This remains my favorite Sterling novel. Set in the near future (from when it was written), it's amazingly prescient about the danger of failed states as breeding grounds for terror. While some of his technological predictions are hilariously off the mark (most notably, the fax machine as an important communication device), his explorations of how poverty shapes politics remains compelling. It's all wrapped up in a quick-paced story with a memorable, rich protagonist. I don't believe this remains in print—a shame—but if you stumble across it at a used bookstore, don't let the horrible cover art dissuade you. This is well worth any speculative fiction readers' time.