I started the holidays by reading Interface, a thriller by Stephen Bury.
Who is Stephen Bury?
But the marketing of this 1994 book has clearly morphed over time. At the URL above, you’ll get no details on the author. The paperback copy I bought new has a red promotional circle on the cover saying it was co-written by Neal Stephenson.
Interface was re-released in May 2005 with two new authors: Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George. No mention of Bury at all.
I would guess that J. Frederick George is also a pseudonym. Why switch from one pseudonym to another, as a co-author? If you’re going to put your name on the book, finally, then why not stand alone? I’m sure there are some good reasons for doing it this way, but I don’t know enough about the marketing of books (or perhaps book contracts) to understand.
The book cover touts the Seattle Weekly blurb “A Manchurian Candidate for the computer age.” Not a bad overview, though it’s not why I bought the book, even if the original was such a recent read.
Instead of the Soviets, the powers behind the conspiracy in Interface are “the Network,” a group of multinational investors out to avoid a threatened default on the U.S. national debt. Instead of brainwashing and solitaire, the Interface candidate is controlled by a computer chip inserted into his brain, ostensibly to help him recover from a stroke (which it does, but there are, ahem, side effects).
A critical part of the story is the development of a way of measuring representative voters’ reactions to various messages and advertisements: a biophysical focus group, constantly monitored by a bulky wristwatch TV which also measures pulse, etc. Jal noticed that like most science fiction, this idea is fascinating because it’s not that far off… it simply combines several currently separate threads. Using M.R.I.’s to See Politics on the Brain is the NYTimes article from April 20, 2004 which caught Steven Hall’s eye.
When the representative in representative democracy is only a puppet for the visceral strings of the voters, watch out.