October 4, 2007

Spook Country

by William Gibson

In Pattern Recognition, Gibson took his wonderfully characteristic and influential science fiction style and showed it to us afresh by writing of a future that is already our recent past. It was a landmark, taking elements from the Neuromancer trilogy and showing them to us again, shiny and new because they were clad in familiar garments.

This novel is also set in our recent past, a few years after Pattern Recognition. Once more, we have Gibson's braided plot, alternating a search for an artistic truth with a quest for a big payday. Once more, a young artist (this time, a retired rock musician named Hollis Henry working as a journalist for a Web startup called Node) is swept off her feet by a mysterious offer of employment and an unlimited expense account, coming from an all-powerful, covert gnome. There are spies and agents in the woodwork. There is voodoo.

This time, it's just too much. I like Hollis. I love Gibson's style. But this feels like a superb pastiche: it's a new Gibson that's just like the old Gibson. Or, Gibson thinks the world really is full of quirky billionaires who are dying to devote their time and wealth to thinking up quests for resourceful young women. Spook Country is the color of television, tuned to an old channel.