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5.0 out of 5 starsI didn't just read this book, I experienced it. Wow!
Reviewed in the United States on July 9, 2016
Once in a great while a book comes along that transcends the events written about and explains something of deep and cosmic importance. I was stunned by the real story, uncoiling like an invisible serpent of stars, behind the "on the page" story of a woman hired to possibly write for a new magazine, and a parallel story of intrigue amongst a motley collection of spies. These stories coil around each other like a DNA helix to create a new being, a glimpse into a future that could go so wrong or incredibly right. This is Hollis in Wonderland as told by Gibson, a sci-fi cyber punk writer of epic proportions. I am practically obsessed with this book, both in print and the audio read in an intimate and engaging way by the incomparable Robertson Dean. The story is interdimensional, with so many levels to explore I can get lost in a single sentence like a maze that opens doors in my own mind. I didn't just read this book, I experienced it like a psychedelic trip down a white Lego lined rabbit hole.
I'm so happy to have discovered another trilogy by the great writer. Blasted through the first one, greatly enjoyed this second one and jumping immediately into #3! Great plot development that kept me engaged and looking for clues. Great characters with all their complexities and human feelings-fears- confusions. An excellent story all around.
4.0 out of 5 starsAnother Solid Novel from William Gibson
Reviewed in the United States on February 6, 2010
There are few authors whose entire literary output I've read, but William Gibson falls firmly inside that camp. From the ground-breaking Neuromancer, which I originally read when I was a teenager in the early 1990's, through Spook Country, the second Gibson novel set in the "real" world, he has explored the cultural shifts created by technology and has proven more accurate and relevant than almost every other author working in speculative fiction. Now that much of what he imagined has come to pass (either through the world mimicking his work, or merely catching up to it), he's now commenting on the impact of technology.
Spook Country follows three characters -- Hollis, the former lead singer of a semi-successful indie rock band, Tito, the young member of a Cuban "boutique" crime family, and Milgrim, an addict who has somehow fallen in with a mysterious intelligence agent called Brown. All are swept up into the search for a cargo container that keeps shuffling around the GPS grid, a search that will eventually lead them to converge in a single place.
McGuffins are nothing new to Gibson's novels, used primarily as a vehicle for exploring societal shifts, and the shipping container in Spook Country is no exception. In this case, however, he uses a McGuffin to examine the impact of computer-generated worlds on our own perception of reality, the atemporal nature of celebrity (including an interesting mediation on the trust that people are willing to invest in celebrities, who would otherwise be strangers to them), Iraq war profiteering, Bush-era paranoia and the infusion of pagan religion into contemporary Catholicism.
There is a startling array of threads and ideas spun out of Gibson's mystery shipping container, and although the ending is not as satisfying as his past works, the ideas he brings up are definite worth exploring.
This may not be Gibson's best book (I'm still partial to Virtual Light), but it's certainly an entertaining and thought-provoking of life in the mid-oughties. Definitely recommended to both old fans and novices alike.
5.0 out of 5 starsA neoclassic spy-detective work of art
Reviewed in the United States on March 13, 2008
This novel is another great piece of work by one of the truly most gifted and innovative authors writing in English for the past 25 years. Gibson's sparse, poetic style always leaves much for the reader's intelligence to fill in, consistently giving enough of a suggestion for the reader to paint the lines. Unlike the dark, futuristic sci-fi outings of his earlier novels, and more akin to his 2003 Pattern Recognition, Spook Country is set squarely in the present, a present suffused with cutting edge techno-tidbits from the world of espionage, holographs of celebrities' deaths that rely on ramped-up GPS, or the freaky lifestyle of a paranoid 3D-rendering specialist.
The heart of this story is an espionage mystery, but who is chasing whom, and to what end? The plot thickens around, on the one hand a family of Russian trained Cuban ex-pat's practicing their spy tradecraft with devotion and skill, and on the other a drug addicted kidnap victim being dragged around and controlled by a mysterious detective-type. The object of the quests of these two factions remains unknown for most of the book, but that only sweetens the mystery. There is plenty of suspense and action.
