Pvw's Reviews > Count Zero

Count Zero by William Gibson
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's review
Dec 24, 2010

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Read in July, 2010

Set in a cyberpunk world, this book contains virtual reality, cybernetics, neural implants, high-tech weaponry, total globalisation and dominating multinational corporations, amongst others. In the opening lines, which I will quote a bit further on, we are introduced to Turner. He is an extraction agent, that means his job is to assist in the 'brain drain' from one big corporation to another. Whenever a high ranking engineer is willing to defect to a rival company, Turner is called in to smuggle the employee out of the hands of the private militia that guards him and deliver him safely to his new employers. No resources are spared to obtain that goal. In 'Count Zero', Turner will have to extract a guy named Mitchell, the inventor of a revolutionary bio-chip, out of the underground compound of Maas Neotek and deliver him to the Japan based Hosaka company. But first Turner runs into a few enemies he probably made on previous jobs, and that results in these impressive first lines of chapter one:

"They set a slamhound on Turner’s trail in New Delhi, slotted it to his pheromones and the colour of his hair. It caught up with him on a street called Chandni Chauk and came scrambling for his rented BMW through a forest of bare brown legs and pedicab tyres. Its core was a kilogramme of recrystallized hexogene and flaked TNT.
He didn’t see it coming. The last he saw of India was the pink stucco façade of a place called the Khush-Oil Hotel.
Because he had a good agent, he had a good contract. Because he had a good contract, he was in Singapore an hour after the explosion. Most of him, anyway. The Dutch surgeon liked to joke about that, how an unspecified percentage of Turner hadn’t made it out of Palam International on that first flight, and had to spend the night there in a shed, in a support vat.
It took the Dutchman and his team three months to put Turner together again. They cloned a square metre of skin for him, grew it on slabs of collagen and shark-cartilage polysaccharies. They bought eyes and genitals on the open market. The eyes were green."

... making clear that it is not yer random Jane Austen novel you are about to read.

More characters are introduced, one of them is Bobby Newmark, the Count Zero from the title. He is an information cowboy, he plugs into the matrix and accesses secret files (a bit like Johnny Mnemonic in the movie, also based on a Gibson story). All the characters have their own plotlines which neatly come together in the last chapters.

Gibson is sometimes called the Raymond Chanler of science fiction. I can relate to that; his sentences have the same machine gun-like drive and rhythm, and the seemingly unimpressed coolness with which Gibson mentions the weirdest high-tech developments, reflects the casual nothing-I-haven't-seen-a-million-times-before attitude of the typical Chandler detective.

The action portions in 'Count Zero' are up to the level, and some descriptions or dialogues are astonishing for their language alone, even without taking into account the meaning. The end may seem a bit too easily wrapped up. But on the whole, the book reads like a rollercoaster and takes you along on an insane adventure through a world which is recognisably modern with a luxurious touch of exaggeration every bit of the ride.

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