By People Staff
March 31, 1997 12:00 PM

by John Seabrook

Seabrook, a staff writer for The New Yorker, set out, in 1993, to write a profile of Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates. Swept into the current of the Internet, the author delivered his story, then spent two years growing from a tentative e-mailer to caretaker of his own Web site. And although the technology and the virtual communities of the cyberworld could inspire, as he puts it, “that special lightness of hope and possibility” that he associated with a cultural revolution, Seabrook eventually became disillusioned by the burgeoning commercialism, the often-brutal online discourse and the deceptively hollow relationships that grew across the wires. “Nothing on my screen,” he writes, “was as substantial as [a] shadow.”

Seabrook makes a few good points about the Net’s shortcomings. Yet Deeper remains an underwhelming book—largely because Seabrook never truly clicks into his topic. A warm, often engaging writer, he builds his analysis of today’s cyberculture on themes he finds in German romantic philosophy, the American frontier, even the sweet e-mail he gets from his mom. But whenever he’s online, Seabrook is an amused but distant observer who can’t help smirking at the computer nerds whose real lives, he believes, are less interesting than his own. This makes Deeper an all too shallow venture into cyberspace. (Simon & Schuster, $25)