So I’m sitting here in my PJ’s drinking a beer, trying to get into the mindset to write some fiction tonight, but I wanted to first do something about this book.
I wrote my MA thesis on the man’s early work, and this past weekend I got my hands on Zero History by William Gibson and powered through it. I’m already rescheduling a re-read for the next week or so because I’ve come to realize a few things about needing multiple reads when it comes to Gibson’s works, but I’ve got to mention something about it that’s been in the back of my mind ever since I read Spook Country.
Along with Bruce Sterling, Gibson’s pretty much the driving force behind modern science fiction. He’s arguably the father of cyberpunk, taking all that insane shit that Philip K. Dick brought to the table storytelling-wise and added layers of cool to it, bringing it into the late 20th century.
ANYWAY, taking that into consideration, Zero History is following in Gibson’s evolution of becoming less of a science fiction writer and more of an espionage writer. Zero History is basically hyperslick, hyper-detailed, and hyper-sideways spy thriller.
And that is incredibly awesome.
The argument I made in my thesis about his work is that it’s had a profound influence on just about every work of science fiction since. Also, I specifically pointed out that Gibson’s intense usage of brand-names, real or made up, is a criticism of brand-name recognition. His sci-fi in the 80’s was just his own predictive views of what the world was going to look like based on then-current social settings, trends, and behaviors. Therefor, the brandname-intense world of the Sprawl was a direct piece of commentary about the way people already do that now, in the present.
In his non-futuristic books though, the brand names have different purpose and power. While it’s still a piece of commentary on the power that names have when it comes to objects (there’s a profound difference between calling something a “touchscreen smartphone” and calling something an “iPhone”), it’s more focused on that philosophical power debate. There’s magic in names and power in owning someone/something’s true name.
Sorry…I keep going off track.
I wanted to focus on why I call this “hyper-sideways” and why I consider it spy fiction. I think of it as “hyper-sideways” because well, it is. We’re in situations that involve peculiar characters, characters that you normally wouldn’t associate with the types of stories and situations that Gibson’s writing about. Gibson is applying the changing face of the world and the people who have changed with it to “old world” espionage situations like industrial espionage, terrorism, guerrilla warfare and urban warfare.
Throwing in Gibson’s fascination with the ghostly far corners of the Internet, independent non-centralized networks that have spun out of subcultures, and the flip side of the world (stuff that you don’t necessarily have to associate with either spy fiction or sci-fi)…and you get some amazing books.
So yeah…I think that that kind of constitutes a review of Zero History. I have to ashamedly admit that I haven’t read Pattern Recognition, which introduced us to the Bigend-verse, but you don’t really need it, I think. At least, I didn’t need it, though I recognize the power that all three telling the story linearly have.