The New York Times,  February 16, 1997, Sunday.
                              Correction Appended

SECTION: Section 7; Page 23; Column 1; Book Review Desk 

LENGTH: 1092 words

HEADLINE: 'I Got E-Mail From Bill!'

BYLINE:   By David S.  Bennahum.

My Two-Year Odyssey in Cyberspace.
By John Seabrook.
288 pp. New York: Simon & Schuster. $25.

    "You are your words" is the epigraph greeting users as they log on to the
Well, an electronic bulletin-board system in northern California. Cyberspace
remains a territory comprising mostly sentences and phrases, which is why the
Well chose to place this admonition as a reminder to its users -- what you write
here is who you are.

   Words are everywhere on line, a situation few would have foretold a decade
ago when television, film and the video-game industry seemed to indicate that
writing and reading would mutate into arcane rituals. Computers did the
opposite, creating through the Internet a rebirth of authorship under cover of
electronic mail, electronic discussion groups and electronic home pages. It is    
this expanding territory of electronic words that John Seabrook explores in
"Deeper: My Two-Year Odyssey in Cyberspace."

   The muse who drew Mr. Seabrook into this wide world of words is Bill Gates,
the chairman of Microsoft. In the summer of 1993 Mr. Seabrook bought a modem,
sent Mr. Gates an E-mail message and received an answer a few moments later.
Understandably, Mr. Seabrook was hooked. "Since this moment was the real
beginning of my life on line," he writes, "of which these pages are a record, I 
should have said something memorable. . . . But instead I said only 'I got
E-mail from Bill!' " Their electronic correspondence continued for several
months and formed the core of a profile of Mr. Gates that Mr. Seabrook wrote for
The New Yorker. This piece reappears in "Deeper" as a literary device -- the
point where Mr. Seabrook, an innocent novice, or "newbie," decided to begin his 
electronic odyssey. The core of the book is composed of four vignettes, three of
which first appeared in The New Yorker, where Mr. Seabrook works as a writer.
After expanding his article on Mr. Gates, he wrote one on being "flamed"
(receiving angry, insulting E-mail), and one about building his own Web site.
The fourth, and most interesting, describes his discovery that people are
discussing his articles on line, and recounts his dread as they draw him into
the conversation.
 As his technical skills improve -- from fumbling with E-mail to managing a
conference on the Well and building a Web site -- his delight with the medium
moves in inverse proportion, a trope he establishes in the introduction: "In the
beginning I felt that special lightness of hope and possibility that new
communications technologies seem to be uniquely capable of inspiring. . . . By
the end I no longer felt that way about the technology, and I wondered whether
the feeling had been an illusion." This theme gives Mr. Seabrook a means of
connecting separate stories into a whole.

   This transformation, however, from idealistic innocent to wary sophisticate, 
emerges as a transparent literary device, making it difficult to care about Mr. 
Seabrook's odyssey. Although he is an elegant and lucid writer, his talents are 
undermined by a palpable sense of inauthenticity. He writes in a wry,
self-conscious voice that never plausibly communicates his initial idealism
about the medium. "A new window