3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2007
Very much feeling like a sequel or a parallel story to Pattern Recognition, Spook Country finds Gibson honing his new contemporary style. I really think that it's in these two books that he's finally come into his own.
While Pattern Recognition in many ways was a contemporary cyberpunk novel, this novel strays further into character development and character study, with great results. The plot is perhaps less immediately arresting than Pattern Recognition's, and the main character less oddly unique. However, all of the supporting characters truly shine, fascinatingly sketched and engaging. It's really one of the few stories I've read in a long time which presented the material from multiple viewpoints anchored to multipl characters where there were no characters that I disliked and no chapters that I wanted to rush through to get back to my favourite storyline.
The way the loose threads are ultimately gathered up is slightly more coincidental and convenient than in PR, but ultimately I think more satisfying, for the triumphs are more personal and you wind up feeling for the all of the people of this story.
A really engaging read. I listened to the audiobook version, read by Robertson Dean, and he did a magnificent job, a slick, polished flatness to his voice that suited the text brilliantly while still providing enough characterization to make the characters each pop out.
Two thumbs up. :)
on November 18, 2007
Needing a break from fantasy, William Gibson's Spook Country seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. As the author of works such as Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition, I thought it would make for a wonderful reading experience.
Unfortunately, though the book is good enough, it is clearly a far cry from what one has come to expect from a writer of William Gibson's caliber. Interestingly enough, the story never quite takes off. Moreover, the ending is about as lackluster as it gets.
The main problem is that one can never really grasp what this book is all about. Short chapters allow us to maintain a level of interest, and the story and characters are intriguing enough to keep us going. Gibson sets a very good pace, making this one a thriller in terms of style.
Having said that, Spook Country lacks that edge, that little something special that sets thriller apart from other fiction subgenres. It lacks that spark that keeps us promising ourselves that this is the last chapter we're reading before our bedtime. Although there are a few cliffhangers, this one is never a particularly exciting read. Indeed, the story sort of creeps up on you, very slowly.
I found the main characters -- Hollis, Tito, and Milgrim -- to be a fascinating bunch at the beginning. And yet, their back stories turn out to be more interesting than the "real time" events.
Still, regardless of the novel's shortcomings, William Gibson succeeds in keeping us interested in what is occurring. As I mentioned, since the reader doesn't understand what is going on, curiosity makes you eager to discover what Spook Country is all about. The author's narrative is as evocative as is usually his wont, which helps the reader along. Sadly, the ending is so disappointing that it killed this one for me.
Spook Country showed signs of brilliance early on, yet the story deteriorates into something quite ordinary before Gibson brings this one to a close.
Nevertheless, it's still a good read for the morning commute or the plane. But there's no denying that Gibson has accustomed his fans to much better works over the course of his career.
I am a huge William Gibson fun, since my university years. I believe his SPRAWL Trilogy to be a strong English Literature Cannon candidate - and, undoubtedly, the Gospel of Science Fiction of our generation.
However, his next trilogy (Virtual Light, Idoru & All Tomorrow's Parties) took an abrupt downturn after the first book of the series. I will not go into the reasons I did not find them to work at par with his previous monumental works; after all, this is not their review.
So, I was pleasantly surprised when my loyalty (finally...) paid off! SPOOK COUNTRY is a BEAUTIFUL book!
If one is hoping to find a fast-paced SF techno-thriller or a page-turner gore-fest, well, this is not the book to pick. Try Richard Morgan instead.
Even since his more action-conscious Neuromancer, William Gibson had always been a subtle writer; his poetic words painting a stroke here and then a stroke there - until his reductionist prose reveals a magic vista of the human condition no one has put to words before.
Be patient with his books. Short chapters, phrasal fragments, unusual word-hacking and turning brand-names into verbs have always been his functional style. And, boy, does his style function!
Long after you will have finished the last page, the imagery will stay with you. Popping up unexpectedly, in the foam of your next Frappuchino; in your car GPS voice; in the site of a spyhopping orca.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2014
I really enjoyed this for the second time. I preferred Pattern Recognition, but the characters in Spook Country are well developed and full. I especially like Tito, although I don't understand the Orishas as much as I should to fully appreciate him. Gibson weaves a fine and full story. A great read and fun plot, it makes a good second story in the Blue Ant trilogy.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2007
I enjoyed Gibson's cyber works, but the last two are much finer writing.
