Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sometimes The Spookiest Thing Your Doing Is What Your Doing Right Now

William Gibson’s latest novel, ‘Spook Country’ is about three people who are connected by the paranoia of the modern technological world and that feeling we get, like Hollis Henry, a former rock star, now a budding journalist who can’t seem to escape the Google search anyone can do on her. She sits in an airport and than she starts to get that creepy feeling she is being watched. Maybe the man she met is taking pictures of her behind her back? Maybe the security cameras are focusing on her? Maybe it’s all in her mind? Everywhere she goes, as she tries to start over as a journalist, the people she tries to interview just want to talk about what happened to that band they all loved in college, The Curfew. Not only is she stuck with the past of herself on a poster, she’s also working for a online magazine that may or may not exist called the Node, that is run by a guy named Bigend.

There are two other characters with problems in Gibson’s novel. Tito, meanwhile, from a Cuban-American family in New York City is assigned by his uncles to hand over I-Pods with sensitive information over to a mysterious group. Than there’s Milgrim, an Ativan addict being held prisoner by a operative named Brown. Gibson modestly succeeds holding these three stories together. They aren’t directly related; except that Brown has ties to Tito’s family. As usual, Gibson’s characters are all tied together by the technology they interact with. Even if this isn’t one of Gibson’s classics like ‘Necromancer,’ ‘Idrou’ or ‘Pattern Recognition’, there is something to be said for being the more inventive of those writing techno thrillers. What other writer, for example, would think of using I-Pods as a way to transfer information?

Node Magazine for example, is another hallmark of a Gibson novel. An advertising executive named Bigend, who appeared in Gibson’s last novel, ‘Pattern Recognition’, runs Node Magazine. Mysterious, rich and having power over media and advertising, he is a creepy figure who is investing in Node Magazine and is a creepy figure to Hollis, as she tries to make sense of what she is really doing. Hollis keeps having the feeling that this magazine she is writing for, because it’s located on the internet and not in print, may or may not exist. The media effect becoming a non-hand held device is a constant theme in a Gibson novel as well. Just think back to his 1997 novel, ‘Idoru’, where the rock star character was in love with a virtual woman. The most interesting character in this book is Henry Hollis, and you often wish Gibson would just stick with her for the entire novel instead of going off with the other two characters, but it’s understandable why he doesn't. Sometimes with Gibson, the concept a character represents is more important. The concept Gibson has about I-Pods holding information is too interesting.

Even though Gibson said he has left science fiction to write about the present, what Gibson is really doing is writing a science fiction version of magical realism. Hollis is writing an article for the magazine on digital art, and that includes scenes of her putting on a virtual reality hamlet and her seeing the death of River Phoenix and her going under the projection of an anime like creature on the wall. All are little pieces of science fiction in what is a novel placed in our time. Gibson will never stop writing about that virtual light that stays lit throughout his novels. Hollis, Tito and Milgram are all connected by the technology that surrounds them and the technology that surrounds Gibson is what connects all of Gibson’s novels.

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