nrlymrtl, May 23, 2012 (view all comments by nrlymrtl)
I think most folks come to know William Gibson’s works through his cyberpunk books like Neuromancer. The Blue Ant Trilogy is some of his latest work and this is my second Gibson book. I have been mightily impressed and entertained by his writing so far that I have added all his works to my TBR mountain range. I keep it in the backyard, on the horizon, where the neighbors won’t complain too much.
Bigend, found of Blue Ant corporation, has another interesting pet project that calls for people with special talents. This book jumps right into the middle of things; the characters and situations have backgrounds that we are not immediately privy to. So you have to pay attention to the first bits in order to enjoy the rest of the book, which is well worth the initial concentration outlay. Hollis Henry once was in a rock band, so folks recognize her face here and there. She is a journalist now, that having been a long-time interest. Bigend hires her to track down some unusual info; in fact, at first, we and Hollis are not sure what info we are hunting.
What I Liked: Never heard of the KGB systema before this book and I find it fascinating; every character has their quirks which makes them all real people; the fast pace of the book kept me thinking about the plot even when I wasn’t reading it.
What I Disliked: If you are distracted during that first few chapters, you are probably going to have to reread it since this book plops you right down into the middle of it.
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Shoshana, April 18, 2010 (view all comments by Shoshana)
Spook Country is less about its plot than it is about the idea that activities and images occur around you and you may never see or know about them. This is illustrated by a number of related narratives and descriptions that demonstrate this idea in action.
Spook Country is not about the story, but about the witnessing of the story. Nominal protagonist Hollis's role is to see, not to do. "Spook country" here takes multiple forms--CIA spooks, spirits, systema, virtual art installations, data and fake data, radiation. The tale of the locative art is also the tale of the mysterious shipping container--you can only detect it with specialized access, but it's there. Doing what? Sometimes just existing, and at other times meaning something.
Sometimes meaning is obscure or inheres only in our perceptions and fantasies, not in the data itself. Numinous moments are followed by more benzodiazepines. However, there are unanswered questions about meaning that bother me. The answer "it doesn't mean anything" is as unsatisfying as the explanations "it was all a dream," "it was the drugs," or "he was insane."
Though "selling out" doesn't appear to be an explicit theme, it happens several times near the end. Perhaps this is to highlight that there are principles, and there is pragmatism.
Gibson's best and most substantial novel since Idoru.
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lesismore9o9, May 7, 2009 (view all comments by lesismore9o9)
There aren’t many writers alive today who are credited with creating an entire genre of literature, but the realm of cyberpunk still has its founder in William Gibson. He didn’t invent the term – author Bruce Bethke coined it in 1980 with the eponymous short story – and authors such as Bruce Sterling and Pat Cadigan also made significant contributions, but it’s Gibson who made it mainstream and earned the title of “noir prophet.” 1984’s “Neuromancer” was an imaginative epic, seeing ideas of cyberspace and virtual reality before personal computers were even mainstream.
After following “Neuromancer” with a series of equally speculative novels, Gibson has turned his vision into the modern world, where advancements in technology has caught up with several of his innovations – but also verified his predictions of control and paranoia. “Spook Country” is the second of these novels, and it proves everything readers have come to expect from him: tense, innovative and superbly written.
Set in February 2006, “Spook Country” centers on the activities of three very different individuals. Hollis Henry, former lead singer of punk band The Curfew, is now a music journalist assigned to cover the elusive technical genius Bobby Chombo, a pioneer of creating virtual reality artwork. Tito, a musician and member of a Cuban criminal family, is contracted to deliver coded iPods to an old man with intelligence background. And Milgrim, a drug addict with a penchant for stolen coats, is abducted by a government official and forced to translate Russian code in exchange for continual drug doses.
