Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Zero History by William Gibson
Following in the same footsteps as Pattern Recognition and Spook Country, Gibson tells us of the modern brand elite and their machinations. An ex-addict, Milgrim, and Hollis, the former lead singer of the band Cerfew, get caught up in another of Big End/Blue Ant’s schemes in London and Paris. As with most of Gibson’s books, he presents us with a power struggle which takes place in the pantheon above normal mortals, and in which the main characters play a role they don’t understand in bringing about a power shift that changes a world one order of magnitude above the one they live in. (Case frees Wintermute from the bonds of Turing, loosing a new godhead upon the Matrix; Count Zero frees the Loa into the Matrix, changing the power from one AI god to a pantheon, and in this case, Bigend ascends to a new level of financial moguldom through the unwitting, confused efforts of Milgrim and Hollis.)
It’s another fascinating look at our-world-as-cyberpunk. Ono-Sendais are replaced by iPhones, but otherwise the prose and the song remain much the same, albeit with the violent and sexy juicy bits at far greater remove. (Remember when Case spreads Molly’s labia? Here a veiled reference to a shower scene is the closest we get to sex. Remember when “someone made wet sounds in the alley and died” during the show for 3Jane? Here at a climatic moment an AK appears (but is never used.)) It’s a conscious choice to focus instead on brand intrigue, the texture of consumerism, and the stately mechinations of a media elite rather than the low-level heat of sex and violence on the streets of Chiba City. But unfortunately the story loses some animal pleasure as a result.
The style works for the most part. Occasionally Gibson’s tangled sentence construction, layered clauses, and aggressive disregard for basic subject verb relationships gets tedious. Likewise the so-hip-its-incomprehensible dialog which serves as narrative most of the time sometimes just isn’t worth untangling in order to figure out WTF these folks are talking about. But as a general rule the language still reads as Gibson, and helps serve up the world of today as a fresh cyberpunk utopia that lives in each of our pockets.