Spook Country Review, second watered tea

Out of all of William Gibson’s Novels, “Spook Country”:http://www.amazon.com/Spook-Country-William-Gibson/dp/0399154302/ref=pd_sim_b_shvl_title_1/102-4362146-7999342 is the least evocative. A lot of Gibson’s now all too common critics read and loved Neuromancer for its impenetrable descriptions of the ephemeral and then unknowable internet, (or cyberspace), the vague chic of apathetic criminal characters, and the all too potent tincture of drugs, sex, and violence.

I was certainly among the throng of disaffected youth who read and loved the early books when I was fifteen, had a punk rock hair-do, wore a black trench coat and wanted to punch authority figures. Certainly because of William Gibson I became more literate. But I was not among the hordes of disappointed cyberpunks who’ve been gravely disappointed by Gibson’s move towards more mainstream fiction; I am merely disappointed in the lack of narrative cohesion, snappy dialog, and pointed cultural observations.

“Pattern Recognition”:http://www.amazon.com/Pattern-Recognition-William-Gibson/dp/B000MGAHY6/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-4362146-7999342?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1192037420&sr=8-1
was a terrific novel. It was full of good characters, good dialog, and the Gibsonian specialty- the culture technology intersection. Gibson’s knack is recognizing where technology and culture have created something unique. Where as with his novels previous to Pattern Recognition he was writing in what he dubbed as speculative fiction, we would call it science-fiction. He moved into the present with Pattern Recognition and is firmly fixed there for Spook Country as well. The move to the present did not jar or upset me with Pattern Recognition.

Cayce Pollard and her allergic reactions to poor branding was in complete synch with where we were at as a culture. Globalization, marketing, brand recognition, and the interference or inevitability of anything and everything become merchandise or marketable spoke to me. I wish I’d thought of the character with the allergic reaction to Tommy Hilfiger first. But he also spookily worked in 9/11 in a way that did not seem hokey, or overworked. A character walked into the tower, and a ghost walked out to haunt Cayce. It was subtle and effective. Cayce’s zen statement to ward off bad mojo has stuck with me since reading the novel, “he took a duck in the face at 200 knots.” Also no one can ever forget, L-O-M-B-A-R-D. Loads of money but a real dickhead, which referred to Hubertus Bigend. Hubertus was a gift of a character, sinister in all the ways one might imagine a real person to be, but with a pearly white Tom Cruise smile.

I was pleasantly surprised by Bigend’s triumphant Belgian return. However the three intertwined narratives of Tito, Hollis Henry, and Milgrim don’t really compliment or contrast each other. The whole novel never really gels. We do have a few good moments where Gibson makes us chuckle at his cleverness. But his characters don’t pop, the narrative never reaches that point where the book created an inner moment for me the way his other books have. This failure is probably due to a few things. The first is not the lack of cyberpunkness, but the fact that the author’s knack of finding the precise moment to comment on a unique cultural technological nodal point (to use the Gibson term for a paradigm shift) was missing. The use of the i-pod as a storage device was unsurprising and commonplace. The idea that art could be locative and part of blended reality was also sort of commonplace and unsurprising. I never got that spooked feeling about seeing River Phoenix’s ghostly corpse outside the viper room. And for anyone who has used google maps street view, it just wouldn’t surprise the reader.

His commentary on the finances of the Iraq war and the intelligence community are also interesting, but hardly earth shattering.

Milgrim as a Junkie seemed to be purely a passenger for the novel and a vehicle for Brown, who was far more interesting as a character but lacked the definition the reader wished to see. His sermonizing was if anything was “under the top” and could have acted as more of a counter point to the “old man” to act as yin-and-yang, but alas this never developed.

Tito and Bobby Chombo were both alas pale comparisons to Bobby from Count Zero, or the Vat Grown Ninja Assassin from Neuromancer.

Hollis seems to be more of an archetype from Gibson now. He seems to be developing a pattern for his female characters now where they are delicate and sensitive, slightly daring, but rely on an older wiser male for their insight into the world’s inner mechanics. For Pattern Recognition Cayce relied on the not quite film maker boyfriend, and Hollis seems to rely on Inchmale.

The reveal at the end of the novel, just didn’t offer the payoff for the effort spent reading through the three disparate narratives. And Bigend as a result of his inclusion somehow seemed less sinister and more banal.

Hopefully Gibson finds his stride again, providing he feels he’s lost it. Certainly this book is not representative of his other works. Idoru and Pattern Recognition are still two of my favorites.