All three of these characters find themselves involved in a strange plot, involving a “phantom” shipping container that seems to pop up in various locations. Eccentric entrepreneur Hubertus Bigend (first seen in Gibson’s earlier “Pattern Recognition”) simply wants to know what it is, the old man wants to get Tito close to it and a shady maybe-government operative wants Milgrim to help him learn what Tito knows. It’s a constantly vague tale, with the true intent and content never clear to the players even when they think their lives could be in danger.
Even with an overarching conspiracy the book could easily become fragmented, but it’s held together by the same fact that made “Neuromancer” so popular 25 years ago: Gibson is a writer of remarkable skill. His phrasing is descriptive without being overwhelming, and creates a sense of immersion in both the grime of New York City and the unsettling modernity of Los Angeles. On the character side the dialogue is terse and realistic, conversations feeling natural and each character’s voice defined.
With the exception of Chombo’s virtual reality art (images broadcast in public places, only visible with VR helmets) Gibson doesn’t spend his time speculating on future technology. Rather, his focus is on how current technology infiltrates our lives and changes the order of business, ranging from iPods encoded with secret data to portable door alarms to tracking devices in cell phone scramblers. The feeling established is one of paranoia and disconnect, a sense that you’re never quite sure if you’re being watched or if it even matters.
And dealing with this paranoia is “Spook Country’s” strength. Hollis, Tito and Milgrim aren’t even featured in the same chapter until two-thirds of the way in (and even then only share one scene) but each one deals with their strange circumstances in their own solitary way, be it faith or drugs or attempting to apply reason. Each character fixates on certain objects throughout the course of the book – envelopes of money, blue vases and books on European religion – and this adds to the feeling each is trying to stay grounded in unfamiliar circumstances.
There are many other threads – the threat of government control after 9/11, information lost in the shuffle of bureaucracy, celebrity gone by and the oddities of the rich – and the tension in each goes to make our own world as immersive as “Neuromancer’s” cyberspace. It’s to Gibson’s credit that he can not only perceive the way these influences have shaped us, but express it in such a dark, eminently readable piece of literature as “Spook Country.”
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A point blank review of Spook Country by William Gibson
Posted in Uncategorized by chrisbradley on the October 4th, 2007
Let?s get started on the best note possible. William Gibson stated yesterday in the California Literary Review that Spook Country was a ?contractual obligation? and that he started with a ?blank page? and found himself in ?varying degrees of distress? during the task of publishing it.
For every reason stated above, and the fact that it is a dry uninspired read at best, it is not worth spending one red cent on. His work has become no better than Steven King?s work since the release of Pattern Recognition in 2003, and he is willing to admit, that he is no longer interested in writing about the future.
If I were tied to a ?contractual obligation? I don?t think I would feel that inspired to write anything particularly new or different either. Especially if I were aware the Publishers were screwing me out of a good portion of the profits.
So, with these things in mind, lets talk about the story and the characters. Brown is a psychopathic failed government agent who is holding Milgrim hostage. Milgrim is addicted to psychotropic speed analogs. They are in New York at the start of the work. Hollis Henry, a pop singer from a band called the Curfew (not far from Curve or the Cure in name) has had a failed career and is making a last ditch effort as a Journalist for an Internet rag called the node. Except that she never writes a single significant word in the entire novel. The container she ends up searching for is ultimately filled with U.S. Government Money (literally 100.00 bills) and it is a ruse that makes her a possible target for a Chinese / Cuban group intent on tagging the money with Cesium. She starts in Los Angeles and Everyone ends up in Vancouver at the conclusion. The Cubans main characters are a kid named Tito and a guy with the Gun to tag the money inside the Shipping Container.
There is a bit about stealing a Glock from a drug dealer, and that?s about as much action as takes place in the book. The sequence in New York where Brown is madly trying to procure an Ipod containing data from Tito is a miserable, uninventive look at Union Square, and involves automobiles very rarely.
