deus ex-ish appearances out of the blue of new characters at convenient moments) and interesting- I don't think Stephenson could be boring if he tried. It's just contrived and not very well written imo- there's a lot of using the same adjective twice in one paragraph, and "he said, she said" dialogue. It's hard to imagine the amazingly beautiful and erudite prose style of 21st century Stephenson as belonging to the same guy who penned this. OMG maybe he has had one of those implants!1!111!! (you have to read it if you want to get my lame joke).


I have been a fan of his ever since I read “Snow Crash” years ago. He has a great talent for taking existing technology and science and taking it just a little further; almost Sci Fi but it doesn’t take a lot of convincing to make you believe this could actually happen. In that way he’s a lot like Michael Crichton. I remember reading Jurassic Park and thinking this could happen... But I digress. The book’s main focus is following an independent presidential candidate (William Cozzano) during an election year. In that respect it’s very timely and entertaining. Cy Ogle, the campaign’s publicity director, is a great character: Sleazy and manipulative, yet likable, he often steals the show form the books “good guys”.There’s not even a pretense that any of candidates actually care about politics, it’s all about image - and how best to manipulative the voters.For about 3/4 of the book it’s funny and interesting, with just the right amount of suspense (does or doesn’t he have a chip implanted in his brain that controls his mind?). Unfortunately, this book really needed some editing. Towards the end it managed to be both too long and to not spend enough time on the important things. Worst of all, when the final plot was unveiled it felt too forced. The powerful secret organization’s plans were unveiled ... and it was not nearly as interesting as listening to Cy Ogle manipulate voters.Overall, this book is a good read. If you’ve never read anything by him I would recommend starting with “Snow Crash” and then tackling “Cryptonomicon”.

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