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Spook Country by William Gibson

Spook Country

by William Gibson

Series: Blue Ant (2)

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Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
Spook Country by William Gibson

I enjoyed this book, though it isn't really William Gibson's best effort. It has a topical subject, clever and twisted plot, captivating characters (though only marginally believable), high tech wizardry, sinister stuff, humor. What's going on here? Who are the good guys?

It is formulaic—Gibson's formula. As in his other books, he switches viewpoint and character from chapter-by-chapter, laying out aspects of the story, making you wonder: How will all come together? It does, of course, come together. Unlike other Gibsons I've read, here he dishes out enough info for you to scope out the denouement, though not all the particulars. In the end, it is calculated to satisfy, with the likable characters collecting their rewards and the bad guys collecting their just desserts.

In [Spook Country] a prime question is whether or not it's possible to get lost, to just sneak off by yourself, with no one who knows you being able to locate you. And with those who see you not knowing who you are. GPS is central to the story. In years past, Hollis Henry, the protagonist, was a singer in a cult band called Curfew. Now she's eaking out a living as a free-lance writer, and as the story begins, she's on assignment in L.A., developing an article on "locative art" for a mysterious London-based magazine called Node. GPS, which at this time—2000—is strictly military, is pivotal to the art, since the locative artist creates a virtual-reality object or figure in one location, and places in another via gps coordinates obtained by "geohacking."

The reclusive Bobby Chombo, who does seminal gps research and development for the military, IS, quite naturally, the go-to guy for geohacking. If you can find him. Alberto Corrales, introduced to Hollis as creator of a locative art series known as death scenes of the famous (River Phoenix, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Helmut Newton), knows where Bobby is and, with trepidation, takes her to meet him. Bobby is angry and terrified, yet willing to show her around. She returns a day or so later, and Chombo and all his gear have vanished.

In alternative chapters, we meet members of a Cuban family—their bloodlines are an international melange—who are espionage adepts. We also meet a man named Brown who seems to tracking at least one specific member of the family, a young man called Tito. Brown is accompanied by Milgram, who seems to be a captive. Slowly, it comes out that Tito is doing something secret for yet another cypher, known only as "the old man." We learn that Bobby Chombo also is doing something secretive for this "old man." The biggest challenge in these goings on—for all the players—is keeping track of the other guys' locations. Gps, tracking devices, and all that technology. Try it. You may like it.
1 vote weird_O | Oct 6, 2015 |
A very enjoyable book. The ruminations of the junkie character are often amusing. The reference to Morrissey is funny and the technological and cultural descriptions are pleasant. Bigend's comments about society are amusing.

There is almost no nature in any Gibson novel, the world is composed only of people and the trends that they embrace or that embrace them. ( )
1 vote themulhern | Sep 27, 2015 |
i stopped reading this after about 100 pages. maybe i'm missing something or maybe i'm not sophisticated enough but i just didn't care and i think that 100 pages in i should begin to care about something. Mr. Gibson's prose/style isn't robust enough to sustain me through my apathy towards nearly insubstantial plot, characters, and concepts. meh. ( )
  keebrook | Mar 10, 2015 |
I have never read anything by this author before and based on this book, I will not seek him out in the future. The technology discussed in it, seems ancient by today's standards yet I think this book was supposed to be a sort of futuristic vision of America. The first 50 pages the limit I usually give to a book, do nothing to draw you in to the story, the storyline is not fleshed out at all, there is no symmetry to how or why anything described will later be relevant or useful and I did not connect with any of the characters. This book definitely did not work for me. ( )
  zmagic69 | Jan 18, 2015 |
On the first read, I was underwhelmed. In this re-read, I can't get enough of the perspective Gibson brings. He is a writer. He has a lot more going on on the page than most others working the craft today.

This novel is about technology, fashion, and espionage and ends up combining fascinating observations on all three into an insightful view on post 9-11 America. ( )
  nnschiller | Sep 18, 2014 |
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'Rausch,' said the voice in Hollis Henry's cell. 'Node,' it said.
The strength of Juana's magic had faded, Tito knew, amid new technologies and an increasing governmental stress on "security", by which was meant control. [13]
The Curfew's fans were virtually the only people who knew the band had existed, today, aside from radio programmers, pop historians critics, and collectors.  With the increasingly atemporal nature of music, though, the band had continued to acquire new fans.  Those it did acquire, like Alberto, were often formidably serious. [25]
Cyberspace is everting. [22]  And once it everts, then there isn't any cyberspace, is there? [66]
But what if, asked the upwardly burrowing voice, Brown was not really a government agent? ...  what if Brown was just an asshole with a gun? [80]
Intelligence, Hollis, is advertising turned inside out. [108]
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0399154302, Hardcover)

Now that the present has caught up with William Gibson's vision of the future, which made him the most influential science fiction writer of the past quarter century, he has started writing about a time--our time--in which everyday life feels like science fiction. With his previous novel, Pattern Recognition, the challenge of writing about the present-day world drove him to create perhaps his best novel yet, and in Spook Country he remains at the top of his game. It's a stripped-down thriller that reads like the best DeLillo (or the best Gibson), with the lives of a half-dozen evocative characters connected by a tightly converging plot and by the general senses of unease and wonder in our networked, post-9/11 time.

