Spook Country Reviewed

I gloated about receiving Spook Country but I never got around to reviewing it. So let's remedy that, shall we?

For once I don't have to babble about sequels and what I'm going to spoil and what I'm not. Although SC is loosely tied to Pattern Recognition it's not really necessary to read PR before SC. If you've read PR there are a few points where you go "Aha, I get that reference." but you won't be lost if you haven't.

I mentioned in the previous post that I frequently find it a struggle to empathize with Gibson characters and that SC aggravates this by having three POV (Point Of View) characters. I have to admit I never did establish any rapport for one of the main characters (Milgrim) and that was a problem for me.

Overall, I'm not thrilled with Spook Country. It's an alright read, but it may be my least favorite Gibson book. There are several problems I had with it. First off, there's a plot thread running through it that involves virtual reality gear and it feels a little too much like somebody trying to write Gibson, if that makes sense. Part of the problem is that it's set very specifically in 2006, and that means he's got no wiggle room for the technology. It's not a question of suspension of disbelief, it's a question of whether he nails the historical information and I didn't really feel he that he did.

Second, this is the second Gibson book to have a lot of oblique references to September 11th. In PR it was still sort of a fresh thing to deal with in fiction. Not anymore. I used to like to watch Dennis Miller when he was on HBO, but I think he was permanently broken by 9/11. I kept thinking of Miller while reading SC - I really hope the next Gibson book doesn't mention 9/11 at all. In PR it worked and there was a unique plot thread tied to it. In SC it feels to me like he's just gotten . . . stuck somehow.

Lastly, I don't think I like GIbson writing contemporary fiction. He's not a technologist, he's actually sort of famously almost-Luddite - the whole thing about writing on a typewriter well after everyone else went digital and so forth. I accepted the modern setting in Pattern Recognition because it was a strong story. I'd argue that what Gibson does well is to evoke foreign places and extrapolate trends. He nails how London appears to an American in PR. I've never been to Japan but everyone who has tells me that his Tokyo is incredibly authentic. Moving into cyberspace (to be a little 1984'ish for a moment - fitting when discussing Gibson) his description of online forums in PR is just perfect. But for me Spook Country doesn't cover foreign cities, it's all New York or L.A. I was dubious about the modern setting when I started PR, but it won me over. Oddly enough that process was reversed for SC - I went in expecting another Pattern Recognition and got something . . . less.

Again, not bad but not what I hoped it would be either. I don't want to sound too down on it, I enjoyed reading Spook Country. I was just hoping for great and I got OK.

Blogged with Flock

Tags: , , ,