RandomAnthony's Reviews > Zero History

Zero History by William Gibson
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's review
Oct 10, 2010

really liked it

William Gibson is the Jay-Z of his genre. I think. I can’t be sure, as I don’t listen to much rap (few 41 year-old men should say “hip-hop”) anymore. Let me explain. I have long admired Jay-Z’s effortless delivery and the joy with which he seems to embrace his talents; he sounds like he knows he’s good, values his craft, and enjoys the hell out of what he does. And although William Gibson is quieter and, uh, more Canadian, I felt the same way about the author while reading Zero History.

After the have-to-admit-it-was-kind-of-a-letdown Spook Country, Gibson proceeds with Zero History as if he has a (nerdy) chip on his shoulder. He sparkles in detail and rhythm, interspersing long, wraparound sentences with short, noiresque dialogue. The characterizations are taut and durable. This book’s natural partner, both in theme and quality, is Pattern Recognition. In both novels Gibson scythes through cultural static and creates a present that, while swirling all around us, seems just beyond our comprehension. I don’t want to make this novel sound like homework. Reading Gibson, when he’s on point, or anywhere close to on point, is exhilarating. Throughout Zero History he blends thematic depth with intricate industrial espionage and, thank God, reads as if he’s locking in on whatever it is that makes him so excellent. He, like the self-proclaimed greatest rapper alive, makes it look easy. I don’t know from what roborant Gibson’s been drinking, but more, please, don’t stop now.

The flow between the three “Bigend” books (Zero History is the third of a trilogy) troubled me. I read both Pattern Recognition and Spook Country so long ago that I felt as if I were missing, from faulty memory, subtle links between the novels. Listen. You’ve probably already formed an opinion on Mr. Gibson. If you like his work you’ll understand when I say Zero History is one of his best. If you’ve never read Gibson start with Pattern Recogition and work your way through the trilogy. Although I doubt he’d be so bold as to speak up on his own, he’s one of the greatest writers alive.

Also, Tad RULES for getting me an autographed copy (inscribed to me!) of Zero History. I am forever in your debt, sir.

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Reading Progress

04/19 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-19 of 19) (19 new)

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Lori Hey I'm reading this too, have you read Bigend 1 and 2?

Chloe i Iam waiting so excitedly for this to come in at the library. New Gibson makes me obscenely happy

RandomAnthony Logan! Tad sent me a copy AND I got a library copy this weekend, so I'm feeling greedy. I put the copy Tad sent me on the shelf and I'm reading the one from the library. So far it's excellent...I'm already at page 100...read 90 pages yesterday.

Lori, this whole "Bigend #3" thing confuses me, because I don't think they called Spook Country and Pattern Recognition "Bigend" books when they were released. I could be wrong...maybe I just didn't notice. But yes, I read both of those when they were released. Pattern Recognition came out in 2003...that was a great one...Spook Country in 2007 was decent but not as great as some of the other Gibson books. I read them so long ago I'm going to have to cheat and read the wikipedia summaries or something to remember some details. I'm totally loving Zero History so far...how far are you into the book?

Lori Yes the Bigend #3 confused me too! I guess he didn't plan on continuing with it, but now that he's at #3 he realizes it's become a series. I'm 3/4 through, and liking this the best so far. I agree with you about the other 2.

I also read them immediately upon release, so forgot much, but didn't feel it necessary to wiki - not necessary for the plot since they are all stand-alone, and the characters themselves came back to me very quickly. Except for Milgrim! He appeared in Spook Country, really? Doesn't matter tho, again not necessary.

Matt Any thoughts on Bigend himself? My opinion swings back and forth between his character being a monied antihero who enjoys mucking around with the establishment or conversely that he is just a typical business-world douche.

Also, some guy posted this on the discussion board on WFG's website - not sure if he made it himself or what...

Matt BTW - For the rest of the night i'm going to be imagining Gibson singing "99 Problems..."