Across the Border to Spook Country

For the last few decades, William Gibson, who grew up in Virginia and elsewhere in the United States, has lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, just across the border from Amazon.com's Seattle headquarters, which made for a short drive for a lunchtime interview before the release of Spook Country. We met just a few miles from where the storylines of the new novel, in a rare scene set in Gibson's own city, converge. You can read the full transcript of the interview, in which we discussed, among other things, writing in the age of Google, visiting the Second Life virtual world, the possibilities of science fiction in an age of rapid change, and his original proposal for Spook Country, which we have available for viewing on our site. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

Amazon.com: Could you start by telling us a little bit about the scenario of the new book?

William Gibson: It's a book in which shadowy and mysterious characters are using New York's smallest crime family, a sort of boutique operation of smugglers and so-called illegal facilitators, to get something into North America. And you have to hang around to the end of the book to find out what they're doing. So I guess it's a caper novel in that regard.

Amazon.com: The line on your last book, Pattern Recognition was that the present had caught up with William Gibson's future. So many of the things you imagined have come true that in a way it seems like we're all living in science fiction now. Is that the way you felt when you came to write that book, that the real world had caught up with your ideas?

Gibson: Well, I thought that writing about the world today as I perceive it would probably be more challenging, in the real sense of science fiction, than continuing just to make things up. And I found that to absolutely be the case. If I'm going to write fiction set in an imaginary future now, I'm going to need a yardstick that gives me some accurate sense of how weird things are now. 'Cause I'm going to have to go beyond that. And I think over the course of these last two books--I don't think I'm done yet--I've been getting a yardstick together. But I don't know if I'll be able to do it again. I don't know if I'll be able to make up an imaginary future in the same way. In the '80s and '90s--as strange as it may seem to say this--we had such luxury of stability. Things weren't changing quite so quickly in the '80s and '90s. And when things are changing too quickly, as one of the characters in Pattern Recognition says, you don't have any place to stand from which to imagine a very elaborate future.

Amazon.com: Now that you're writing about the present, do you consider yourself a science fiction writer these days? Because the marketplace still does.

Gibson: I never really believed in the separation. But science fiction is definitely where I'm from. Science fiction is my native literary culture. It's what I started reading, and I think the thing that actually makes me a bit different than some of the science fiction writers I've met who are my own age is that I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs and William Burroughs in the same week. And I started reading Beat poets a year later, and got that in the mix. That really changed the direction. But it seems like such an old-fashioned way of looking at things. And it's better not to be pinned down. It's a matter of where you're allowed to park. If you can park in the science fiction bookstore, that's good. If you can park in the other bookstore, that's really good. If people come and buy it at Amazon, that's really good.

I'm sure I must have readers from 20 years ago who are just despairing of the absence of cyberstuff, or girls with bionic fingernails. But that just the way it is. All of that stuff reads so differently now. I think nothing dates more quickly than science fiction. Nothing dates more quickly than an imaginary future. It's acquiring a patina of quaintness even before you've got it in the envelope to send to the publisher.

Amazon.com: So do you think that's your own career path, that you're less interested in imagining a future, or do you think that the world is changing?

Gibson: I think it's actually both. Until fairly recently, I had assumed that it was me, me being drawn to use this toolkit I'd acquired when I was a teenager, and using my old SF toolkit in some kind of attempt at naturalism, 21st-century naturalistic fiction. But over the last five to six years it's started to seem to me that there's something else going on as well, that maybe we're in what the characters in my novel Idoru call a "nodal point," or a series of them. We're in a place where things could just go anywhere. A couple of weeks ago I happened to read Charlie Stross's argument as to why he believes that there will never, ever be any manned space travel. It's not going to happen. We're not going to colonize Mars. All of that is just a big fantasy. And it's so convincing. I read that and I'm like, "My god, there goes so much of the fiction I read as a child."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:13 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The plot involves journalist Hollis Henry, on assignment for a magazine that doesn't exist; Tito, whose family came from Cuba, who does delicate jobs involving information transfer; Milgrim, an Ativan addict coerced into domestic espionage; and Bobby Chombo, a troubleshooter for military navigation equipment.… (more)

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