40 years in the future, North America is ravaged by
"heavy weather," storms more frequent and violent than anything we
have now. The Storm Troupe chases the storms, seeking both thrills
and scientific data; the information they gather predicts a tornado,
the F-6, larger and more powerful than anything before, and
Otherwise, this is the story of Alex, who is dying of an unknown
genetic disease. He is brought to the Storm Troupe by his sister, who
desperately hopes he will not "mess things up," since Alex is a
failure in everyone's eyes including his own. While the others
eagerly await the F-6, Alex comes to terms with dying; then,
surviving the F-6, he returns home to have a doctor cheerfully
announce that there is a cure for him after all.
The novel reads well generally but has some major flaws. Sterling
demonstrates a distressing tendency to pontificate at inappropriate
times. At one point, he has characters literally stand up one after
the other and speculate about when humanity lost control of its
The worst flaw, though, is the climax: the entire book is wired
with anticipation of the F-6. The F-6 finally breaks, then stops
after smashing into Oklahoma City. Sterling does not explain why it
stops, the characters don't know why, but this is acceptable. What is
unacceptable is that Sterling does not describe it. Instead, 50 pages
from the end, a minor character suddenly says, "Hey, I'm a villain,"
spends 20 pages explaining why he is a villain, and then is killed.
By the time this is over, so is the tornado.
This review originally appeared in the March 12, 1995 edition of
The Roanoke Times and World-News.