I recently finished up Interface by Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George just in time for the political season that is beginning to dominate the headlines. Although somewhat dated (particularly in reference to the technology — references to digital clocks are kind of funny since they have to be fully described for the audience), this fictional thriller centers on the use of an interface computer chip that gets implanted into the brain of a presidential candidate — Gov. William Cozzano. He’s a firebrand governor with an independent streak until a stroke hits him, hard, and he decides to do an experimental surgery that can help him recover … with a twist.
The data chip allows the candidate’s handlers to get a “read” on the mood of voters and shape the message of the candidate accordingly. Banks of computers and programmers are behind every campaign move, every sentence uttered by the candidate. Nothing is left to chance. Of course, not everyone buys this idea of a controlled candidate and there is a slow-building battle between the Network (the nefarious schemers who want a president who will do their bidding along economic lines) and folks like the candidate’s daughter and fiery running mate who uncover the secret. And there is a single voter out in middle America who senses what is going on and decides to take actions into his own violent hands.
Sure, the story in Interface is pretty far-fetched, but Stephenson (of Snow Crash fame) and George put together a nice summer read here, and they use lots of humor and satire to make jabs at our political system. The novel is now about 15 years old, and although the references to some technology seem dated, the eye-opener is that the politics and the hard-core fighting over issues is still alive and kicking (hello, Michelle Bachmann), and maybe even more divisive than depicted in this book. Some of this sameground was covered in The Manchurian Candidate, but Interface is a nice twist on that old story, particularly in the form of the vice-presidential candidate who is not afraid to speak her mind, and then goes even further when unexpected events push her into the role of our first black female president.
Peace (in the politics),