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Zero History by William Gibson

Zero History (original 2010; edition 2010)

by William Gibson

Series: Blue Ant (3)

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1,719584,127 (3.84)47
Title:Zero History
Authors:William Gibson
Info:Putnam Adult (2010), Hardcover, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, signed

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Zero History by William Gibson (2010)


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Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
I had real trouble becoming engaged in this book. So far, I've made 2 attempts at reading it and quit before page 70. Maybe just not my type of genre? ( )
  SandyAMcPherson | Jun 18, 2017 |
For many of us, William Gibson set a new standard. We had never read anything like “Johnny Mnemonic” or Neuromancer, and we began devouring anything Gibson printed. While nothing quite equaled those first shots (what would?) the follow ups continued a tradition of excellence that kept us coming back for more.

I don’t know if he is in a lull, if age has brought on less freshness of ideas, or time is catching up with his innnovations, but any of these could be a possible reason for the near miss that is this novel.

As is usual with a Gibson novel, a plot synopsis is not particularly useful. There are syndicates involved and individuals who have found themselves part of those syndicates. In the case of Milgrim, he is, effectively, an experiment by Hubertus Bigend who wants to see what he can do with this person (Milgrim) after he dries him out. Milgrim is partnered with Hollis Henry who has worked for Bigend before, swearing never to again, but we all know how those swearings go.

And what it is the big pursuit, why have these protagonists, antagonists, and culprits been brought together to help us spend our time reading this novel? Fashion.

Now, Gibson has some interesting things to say in the area, and the pursuit of a secret brand drives the novel perfectly well...except…well, fashion?

This is where the novel lost me completely. Fantastic writing, no doubt. Gibson draws interesting people and tells a compelling story. But…fashion?

(I am reminded of the joke about Stephen King when he is trying to come up with an idea for a story. “Let’s see what’s on my desk. A lamp. Ooooo, a haunted lamp. Scary.”)

But let’s skip that whole “fashion” issue. Another problem with this book is it feels dated. A lot of time is spent explaining Twitter and other social media tropes to Milgrim. In addition, a lot of time was spent explaining drones. Now, Milgrim has effectively lost much of his past, and that might explain why explanations are necessary. But, since the book was published in 2010, Gibson may have felt the need to provide the explanations for his readers.

Which gets to another interesting point. Gibson is most successful when he explores a future that seems to be just around the corner, but will really take a little more technology than we know about right now. In this case, he may have shot for a future that wasn’t “future” enough. In fact, at times, I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be future or present day. It didn’t work as either.

Again, excellent writing. And his eye for detail – explaining and describing situations and environments that we might never experience – continues to be unsurpassed. But the novel itself took forever to really move forward (part way through I was tempted to just give up, and if it hadn’t been for a long flight where I had no other alternatives, I might have actually done it) and once it does move, you still wonder why you are supposed to care.

Definitely not a must read. And probably only read if you are a Gibson completest. ( )
  figre | Jun 3, 2017 |
The third in Gibson's Blue Ant Trilogy (after Pattern Recognition & Spook Country) is a curiously flat affair. Once again we have ex-rock star Hollis Henry being employed by über-advertising chief Hubertus Bigend (yes, I know), this time to track down the secretive designer of a "secret brand" of clothes called The Gabriel Hounds. Ex-addict Milgrim, one of Bigend's pet projects, is a sort of cool-hunter assigned to accompany Henry on the hunt. There's ex-special forces, secret military contracts, rumours of a coup at Blue Ant....and the usual Gibson obsessions with cutting edge technology: drones, surveillance techniques.

But it all comes across as a bit of a mish-mash. The "secret brand" McGuffin sort of fizzles out. Characters get moved around like chess pieces but to no real advancement of the plot. Bigend is his usual godlike self, apparently on the verge of moving to "another level', but again this is never really explained properly.

But worst of all, for what is ostensibly a techno-thriller, it is slow. The book drags. The detailed descriptions of hotel rooms pall after a while. The resolution is too neat and its all a bit "Oh, is that it?".

