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Zero Historyby William Gibson
Zero History reads like a Graham Greene novel penned by The Magnificent Bastard. This is the third entry in Gibson's Blue Ant cycle. His Bigend trope has all the pushes and pops of Zero History's contemporary at the cinema, Inception. Hubertus returns as the puppet master, linchpin, and advertising exec who simultaneously makes Don Draper look like a used car salesman and Saatchi and Saatchi like a mom-and-pop operation. Again Hollis Henry, whom we met in Spook Country, is squarely in his sights. Again she's anxious to get out. And again there's enough branding to make an Italian pro cyclist blush.
The black market produces enough materials to keep all of Dick Cheney's Facebook friends in gold-plated Bugatti Veyrons. However, the knockoffs lack the quality of the "real thing." Will the counterfeit goods ever meet or exceed genuine standards? Could these products become their own brand with their own logo? Would we buy these items for that quality or would we buy inferior products on the basis of brand recognition and reputation? Or better yet, if the military were to require these products, which side of this equation will be chosen for those astonishingly lucrative contracts?
In Zero History, William Gibson continues his deconstruction of postmodern corporate and artistic life, making 2010 an unrecognizable future-present through the use of completely recognizable settings, people, and things. Instead of the "screw you" attitude of his early cyberpunk stories, we now get a "we're all screwed" kind of a world, and the story is fun enough that we can't really disagree.
Synopses & Reviews
The new novel from William Gibson, one of the most visionary, original, and quietly influential writers currently working. (Boston Globe)
Hollis Henry worked for the global marketing magnate Hubertus Bigend once before. She never meant to repeat the experience. But she's broke, and Bigend never feels it's beneath him to use whatever power comes his way — in this case, the power of money to bring Hollis onto his team again. Not that she knows what the team is up to, not at first.
Milgrim is even more thoroughly owned by Bigend. He's worth owning for his useful gift of seeming to disappear in almost any setting, and his Russian is perfectly idiomatic — so much so that he spoke Russian with his therapist, in the secret Swiss clinic where Bigend paid for him to be cured of the addiction that would have killed him.
Garreth has a passion for extreme sports. Most recently he jumped off the highest building in the world, opening his chute at the last moment, and he has a new thighbone made of rattan baked into bone, entirely experimental, to show for it. Garreth isn't owned by Bigend at all. Garreth has friends from whom he can call in the kinds of favors that a man like Bigend will find he needs, when things go unexpectedly sideways, in a world a man like Bigend is accustomed to controlling.
As when a Department of Defense contract for combat-wear turns out to be the gateway drug for arms dealers so shadowy that even Bigend, whose subtlety and power in the private sector would be hard to overstate, finds himself outmaneuvered and adrift in a seriously dangerous world.
"Opposing forces contend violently over what are in the end ephemeral trivialities, the minutiae of modern fashion, in Gibson's quirky tale of 21st-century brand positioning. The attention of eccentric financial genius Hubertus Bigend, seen previously in Pattern Recognition and Spook Country, has landed on military fashion, a field he believes is immune to the vagaries of the market. When an unusual pair of mil-chic trousers raises the possibility that the anonymous designer is copying Bigend's new obsession, Bigend dispatches his team of talented amateurs to investigate the source of the suspiciously au courant trousers. Bigend's competition turns out to be none other than Michael Preston Gracie, an ex-military officer whose unwarranted self-confidence is rivaled only by his ruthlessness. Gibson's style has become even more distilled, more austere, since his science fiction days. Inanimate objects and, in particular, the brands of those objects, are more fully illuminated than the characters using those brands. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Highly textured, brilliantly evocative prose and stunning insights...into what we perceive as the present moment.... Unsettling and memorable." Kirkus Reviews
"In typical Gibson fashion, the tension builds incrementally through 87 well-plotted chapters of disorienting strangeness....Remarkably, it isn't necessary to know the previous novels to appreciate Zero History. That seems to be the point. 'Zero history' means having no past, no depth." The Oregonian
When she sang for The Curfew, Hollis Henry's face was known worldwide, but in the post-crash economy, she's a journalist in need of a job. The last person she wants to work for is Hubertus Bigend, twisted genius of global marketing, but there's no way to tell an entity like Bigend that you want nothing more to do with him.
The iconic visionary returns with his first new novel since the New York Times bestseller Spook Country.
Whatever you do, because you are an artist, will bring you to the next thing of your own...
When she sang for The Curfew, Hollis Henry's face was known worldwide. She still runs into people who remember the poster. Unfortunately, in the post-crash economy, cult memorabilia doesn't pay the rent, and right now she's a journalist in need of a job. The last person she wants to work for is Hubertus Bigend, twisted genius of global marketing; but there's no way to tell an entity like Bigend that you want nothing more to do with him. That simply brings you more firmly to his attention.
Milgrim is clean, drug-free for the first time in a decade. It took eight months in a clinic in Basel. Fifteen complete changes of his blood. Bigend paid for all that. Milgrim's idiomatic Russian is superb, and he notices things. Meanwhile no one notices Milgrim. That makes him worth every penny, though it cost Bigend more than his cartel-grade custom-armored truck.
The culture of the military has trickled down to the street — Bigend knows that, and he'll find a way to take a cut. What surprises him though is that someone else seems to be on top of that situation in a way that Bigend associates only with himself. Bigend loves staring into the abyss of the global market; he's just not used to it staring back.
About the Author
William Gibson's first novel, Neuromancer, won the Hugo Award, the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award, and the Nebula Award in 1984. He is credited with having coined the term "cyberspace," and having envisioned both the Internet and virtual reality before either existed. His other novels include All Tomorrow's Parties, Idoru, Virtual Light, Mona Lisa Overdrive, and Count Zero. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with his wife and two children.
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