The big excitement in Milgrim?s life is getting a haircut and a Makeover paid for in Washington D.C. by Brown?s attache?s before boarding a Jetstream to Vancouver where he appears to lose his mind completely. Crashing a car in an attempt to kill Tito. At which point Milgrim escapes, snatches Hollis Henry?s purse which contains 5000.00 given to her by proxy from a dead band mate, heroin overdose, who could have figured? Which lands him in a bed and breakfast having a nice egg breakfast on his way out to roam the streets.
That about sums it up. There?s nothing more to it. It was the most uninteresting, formula driven work that Gibson has ever written. And the Locative art and GPS opening sequences with Bobby Chombo are so lost in the gratuitous waste of language that they are hardly worth reflecting on. It leaves a big ?So what?? in my mind.
I am glad Gibson is admitting that his publishing company is doing him no good, and I suggest that he continue to do so, and ?dropkick the chihuawa?s into the soup.? Because they are just like PRADA bags, trendy, hollow, purchased by vindictive people, and generally bred for all the wrong reasons.
I am glad I bought the book, but maybe Penguin Putnam should rethink their marketing strategy before alienating their customers with tripe that isn?t worth the toilet paper it was manufactured on. In today?s world, now that he is the Godfather of Cyberpunk, Gibson could have as easily signed his name on a bag of old tomatoes, and they would sell for $17.00.
And he knows it. And he will do it again.
10 Reasons Not To Buy Into Gibson Mythos
Posted in Uncategorized by chrisbradley on the October 3rd, 2007
1) While Gibson May Have Coined The Word Cyberspace, He Did Not Construct It. DARPA Did.
2) Cyberspace was good for all of 3 Books. Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. Every subsequent work dealt with other subjects - which were based solely on the trendiness of the times. Virtual Light (Virtual Reality), Idoru (artificial intelligence turned pop-star), and All Tomorrow?s Parties (the homeless problem). Pattern Recognition (Modern Marketing). Spook Country (Paranoia of the Government).
3.) I wrote a review of Pattern Recognition that was widely available to people seeking Gibson?s work. A few thousand people probably bought the work because of it. I didn?t receive a single thank you note from the Publisher of the work. Instead - I have repeatedly been asked to either stop publishing my own work, or leave their forum altogether.
4.) When I made my best efforts over the course of years from 2003 - 2007 to participate in the Gibson Forum, yes that is 4 years, I was ultimately harassed, shunned, insulted, and instigated into arguing with its members. They are a HOSTILE, Unpleasant, Self Righteous Bunch, With No Valid Intent to Read REAL meaningful posts and respond in a Non Hostile way.
5. The proprietors had me REMOVED from the forum for responding in kind. After having spent Several Hundred Dollars on Gibson Merchandise over the years and invested COUNTLESS hours studying Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence as a result of his works, you would think I would have something of a place there discussing the subjects.
6. Their forum patrons, PERSIST in posting hostile materials against my person, after I have left the forum. I know this because the forum has no measure in place from me ANONYMOUSLY viewing its content.
7. William Gibson, is not at the heart of the real matter at hand. The real matter at hand is that he probably signed a contract with Putnam that prohibits him from doing anything but writing Bestsellers. Therefore his work is Toned Down and not worth reading at all. It is Formula Work designed to shift units. He has little or no creative control over the end result as he did with Neuromancer.
8. A Publishing Company that has No Adequate Oversight over its own resources and the people that uses them has no business being a Publishing Company at all in today?s world. If they cannot prohibit users from behaving badly to one another on their website, because they do not interact with it to a significant degree, then they have no business running the website.
9. The Pattern Recognition Movie will probably sell a lot of tickets. Good for the Executive Producer. Bad for Gibson. Good for the publishers of the book - who hold sway over the Copyrights to it through contracts, bad for Gibson. Good for DVD sales and Wal-Mart, bad for Gibson. Good for Leather Jackets, bad for Gibson. Because he knows its not a real story. Its a story that took advantage of the 9-11 event, just like World Trade Center, which was a cheaply made story with a terribly mundane plot.
