Wednesday, January 16, 2008

BOOK REVIEW - Spook Country

Spook Country
William Gibson
Putnam, 2007
371 pages

William Gibson: The Spy Novel. I do not think I could have been looking forward to this book any more if I actively tried. Gibson's early cyberpunk works came along right as I was getting in to more serious science fiction and they had a profound effect on how I perceive the science fiction genre. I must admit that I have yet to read Pattern Recognition and I thought both Virtual Light and All Tomorrow's Parties pale in comparison to his work in his first three novels and his early short stories. I saw Spook Country as an opportunity to see one of my favorite writers and a master of his craft working in one of my favorite genres.

In Spook Country Gibson engages in his familiar method of telling a tale by telling the stories of people who have no connections. In this case he begins with Hollis Henry, former musician, who is working on her second career as a freelance journalist. Currently she is working on a piece about locative art for the as-yet published magazine Node. Unlike most other magazines, Node is avoiding the pre-release buzz under the direction of its enigmatic publisher Hugo Bigend, who may be familiar to readers of Pattern Recognition. Hollis has been tasked with finding Bobby Chombo, the premiere producer in the locative art world with Howard Hughes like social issues. Then there is Tito. In his early twenties much of Tito's background is a mystery. We know his family hails from Cuba and is involved in some sort of business which may or may not be espionage. Finally we have Milgrim, a white-collar junkie whose knowledge of Russian is being used by the mysterious Brown in exchange for hits of Rize, a prescription anti-anxiety drug. Eventually their individual stories all being to intersect and build towards the conclusion.

As with all of Gibson's work Spook Country was an enjoyable and challenging read. Gibson creates and explores corners of the world that I could never imagine and for me these explorations are almost worth the price of admission. Add to that Gibson's economy of prose and I can highly recommend this book. I did have one issue with the book; I had forgotten how Gibson tells his stories. Therefore when I was a third of the way through the book and still not seeing anything more than tenuous connections between the plots which were developing I started to get a little frustrated. This frustration came back at the end when the climax to the story seemed to be a bit of a let down. The climax comes and goes and yet nothing seems to be changed. Except the characters and sometimes that has to be enough. In this case it is. You really should read this book.

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