Spook Country – William Gibson

This was apparently quite eagerly awaited. I remember reading Cory Doctorow getting quite excited about it back in its infancy/draft stages. Gibson’s one of those authors that people get excited about, or at least the types of people who write about reading on the internet. Hello! I have read but sparsely of his work, i.e. I have read Neuromancer but nothing else.

So I don’t really know how this compares to anything apart from Neuromancer. I think Gibson has written some books that films were later based on. But I haven’t seen them. Because they look rubbish.

Contrary, then, at least to Neuromancer and what I imagine to be Gibson’s “normal” style – by which I mean cyberpunk, near-ish future fantasy – this book is set now. Of course, some of the characters are operating on (or maybe just over) the edge of technology and art – geolocative installations, creating alternative worlds, or adding contextuality to the everyday world, all good clean fun in a slightly mind-stretching way. Possibly there are people out there doing this.

But the main plotline – and without wishing to spoil it too much, because it is a conspiracy/spy thriller, after all – revolves around members of shadowy gangs with connections to cold war era secret services trying to track something down, or trying to fool the others that they’re not trying to track it down, or don’t know where it is, or do know where it is. It’s complicated. Possibly, there are people out there doing this too.

It’s written very beautifully – great pacing, just enough more detail to keep you coming back for the next chapter, not enough to fully understand until the end. The characters – and they are a bunch as mixed as you’re likely to find anywhere (KGB trained Cuban-Chinese dudes, a hyper-paranoid grid-obsessed art-facilitating code-head, bizarre special forces types, etc.) are real and distinct and loveable. Well, some less so than others. But what shines through is Gibson’s shock and anger at the state of the world.

When I was reading interviews about the book before it was published, I recall seeing him say that he couldn’t write about any near-future worlds because he was too upset by what he was reading about the way the US government was conducting itself right now. And this book is the result. It may get some people thinking, although probably not anyone in a position to do much about it. That’s kind of the problem with big shadowy conspiricies that are covertly backed by governments – if they exist – they’re pretty tricky to bring down.

See also:
This didn’t actually remind me of very much. I guess it’s kind of in Bond territory, almost. Go and see the new Bond film, maybe.


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