RandomAnthony Oh, that shirt is fucking perfect!

That Bigend (I love how that one character, I'm not going to say which one lest I spoil anything, calls him "Big End") question is interesting. I think Bigend is an excellent narrative device and it's important, at this point, that we don't know much about him. Gibson seems to like giving bits of information and leaving the reader to imagine what might be going on beyond what he supplies, e.g. talking about darknets where underground entities communicate with each other but never quite revealing the how, what, or why. What do you think?

Lori My opinion of Bigend through bks 1, 2 and most of 3 was that he was a great anti-hero. That all changed at the end of Zero History. Tad, I just checked and see that you haven't yet finished the book, so I don't want to spoil it for you.

Matt Oops! I have finished Zero History, Lori, i've just been really random in keeping up my ratings/reviews lately.

I have so many thoughts on that character and none of them are really complete...

1) In PR and early on in SC Bigend seems to pursue really cool, obscure things that seemed to be beyond the general public zeitgeist (the footage, Curfew). While this is admirable, we later learn second hand that most of these things he uses for very consumerist type endeavors (shoe and Chinese car commercials). As the trilogy goes on his pursuits suggest things that mainly involve amassing more money and power. He also seems to have no qualms about giving up Milgrim to the fashion thug.

2) What about that name: Hubertus Bigend? I've seen some folks online complain that Gibson was being too jokey or "Pynchonesque" when he came up with that one. My inner-third grader was amused from the beginning by that name because it seems to suggest the words Huge Ass. Was Gibson suggesting something about that character's underlying makeup with that name?

3) You mention the character as a narrative device, RA. Shortly after finishing the book I was pondering if there were any parallels between Bigend and anything else in the past trilogies and i've found two so far: Cody Harwood in the Bridge Trilogy and Wintermute in the Sprawl Trilogy. Wintermute is the more interesting comparison here I think, because there is a suggestion of amorality or "post-morality" that could certainly be applied to Bigend.

These all veer towards the negative but I still find the character very intriguing and not completely unlikeable.

message 10: by Lori (last edited Oct 10, 2010 03:49PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Yeah that's the thing, even at the end, what with agreeing to give up Milgrim and IMO even more important his responsibility in bankrupting an entire country for his own ends, which is totally immoral, I still find myself somewhat confused.

I did find his Pantone blue suit hysterical tho! I want to look it up.

message 11: by Mat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mat Ranson "If you've never read Gibson, start with Pattern Recognition"? Are you mad?! Great book but no, start with Neuromancer.

RandomAnthony You don't think Neuromancer is too dated at this point, Mat?

message 13: by Lori (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori I don't think so. I only read it a few years ago, and it's interesting to see the foundation of how punk sf all started. Altho there is debate about that = many people feel that Stephenson was the leader with Snow Crash. Which I happen to think is a better book. So, RA, I guess I'm saying that even tho Neuromancer might be dated, it's still a good book, and even necessary if you read a lot of sf. Like I do!

message 14: by Lori (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Oh and this reminded me I wanted to see the color of Bigends suit, and it's very like I imagined!

RandomAnthony I love both Neuromancer and Snow Crash, really. I'd definitely start people on Stephenson with Snow Crash. Maybe either of the Gibson books would do.

message 16: by Mat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mat Ranson Yeh, its definitely aged but its such a massive building blocknin his career as well as the sci-fi genre it would be churlish to ignore it.

message 17: by Lori (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori I had such a hard time getting into Snow Crash. As a matter of fact I only finally read it last spring, and Stephenson is perhaps in my top 10 favorites - ended up loving it. I tried so many times and never got past the pizza delivery. I had to get past the first 2-3 pages.

message 18: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Sun Can you skip Spook Country if you've read Pattern Recognition and go straight to this if you just want to read a good book in this world?

RandomAnthony I think so, stephanie. I read them years apart and didn't remember much of the predecessors.

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