Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 18, 2001

Zeitgeist by Bruce Sterling

Twelve people attended the discussion of Bruce Sterling’s latest book. It tells the story of Leggy Starlitz, a music promoter on tour in Eastern Europe with a girl group similar to the Spice Girls. During the course of the book Leggy handles crises with his band, experiences weird political situations, and suddenly has to face the ex-wife and daughter he hasn’t seen in over a decade. Nine of the people in our group finished the book, and the others read about half of it.

Most of us thought Zeitgeist was a lot of fun. Sterling’s writing is humorous and accessible. We liked the whacked-out worldview and the characters from the fringes of society. Leggy seems to be a realistic portrait of a world-weary music producer. We loved his interactions with the band and its entourage, particularly when he tried to predict the future of one girl leaving the band for a solo career. We were struck by his acknowledgement of his band’s shallowness, particularly when he rejects a girl for being too beautiful and talented to fit in. Leggy’s daughter Zeta is a wondrously believable teenager who brings in a fresh and humorous outlook.

Some in our group had problems with the book. Two of us just had no interest in reading a book about the music industry. One person wanted the book to be more strongly plotted. Several people complained that Zeitgeist is falsely labeled by the publisher as science fiction. It’s a mainstream novel with a tiny bit of magic realism, but we could find no SF elements in the story.

Overall we enjoyed Zeitgeist a great deal, and would recommend it to readers of good fiction. After the meeting several of us went to Garcia’s, where we had a nice dinner.

— A. T. Campbell, III