The Machiavellian uber-publisher/advertiser and seemingly omniscient manipulator from Pattern Recognition, Hubertus Bigend, puts his own horse into the race to unravel the mystery. That horse is Hollis Henry, former rock singer and aspiring journalist. The chase for what-is-sought takes us deep into the heart of motive, greed, spycraft, cultural meaning, and ultimately to a negation of the value of the object of the search. The ending, which I won't spoil, evokes that of Hammett's classic detective tale, The Maltese Falcon - also a wild search for an unknown object whose value is negated at the tale's end.
Gibson sits at a nexus that he alone seems to occupy, from he which he spins tales with deep insight into the edges of technology and their roles in shaping art, commerce, corruption, and high and not-so-high culture. And as always, he writes brilliantly.
5.0 out of 5 starsWilliam Gibson is a remarkable writer.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 18, 2021
I first read “Spook Country” thinking it was the same as Gibson’s other books and that’s how it seemed at the time. I then read it again and realised there was a lot more to it than I had noticed the first time, there was considerable depth to all the characters. They really develop as the story unfolds.
Then I had some time to read it much more slowly and carefully and it turned out to be all I have just said but it was also very, very funny. His descriptions of events were, if you read them carefully, really quite hilarious. All of the characters are so beautifully developed and yet are just unbelievably funny.
I really cannot recommend this book strong enough. It makes me want to go back read some of his other ones again and I think I’m going to have to this.
I've just finished this (my latest) William Gibson tale and loved it. His departure from the 'cyberpunk' genre in 'Pattern Recognition' is continued in this intriguing story; some of which follows 'Pattern Recognition,' but not as a sequel. 'Spook Country' is a refreshing tour of the USA with the usual, imaginative Gibson take on technology involved in, but not central to, the plot. It's probably too challenging to state a full synopsis of an ex- punk rocker trying to establish a new career as a journalist, simply because of the parallel sub-plots that fill out the story in a fascinating way. It has humour and a somewhat cynical view of life in the States, wrapped in a plot that grabbed my attention from the start and held it to the satisfying end. Gibson's mastery of the English language, as always, is a delight.
I loved it, especially having enjoyed 'Pattern Recognition' shortly before. I'd recommend 'Pattern Recognition' first to give added depth, but it's by no means essential: 'Spook Country' can stand on its own merits perfectly well. I'm looking forward to moving on to 'Mona Lisa Overdrive' next as a return to the original sci-fi series (it's in my Kindle already).
I have read all of William Gibson's books, since back when he was writing about a dystopian future heavily influenced by Japanese culture.
Some of the old Gibson is still there in this book, like separate characters converging at the end. However, the plot is thin & weak, and characters are just wandering in and out of rooms and cities without much to do or even say.
All we learn in the first 300 pages is that there is a container on a ship somewhere that interests a lot of people. It is only in the last 30 pages or so that things develop from there, when one of the shady characters decides to confide in our heroine (whom he has never seen before - huh?) and finally tells her (and us) what is going on. So now we know what is in the container and why these guys are after it, and the book ends soon afterwards. OK then.
The only character that is remotely interesting is the junkie, whose contribution to the plot is translating several sentences from a form of written Russian in latin alphabet. He is the only one with a credible inner world, thoughts and ideas. Gibson actually uses him on several occasions to voice his own thoughts on US stance on torture (blurted out when he was high), war on Iraq, etc.
In all, a disappointing book for those of us who know about Gibson's masterpieces. Perhaps he is getting old. Or maybe he should go back to writing about the future.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 29, 2014
As ever, brilliant writing, and great characters, and the central theme all spiral together into the perfect mid-tempo ending. Leaving you, sort of, well.... I could read that all over again. Right now. Starting at 5am.
Is there nothing William Gibson can't bring life to? It seems not. I've been reading his books since I read Count Zero out of sequence in 1990, and I've been hooked ever since. Amazing stuff, as always.
5.0 out of 5 starsA visionary writer, in my opinion the best of his generation
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 4, 2017
It's a book. Why would I try to (a) summarise it or (b) critique it? I am neither a professional literary reviewer nor someone who thinks his opinion of any piece of art is in any way relevant to the next person. I love William Gibson's writing, so anything I put here would be biased. I could recommend it but it may not be to your taste at all - how would I know?