10. If you have any ambitions of being a writer, stay away from allowing a Publishing Company like Penguin Publishing to contract you. They only pay a few cents per copy sold, while with self publishing, not only are you your own boss, but the book is instantly available internationally, and you get paid up to 2 or 3 dollars a copy. Working the slave life isn?t anything anyone should aspire to.
An open letter to Penguin Putnam Group
Posted in Uncategorized by chrisbradley on the October 3rd, 2007
#1. I am not going to ask you to reconsider lifting your ip ban because it doesn?t matter anyway. I have more than 1 ip.
#2. If I had not been threatened by your members first, I would not have chosen to respond as I did.
#3. No one enjoys being a) called mentally unstable b) being outright cursed at c) called a self promoting ?troll?
#4. To the people that were supposedly ?injured? by my remarks, let me make this comment, they deserved it.
#5. If Gibson wants to Host a Forum about the US Intelligence Services aka Spook Country maybe it should be considered that people DO actively participate by making regular reports to them on regular issues.
#6. I attempted to generate 2 threads, that were of practical use. 1 called 21 Gun Salute, which was a fiction thread designed for that purpose only. The content was no more volitile than any other collection or anthology of short stories published in the last Decade. You chose to suppress it. 2nd - A seasonal / autumn thread - which had NO volitile content whatsoever, and was actually beginning to make progress. You chose to suppress it also.
#7. It doesn?t matter that you have done these things, the most important of my posts have been copied to my blog. And WILL BE PUBLISHED in a future book. You can bank on that.
#8. People who live in glass houses shouldn?t throw stones. A member on the William Gibson board literally took my face and attached it to a sign that said ?Narcissitic Personality Disorder.? If he thinks its funny, its not. If anyone has it, it is the entire makeup of your board who think they are a) self important b) infallible c) allowed to push drugs through your forum d) allowed to manipulate foreigners in illegal ways. They fit their own description. Using my personal photograph without my permission and without my posting it EVER on the forum, is a) illegal b) an obscene affront to decency c) lawsuit worthy.
#9.William Gibson?s future products will not be on my shopping list if I am not re-admitted to the board. I will take no future action to purchase any of his endorsed products, enjoy his literature, or give him any sort of positive review with my peers, limited as they are. I may even write a negative review of Spook Country and make it prominently viewable. Because I know it isn?t his best work, and I know it was a tactic to sell books for your company rather than produce anything genuine or creative.
#10. A word to the wise: Losing me means losing everyone like me - including newcomers to the community who see it as an open forum, rather than a CENSORED, ILL PLANNED, POORLY HOSTED, attempt at selling products and manipulating a market that should have dried up with All Tomorrow?s Parties.
#11. I will not spend Movie theater or DVD money on Pattern Recognition either, and I will start telling my friends it is a waste of time. And that it has nothing to do with cyberspace, which is the God?s Honest Truth. From the OUTSET, PR has to do with Marketing, and I?m sad to say that in writing my review which appreared in VoidSpace and probably sold at least 10,000 copies of PR - I fell for it Hook Line and Sinker. Never again.
#12. You don?t want to deal with people talking about politics, tell your author not to write about them. I think Gibson is too far away from America now to make any sincere comment on what goes on here. And I don?t see him catalyzing a single sincere thought on the subject from his home in Canada which has become an Anethma to any American crossing into its borders. Canadians come to our country and criticize us in our own stores while we stand there and listen to how they are superior to us. Maybe we should close the borders and cut our trade to them, and see how the Canadian Dollar Fares, when we stop spending money to support them. Canadians seem to think that America is going to protect them eternally and they have it carte blanche to step on our ideas. I?m here, and I?ll say it, we probably won?t. And if something horrible happens in either of your two media centers now, I?ll be laughing from my Border Town which is well secured and doesn?t have any real potential targets.
