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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 35.
- Review Date: 2007-06-18
- Reviewer: Staff
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.)
Location, location, location
The science fictional aspects of William Gibson's Spook Country are so slim that those who like to argue about these things could say that it is as much fiction as science fiction. However, that would miss the point of this hugely enjoyable novel, which could comfortably be dropped into any of half a dozen pigeonholes. Heroine Hollis Henry is one of Gibson's most delightful inventions. In the early 1990s she was part of an influential pop band but now, scraping along as a freelance writer, she is asked by a new magazine to write a piece on a locative artist: art seen only at a certain location when using virtual reality goggles. Curious about the art, the magazine and somewhat desperate for money, Hollis takes the gig and is slowly drawn into a strange game of spy and counterspy. This is where Gibson excels. He introduces several different groups of spooks, none of which seem aligned with traditional notions of countries or other interested parties. There is a family of Cuban-Chinese immigrants who live ready to skip out of their lives in a moment. There is a junkie and his violent kidnapper (the nearest the novel comes to having a government connection). And there is the magazine that hired Hollis, which may exist or may just be an idea of Belgian millionaire Hubertus Bigend. Despite the enticing caper aspect of the plot, Gibson is spot-on in serious critiques of U.S. government efforts to reduce civil liberties and the culture of corruption that arises when wars are waged on multiple fronts. Spook Country is a page-turner and an exploration of art and conspicuous consumption, but neither of those elements is truly the point of the book. Above all, it is an entertainment, and in that it succeeds from first to last.