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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Spook Country by William Gibson

Spook Country by William Gibson. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-399-15430-0

The only subject heading that (presumably) the Library of Congress bothered to assign to this, William Gibson's new novel, is Intelligence Officers—Fiction. And that's hardly what the book is about. It involves one or two (intelligence officers, that is), or perhaps wannabees or has beens, but they are only peripherally what the book is about. So what is it about?

It's about a new form of conceptual, virtual geo-referenced art. Art that is only visible if you're wearing some form of virtual reality gear. Virtual art that only exists (virtually) in a particular place and perhaps, time.

It's about a shipping container, one of those big rectangular, railroad car sized containers that travel around the world on container ships. This particular container is being tracked by various individuals for reasons that don't become clear until almost the end of the story.

It's about people playing espionage games in New York, then suddenly, near the denouement, moving abruptly to Vancouver, British Columbia. Which is where the various plot streams, and disparate characters all finally come together in a dramatic, and action-paced finale.

This latest Gibson tome is honestly more of a suspense novel, than it is science fiction, since most of it could be happening right now, in today's world. At least, for me it's hard to tell where the current reality ends, and any science fiction elements begin. But that's OK.

The book works. At the beginning, as is often the case with Gibson, it's hard to tell what's happening, where it's going, what the point is. The disparate characters are each leading their disparate and often bewildering lives, and you're not at all sure what the point of it all is. But knowing Gibson, you know that there IS a point, and that all will eventually become—if not entirely clear—at least clear-ER. Definitely recommended, especially for fans of previous Gibson novels. Must reading for all science fiction aficionados.

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