The first ones were all in-your-face attitude. The new ones are atmosphere.
In terms of plot, Spook Country has a very fine one... almost invisible. This is not good if you are still reading Gibson anticipating sci-fi, but it plays well if you are looking for a modern, nuanced read.
John Le Carre it is not... because there is still hope within the anger.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I had a hard time figuring out what this book was about in the beginning. If the author didn't have a good reputation, I would have stopped after 30 pages. I wish I had. The fully developed story wasn't worth the time and effort.
Why do we read spy stories? In part, it's because we want to see good versus evil. That element is present here. In part, it's because we want to see a different and more vivid way of living. That, too, is present. In part, it's because we want to root for the good guys. That's where the book starts to leak a bit. It's hard to tell who the good guys are until near the end. In part, it's also because we like gadgets (such as Q provides for 007). There are a few here, but it's not terribly gee whiz.
A good spy story is also lean and moves rapidly. Spook Country wanders all over the map into places where it doesn't need to go. Edit the book down by 150 pages, and it could have been a fun read. Some wandering is good when it causes you to think about new things. This wandering didn't stimulate me that way.
So what's the book about? It opens with former pop musician Hollis Henry pursuing her new career as a journalist. She is to write about a new form of virtual reality art for a magazine that's in prelaunch mode, Node. She's a little skeptical about the assignment because the editor hasn't been following through on paying her hotel bill. Matters become more complicated when a reclusive billionaire with a different agenda enters the story.
In a parallel story line, Tito comes from a line of Cuban communists and does intelligence gathering jobs. He's in the middle of finding out more about his dead father from his Tia Juana (yes, I spelled that correctly).
In the third story line, Milgram lives from one drug dose to the next. Fortunately for Milgram, he has an unusual language skill that a mysterious man with a pocket full of drugs needs.
Before the story ends, the three story lines will mesh into spy versus spy versus spy as the location of a mysterious container is fought over. But it takes a long time for that meshing to happen. While you wait, you will have a chance to read about lots of brand names in an apparent satire of the 007 movies.
When you are done, if you are like me, you'll say, "Who cares?"
on October 31, 2015
None of Gibson's work lives up to Neuromancer and Count Zero.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is another one of Gibson's light-hearted attempts at engaging his each of his main characters in an ambiguous search for an elusive something that only vaguely defines itself as the story unwinds. Hollis, the freelance journalist working for a European counter-culture tabloid, is searching for a scoop on an art form (Locative) that is becoming popular in southern California. For her boss, it is the pressing need to find a mysterious package whose contents will forever remain unknown. And then there is Castro, a shady character of both a KGB and CIA past, who is looking to get his hands on the same contraband as Hollis' boss. Into this wide-open expanse of a plot Gibson, in typical fashion, introduces a pile of technological gizmos to make it operate. Half way through the story, there is so much technology at work in these various missions - GPS locators, VR helmets, and telekinetic forms of transportation - that the reader might feel a little lost in the storyline. Not to worry. This state of confusion is where Gibson wants his readers to be: lost in another dimension where people travel anywhere in the fraction of normal time, see images that aren't natural to the naked eye, lose all sense of privacy, and still no nearer the truth as to who they really are in their convoluted search to extract meaning out of life. Don't read this book if you are looking for an easy-to-follow plot. It just isn't there. While Gibson uses as a very smooth Sci-Fi turn-of-phrase, the same cannot be said for his overall management of the story. A bit of a disappointment for one who remembers "Neuromancer".
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2008
I'm a huge fan of Gibson's earlier works, the "Sprawl" trilogy and his short stories of that period.
Since then, however, the imaginative fire and protean energy in his work has slowly but steadily drained away.
When I saw all the rave reviews for this novel, I had mixed feelings: hopeful that they heralded a return to his previous form, but doubtful when I saw that the raves were all from critics who normally disdain science fiction.
I thought I'd give Gibson one last chance.
I couldn't get through it. The dull prose, colourless characters, and plodding plot eventually did me in. I gave up about half way through, after struggling to get even that far.
Good bye, Bill. I'll see you in -30 years, in your first books.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2009
I also was a fan of William Gibson's earlier books. This one doesn't make the grade. Zero character development. No context. No descriptives worth anything. Covers all the emotions from "whaa?!" .. to "who cares?". Bill, I want my money back. That wasn't even a halfhearted attempt.