#13 To think I actually thought I might use Toronto or Montreal for a site for a future film is now virtually entirely off. I?ll have to rethink the entire strategy. Hollywood has its magic, and so does New York. Two places I can see laughing very hard when Pattern Recognition doesn?t sell enough tickets to pay back the investors.
#14 You can forget I said any of this - laugh me off - or not even read it for all I care. But keep this in mind, that aborted thought you skipped when a) either you didn?t reply or b) you replied negatively will cost you. This draft will be copied to my blog which gets a considerable number of Keywords into Google, as will any of your responses, legal threats, or scoldings. I implore you, give it a chance. Because your company really doesn?t need a gaping wound to be its #6 NY Times best seller.
#15 In case you wondered - Yes I still enjoy gibson, but as I said - I won?t buy another thing, and I will turn on his work like a bad penny in an instant, if you don?t do something about controlling your internal problems with your community. And from an ANONYMOUS perch, I will be watching.
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Putnam Publishing Group -
by Jill Owens,
Spook Country is Gibson at the top of his game, with gorgeous detail, page-turning suspense, and fascinating characters. If you've never read this author in the past because his work was categorized as science fiction, pick up this book, which is all too eerily close to home.
by Jill Owens
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"'Set in the same high-tech present day as Pattern Recognition, Gibson's fine ninth novel offers startling insights into our paranoid and often fragmented, postmodern world. When a mysterious, not yet actual magazine, Node, hires former indie rocker — turned — journalist Hollis Henry to do a story on a new art form that exists only in virtual reality, Hollis finds herself investigating something considerably more dangerous. An operative named Brown, who may or may not work for the U.S. government, is tracking a young, Russian-speaking Cuban-Chinese criminal named Tito. Brown's goal is to follow Tito to yet another operative known only as the old man. Meanwhile, a mysterious cargo container with CIA connections repeatedly appears and disappears on the worldwide Global Positioning network, never quite coming to port. At the heart of the dark goings-on is Bobby Chombo, a talented but unbalanced specialist in Global Positioning software who refuses to sleep in the same spot two nights running. Compelling characters and crisp action sequences, plus the author's trademark metaphoric language, help make this one of Gibson's best. 8-city author tour. (Aug.)' Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)"
by Library Journal,
"Part thriller, part spy novel, part speculative fiction, Gibson's provocative work is like nothing you have ever read before. Highly recommended."
by The New Yorker,
"If Gibson's vision has got bleaker, his eye for the eerie in the everyday still lends events an otherworldly sheen."
"It's an entertaining yarn, but by Gibson's standards, one that feels featherweight. Given its subject matter, you'd expect it to have a greater sense of consequence."
by Seattle Times,
"[T]he pleasure of Gibson's prose would be enough inducement for most of us to immerse ourselves in this book the way Tito longs to immerse himself in the rich warmth of a bowl of duck soup."
by Los Angeles Times,
"[A] puzzle palace of bewitching proportions and stubborn echoes."
by San Diego Union-Tribune,
"Spook Country is a thriller discernible only by its thin vapor trails; determining the precise paths followed by its various threads is probably impossible and most assuredly beside the point."
by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
"There's a lot of gloss, attitude and atmosphere to this essentially straightforward adventure tale imbued with the sensibilities of post 9/11 America."
"Spook Country is beautiful, clever, timely and dead-on ironic."
by USA Today,
"It's to Gibson's credit that he weaves his strands of disparate narrators, protagonists and foils, and his panoply of far-forward technology, into a vivid, suspenseful and ultimately coherent tale. He has managed to convert his cybernetic future into present tense."
Gibson's first new book in four years is, like the bestselling and critically acclaimed Pattern Recognition, a contemporary novel with international implications.
The “cool and scary”( SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE) NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Hollis Henry is a journalist on investigative assignment for a magazine called Node, which doesn’t exist yet. Bobby Chombo apparently does exist, as a producer. But in his day job, Bobby is a troubleshooter for military navigation equipment. He refuses to sleep in the same place twice. He meets no one. Hollis Henry has been told to find him.
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