The first book in the trilogy, Pattern Recognition, was engaging and probably the best of the three, but overall these have been a disappointment after the Cyberspace and Bridge trilogies.

I'm hoping Gibson's new book, The Peripheral, touted as his return to Science Fiction, lives up to the hype, because on top form he's a great writer. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
A very strange urban fiction book (close but not quite sci-fi). Challenging to keep up with. Just when I think I'm getting a handle on the plot, it jumps again. Maddening, but couldn't abandon. ( )
  skraft001 | Apr 8, 2016 |
Hollis Henry, an ex-punk rockstar, is called in to do another job for Hubertus Bigend and his PR company Blue Ant. This time, he wants her find out who designs a particularly underground clothing label. Assisting her will be Milgrim, the ex-junkie who can translate Russian (this is seriously his only skill, but given that Hollis has no skills at all, it's a step up). They wander Europe on Blue Ant's obscenely expansive expense account asking people about the clothing label. This is literally the entirety of their plan: to walk up to other clothing designers and ask them if they know about this underground label. Over and over again. It doesn't result in much plot or dialog, but it does give Gibson an excuse to describe, ad nauseum, the outfit of every single character in every single scene. Around page 300 Gibson seems to recollect that books require plots, and randomly there's a kidnapping. Hollis and Milgrim are, as in everything, useless in getting their kidnapped colleague back. Somehow, Hollis's boyfriend turns up with a plan. Random coincidences occur, everyone speaks in clipped non-sequitors, and the kidnapped colleague gets free.

I never knew what was happening or why I should care, nor did I like any of the characters*, no matter how cool their haircuts and boots (although apparently their hair and boots are very cool indeed. Gibson expends a great deal of effort and page space reminding us of this). It's a terrible, dull book. Gibson was known for his prescient views of the future, but given that every page is a list of brandnames, his current stories will seem dated very quickly. Skip this series.

*Actually, I quite enjoyed Heidi, Hollis's former drummer and a physically fearless bad-ass. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
This flatness is the strangest feature of the world of Zero History, and more generally of the trilogy it completes. There's no question that, taken together, these three books represent one of the first great novels of 21st-century data culture. But there's no dirt in view – no muss. The cities of Neuromancer were crumbling into a kipple of obsolete technology, litter and grime. Cyberspace – clean, rational, clutterless – offered an alternative reality for those with the skills and the technology to gain access, while the wealthy could escape to exclusive orbital country-club cantons. Now that the future is here, Gibson's readers, like his protagonists, seem condemned to cities that are all surface, while yearning for a glimpse of something seedier, stickier, more troubling.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
William Gibsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
LaRoche, NicoleCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Susan Allison, my editor.
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Inchmale hailed a cab for her, the kind that had always been black, when she'd first known this city.
"But that's exactly it. Because they 'understand all that', they won't find the edge. They won't find the new. And worse, they'll trample on it, inadvertently crush it, beneath a certain mediocrity inherent in professional competence." [Hubertus Bigend: 24]
Reading, his therapist had suggested, had likely been his first drug. [Milgrim: 93]
She always found it peculiar to encounter a time she had actually lived through rendered as a period. It made her wonder whether she was living through another one, and if so, what it would be called. [Hollis Henry: 102]
There was something inherently cheerful about the buoyancy of a balloon, he thought. It must have been a wonderful day when they first discovered buoyant gases. He wondered what they'd put them in. Varnished silk, he guessed, for some reason picturing the courtyard at the Salon du Vintage. [Milgrim: 376]
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Former rock singer Hollis Henry and ex-addict Milgrim, an accomplished linguist, are at the front line of a sinister proprietor's attempts to get a slice of the military budget. When a Department of Defense contract for combat-wear turns out to be the gateway drug for arms dealers, they gradually realize their employer has some very dangerous competitors--including Garreth, a ruthless ex-military officer with lots of friends. Set largely in London after our post-Crash times.… (more)

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