Bruce Sterling's novel, Islands In The Net, opens with a scene on a Gulf of Mexico beach. Laura, the novel's protagonist, jogs along the seaside, “in pure animal ease, like an antelope,” when suddenly she trips and falls, snagged by “a black, peeling length of electrical cable. Junked flotsam from the hurricane, buried in the sand” (Sterling 1989:1). It is also flotsam of another era. Tugging on the cable to find its source, she unearths a video-cassette recorder, corroded by “twenty years of grit and brine” (p. 2). The novel's opening occasions, for the protagonist and the reader, reflection on modern communications, capitalism, and media. It is also an unsubtle foreshadowing of what will become of Laura as the novel progresses. On a mission to root out shady dealings in offshore “data havens,” like Grenada and Singapore, Laura eventually finds herself ensnared by the interlinking corporate connections bridging her world of “legitimate” business enterprise with the havens' illicit world of “bad” capitalism and illegitimate trade. Digging deeper, she uncovers the gritty, briny truth about her own corporation and, indeed, an entire corporate order in which the line between legitimate and illegitimate corporate activity simply vanishes into virtual space.
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