EPS Review #188 - Spook Country

Spook Country , by William Gibson, Penguin, 2008, 384pp.

Please kick me if I buy anything by Gibson again. It was just too easy to order this from Amazon. I have surpassed my previous doggedness record, which was for Kingsley Amis. I loved Lucky Jim when I was young (did not hold up on a recent re-read), and then ploughed through all Amis's dismal and cynical output looking for some kind of pleasure. I even read his SF (The Green Man ) -- I liked the conversation with god, or at least it sticks in my memory. I have not yet tried re-reading Neuromancer.

There are pleasures to be had from Gibson's work, like the occasional turn of phrase. I liked "the celebrity self is a sort of tulpa". Of course, this author is a terrible fashion victim. It is true that the occasional unexpected brand-name can punch up some writing. But I counted 15 brand names in the first eight pages of Spook Country (including "high thread-count sheets" because it seemed like advertising as well). That's just annoying and sad.

The plot, in summary, is that a cool young woman, once a minor rock star, is drawn in, via writing a piece on locative art, to mysterious shenanigans by various covert types. These include some too-cool Cubans and a crazy ex-CIA agent who forces a drug-addict translator to tag along with him (the translator is mildly funny). Locative art is just pretty net graphics tied to a GPS coordinate. Nice but not novel or very germane to the plot, which ends up being an average thriller about people stealing government money. Voodoo gods act as decoration to the Cubans, to no great effect. I liked them better in Green Eyes , which as I recall came out about the exact same time as Neuromancer.

One character, Chombo, nicknames himself after a differential equation package. I still love Gibson for being a geek. But I discarded my copy of this book in a Sydney hotel, glad to be free of the weight.

Joe wrote: If you didn't like Spook Country, avoid the two that came before it like the plague. In fact, everything after Mona Lisa Overdrive is pretty wretched in my humble opinion. He takes himself very seriously, and has become obsessed with being a fashionista. It is a shame because the first trilogy and Burning Chrome were most excellent.

John wrote: Finished Rise of Endymion (I'm a slow reader). Emotionally draining, which is rare for me. In some ways it's like a good version of Braveheart (which I hated). Aenea and Siri (first book) seem like the same person to me (different objectives etc but they speak almost the same). Simmons has a thing for saint/martyr women who are inexplicably devoted to their slightly slow on the uptake husbands/boyfriends. A very appealing concept except for that martyr part.

Jon wrote: Shame. I recall enjoying Pattern Recognition.

Paul wrote: Wg is and always has been wildly uninteresting to me. Have just never really liked him. Meeting junot diaz at gs tonight! Did u read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao? Good book I thought.

I replied: Cool that you get to meet him. I have not yet read Wao.

Scott wrote: I liked Pattern Recognition as much as I liked Neuromancer . All his other books have been disaster areas. Spook Country, I think, was better than a disaster area, but it was mostly pretty ordinary. BTW, did you know you can go out and buy one of those mag-lev beds?

I replied: It figures!