Robotkarateman's Reviews > Spook Country

Spook Country by William Gibson
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U 50x66
's review
Apr 04, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: science-fiction
Read in March, 2008

First, let me begin by saying I'm a Gibson fan-boy. Neuromancer is a book I've read at least once a year since first discovering it. It's got all of the elements of a classic adventure story, and it's hung with incredibly predictive science fiction trappings which appeal to my geekier side.

So, having become so attached to Gibson's earlier work, it's difficult for me to say that his later books have become increasingly disorganized and less interesting. I first noticed this trend in "Idoru", the second book in the Bridge trilogy (it might be telling that I didn't identify "Idoru" as the second in the series until refreshing my memory of the book at Wikipedia). "Idoru" follows several characters as they encroach, however peripherally, on a central story unfolding behind the scenes. Each character filters events in their own way and sees only small portions of the larger picture. In the end, however, all of the main characters are drawn directly into the center of the action and the story resolves quite nicely, with Gibson tying in a few deftly crafted subplots for extra gestalt.

Gibson's subsequent books have followed the same multi-character multi-storyline structure with increasingly disparate results. Where "Idoru" succeeds in bringing closure to each character's portion of an over-all quest, "Spook Country" succeeds only in bringing each character to the end of the book. There is very little evolution to the overall story, and the characters seem set dressing to an author's conclusion which is all but lost by the final page.

Is this a book about the evils of the Iraq war? The cargo container that looms in the background of the story seems to be the sort of smoking gun an author making a point about corruption would use, but it arrives so late in the story, and its implications are explained in such an offhand manner, that any evils-of-war subtext comes across as an afterthought.

Perhaps, instead, this yet another Gibson story about the government's failure to control emerging technologies? The use of steganography to secret away information on files transported via iPod certainly hints at that, but once the iPod in the book is dropped and broken Gibson himself drops that line of thought.

In the end, "Spook Country" feels less like a separate book with its own message and more like a snippets of "Pattern Recognition" which Gibson refused to abandon. Unfortunately for us, in his haste to present these ideas he found so compelling, Gibson forgot to craft an interesting and coherent story line around them. And that is, in the end, what we really want from fiction.

As a fan, I hope "Spook Country" is an intermediary in a much larger series. As a stand-alone story, I found it lacking.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Bryant I remember reading somewhere that it is indeed the second of a series of books much like the "Bridge Trilogy". Pattern Recognition was the first, Spook Country the second, and there will be a third.


Robotkarateman I don't know if it's part of a trilogy yet, but Gibson did say it's a successor of sorts to Pattern Recognition, but not a direct sequel. It reads very much like a continuation of Pattern Recognition. Or, actually, it reads like a collection of edited scenes from Pattern Recognition strung together with new characters.


message 3: by kathleen (new)

kathleen duey I agree re Gibson and Neuromancer--which re-amazes me every time I read it. Complex structure intrigues me, but, yeah, it has to serve the story well in some way or it can bury it. He is on Twitter, and interesting to listen to...@greatdismal


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