Spook Country

a book review

titleSpook Country
authorWilliam Gibson
date reviewed2008.06.23
genreSci-Fi
isbn0425221415

This is another of the author's recently started Blue Ant books, which ditch the long-term future musings of his earlier work in exchange for what's going on in the here and now.

As with the previous book (Pattern Recognition), the Blue Ant firm is a billionaire's plaything, an advertising company with an extremely experimental view on how to make money. Blue Ant's owner prides himself on hiring the right person for the job, and it's he who puts the main character of this novel into play (again, as with the previous book).

The story itself revolves around the scheming of various survivors of the latter Twentieth Century's world order. Former communists, former CIA operatives, and former soldiers are all still at large and roaming the world stage looking for something to do.

Gibson does his usual fine work with establishing scene and context in an engaging way, and as always he writes a small number of characters into a fascinating story.

But in this work there's a certain lightness, almost a gunshy attitude to the story. While the story thread told from the point of view of a junkie was perhaps the strongest of the various threads in the story, the junkie's detached staggering through the world around him was strongly echoed in the other threads. It was as if everyone was sharing the same pills.

Similarly, this novel doesn't have quite the same sense of risk that Gibson's earlier works thrived on. I'd compare this to an Ian Banks novel but in reverse: whereas in a Banks book you hope that your favourite character isn't in the inevitable pile-up of corpses at the end of the story, with this Gibson novel it was not at all clear that any of the characters considered themselves really at risk at all.

That said, Gibson continues his eye for weaving magical technologies into his stories to interesting effect. In this case all of that serves as something of a red herring, but even that was a treat. As it was to finally see Gibson set a story (or part of one) in Vancouver, a city which frankly deserves quite a bit more mining.