Spook Country: Weakest in Gibson’s Bigend trilogy

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsscience fiction book reviews William Gibson Bigend Trilogy Spook CountrySpook Country by William Gibson

William Gibson’s Spook Country is set in the same universe as Pattern Recognition, but Hubertus Bigend aside, there is little here that recalls its predecessor. Spook Country is perhaps the weakest entry in Gibson’s Bigend trilogy.

Where Pattern Recognition was told from Cayce Pollard’s point of view, Spook Country is divided between three plotlines that only barely touch each other. Hollis Henry, who was once the lead singer of a rock band, is trying to make it as a journalist, and she has been hired by Hubertus Bigend to look into “locative art” technology. Milgrim is an addict and a translator of Russian. Trained in the Russian martial art systema, Tito delivers files to retired spies on behalf of his uncles.

These characters are caught up in designs that they are only barely able to perceive. This is an America where it’s difficult to find the information that allows people to connect the dots of daily life. Only the rich, the powerful, and the retired spies (spooks) seem to have any idea of what’s being done in America’s name. And one of them isn’t very happy with what he sees.

Spook Country is not a novel that will reward readers looking for a clear and thrilling plot. While Cayce Pollard of Pattern Recognition made for a fascinating protagonist, none of her three successors is fit to fill her “Cayce Pollard Unit” shoes. Readers should instead focus on the subtly paranoid atmosphere that Gibson crafts in the background. And sentence-to-sentence, Gibson’s writing is as sharp as ever.

In the world that Gibson has created in the Bigend series, the citizenry is hopelessly uninformed — and incapable of changing their lot. As such, the most exciting things in Spook Country are restricted, and we only barely glimpse them. It can be frustrating, which is why Spook Country is ultimately a novel for the already converted.

Spook Country — (2007) Publisher: Tito is in his early twenties. Born in Cuba, he speaks fluent Russian, lives in one room in a NoLita warehouse, and does delicate jobs involving information transfer. Hollis Henry is an investigative journalist, on assignment from a magazine called Node. Node doesn’t exist yet, which is fine; she’s used to that. But it seems to be actively blocking the kind of buzz that magazines normally cultivate before they start up. Really actively blocking it. It’s odd, even a little scary, if Hollis lets herself think about it much. Which she doesn’t; she can’t afford to. Milgrim is a junkie. A high-end junkie, hooked on prescription antianxiety drugs. Milgrim figures he wouldn’t survive twenty-four hours if Brown, the mystery man who saved him from a misunderstanding with his dealer, ever stopped supplying those little bubble packs. What exactly Brown is up to Milgrim can’t say, but it seems to be military in nature. At least, Milgrim’s very nuanced Russian would seem to be a big part of it, as would breaking into locked rooms. Bobby Chombo is a “producer,” and an enigma. In his day job, Bobby is a troubleshooter for manufacturers of military navigation equipment. He refuses to sleep in the same place twice. He meets no one. Hollis Henry has been told to find him.

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RYAN SKARDAL, on our staff from September 2010 to November 2018, is an English teacher who reads widely but always makes time for SFF.

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