David Nelson's Reviews > Zero History

Zero History by William Gibson
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's review
Sep 09, 2011

really liked it
Read in January, 2011

As an undergrad I once got in an argument in class about Wuthering Heights. The prof's claim was that Wuthering Heights was a great novel; my position was that Wuthering Heights was a waste of everyone's fucking time (direct quote, which sorta fills me with shame today), because it had almost nothing to tell any of us (i.e., average undergrads at the University of Michigan in the mid-90s) about our lives and our world--not because of its displacement in time, but because it was entirely concerned with a kind of removed, cloistered aristocracy that simply didn't exist here, where we were, and largely no longer existed in the United States. I held up Gibson's Neuromancer (not literally, thank God; I wasn't *that* much of a showboat) as the example of what we should be reading (note: this is *maybe* a year or two after most Americans heard of the "World Wide Web" for the first time), and not because of the technology, but because Kentucky-born Gibson was talking about something essential to Life in America: the interactions between, and leverage used among, various striations of power.

So, that's one level at which I loved this book: Gibson--now a Canadian--writes an essentially American kind of story, in that it deals with mobility among social stations. That's kind of a cold, dry, intellectual way to like a thing, I know.

On another level, it's just a corker of a story, and perfectly meshes with the other two books with which it forms a loose (an by no means mutually dependent) trilogy: Pattern Recognition and Spook Country. Zero History is the opposite of LOST (<shakes fists> *DAMN YOU, LOST!*), in that across the trilogy it really does offer a complete, resolved circuit, where disparate plot and character elements are drawn together to a single point of understanding--it's a deeply *coherent* narrative, and speaks coherently of our lives now.
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