Bought the book from iTunes on the 28th and it's on my devices waiting for me to read it. I want to savour that anticipatory glow a little bit longer. Have avoided reading reviews and detailed synopses and all I know for certain is that the book is a stylistic departure from The Dismal One's previous nine novels. But I ran a few words through the search function to see how many hits were returned. (Hit count only words found in the body of the novel.)
A selection of common brand names: 0 Common illicit intoxicants: 0 Manhatan: 1 New York: 0 London: quite a few, Vanvouver: 0, American: quite a few
Saw a note in the recent GQ re Senor Gibson's less than stellar experience of the original Woodstock...an odd and lightning rod topic, not unlike the 1959 Gibson Les Paul (ie, there were 1200 of these made by Gibson, and so far, 4,000 have been found in California alone--)--so the numbers of actual attendance at Yasgur's Farm varies according to who you talk to. Joni didn't make it, but wrote a song. Evidently, there was too much mud and not enough music for some. I ws there working for Michael Lang, but spend much of the tine passing out rubber checks to performers, which was embarrassing. And...where were you?
Cayce Pollard has a phobia of certain product brand labels that produces a physical reaction. She only wears clothing with the labels carefully removed. This phobia is not all down side, however, the book opens with Cayce in London on a five figure contract for the Blue Ant agency as a "coolhunter". After one glance at a new logo, she says it doesn't "work". The Blue Ant people ask her to remain in London for a short time while they rework the logo. Cayce realizes this process must have earned her an enemy in the person of one Dorotea Benedetti, the liaison with the designer. Horrible little things begin to happen that could only be attributed to Dorotea, though Cayce can prove nothing.
In her down time, Cayce is involved in a small global community of enthusiasts who follow and discuss the "Footage", which is dozens of extraordinary video files that appear at random places on the Web, each one no longer than a minute, with no coherent narrative. The founder of Blue Ant has also heard of the Footage, he considers it a brilliant breakthrough in guerilla marketing and wants Cayce to help him find the maker of the film fragments. He makes nearly unlimited resources available to aid Cayce in her search, but it is her friends in the chat room, especially "Parkaboy", who get the first lead. They have discovered that the Footage is watermarked with steganography, obviously to track where the files go on the web. And a footage-head named Taki in Tokyo claims to have extracted an encrypted number from one of the files, in a bid to impress "Keiko", a completely fictional female persona created by Darrell in San Francisco. Now that they have caught Taki, they need to reel him in. To do this, Parkaboy and Darrell enlist a Japanese-American bartender named Judy to create a semi-pornographic image of Taki's dream girl, and Cayce flies to Japan with the image to make the trade.
Taki has no social skills whatsoever, and the meeting with Cayce makes him nervous almost to the point of death, but he offers up the twelve digits, and Cayce hands over the "Keiko" image, but the deal makes her feel sad and ashamed. Cayce goes into the ladies' room, writes the number on her hand, and when she comes back out, Taki is gone. Stepping outside the bar, she is accosted by two men dressed in black. Cayce pulls the face of one man into her skull, a move that very nearly kills him, and stomps on the foot of the other man. A retainer for Blue Ant named Boone Chu pulls up in a scooter to help her get away. In an alley they give their jackets to a pair of Yakuza toughs on another scooter, who circle back to where they came from to provide a diversion so Cayce can escape.
Parkaboy emails Cayce and says that the "psychosexual cruise missile that is Judy, tweaked, has found its mark". Taki has posted 135 twelve-digit numbers, one for each fragment of Footage, and the numbers create a map in the shape of the letter "T". The chatroom is abuzz. Meanwhile Judy has discovered what they have done to Taki and has taken pity on him. She wants to make direct contact with Tali, and send more pictures, otherwise she'll blow the whole operation. Cayce encourages Parkaboy to let Judy have her way, and is actually glad someone else is pissed off about what happened to Taki. But Cayce has discovered something big closer to home, the man she messed up in Tokyo is the driver for Dorotea, and worse, Dorotea now works for Bigend. Cayce is angry enough to nearly quit, but Bigend manages to calm her down until Dorotea makes her confession. She was working for a Russian who had burglarized the office of Cayce's shrink, obtaining sufficient information for Dorotea to attempt to make Cayce uncomfortable enough to refuse the job with Blue Ant. The two goons in Tokyo worked for this Russian too. Someone thinks Cayce is getting too close.
Through her contacts in London, Cayce learns about one Hobbs Baranov, a mathematician formerly employed by the NSA who, it is suggested, was instrumental in the creation of the Echelon system that monitors all Internet traffic, but now, in his retirement, lives in a little trailer and deals in rare mechanical calculators manufactured in the 1940s. He is a singularly unpleasant man who is even more sore lately, having lost an auction for the fourth such calculator ever made. Cayce proposes to buy the calculator with Bigend's credit card, but only if he can use his connections to discover what email address a certain company sends the video files after they encrypt the numbers. She leaves a photo of the T-shaped map on the table with the 135 numbers.
In a surprisingly short period of time, Baranov obtains the email address, and Cayce makes the trade. She writes an emotional appeal to the creator of the footage, mentioning the loss of her father in the WTC bombing, letting the artist know how important the film fragments have become to her and many other people. She writes that Parkaboy thinks the creator is dreaming for them. Cayce says her search has become a scary adventure, and begs to know who they are, where they are, and if they are real. She has made the connection. The reply says they have lost their father by a bomb, mother too. They mention they are in Moscow. They ask how Cayce obtained the address. And they ask who are these people who are interested in the segments of the work.
Cayce is excited and embarks on a flight to Moscow. Parkaboy emails her and reveals that the proportions of the "T" matches a component of a US Army Claymore mine. Cayce puts him in touch with Blue Ant so he can fly to Moscow too, she says she needs him there with her, because she may be very close to learning everything. She gives him the mystery email address because at that point only Cayce had it. In Moscow, Cayce is contacted by the owner of the email address, Stella Volkova, and they meet for coffee. She is not the maker of the footage, but the sister of the maker, who is Nora. Stella is, however, the one who share's Nora's work with the world. The same bomb that killed their parents also hurt Nora very badly. They are protected by the security apparat of their uncle, a very rich man in the world of organized crime, but when Cayce spoke of how her father died on 9-11 she believed that Cayce would not hurt them.
The next day Stella takes Cayce to visit Nora and watch her work. There is a T-shaped fragment of a Claymore mine buried in her head, in a place where it would kill her if anyone tried to remove it. Nora is almost completely isolated, and lives solely through her work. For three hours Cayce watches the outline of the next segment of footage being created on an LCD screen, frame-by-frame. Cayce knows she has found the source of her digital Nile and she leaves in tears.
Before Cayce can check out of her hotel she is accosted by Dorotea, who steers her to a bar and orders Perrier water. Dorotea says she knows Cayce found the maker, and she says Volkov's people know too, the people who employ her. Soon Andrei Volkov will know, and will consider Cayce a danger because she has met his neices. Dorotea wants to know how Cayce got the email address. She reveals that she is Mama Anarchia, her nemesis on the footage chatroom, and she's been on to Cayce ever since the day Cayce speculated the makers might be associated with the Russian mob. The water Cayce has been drinking is loaded with something similar to a date-rape drug. Dorotea expects that Cayce will now be compliant and reveal the source of the email address. But Cayce has a paradoxical reaction to the drug and messes Dorotea up at least as badly as the mugger in Tokyo, though she will not remember any of it.
She wakes up two days later in something that resembles a hospital, or a prison, in the middle of a barren wasteland, and simply walks out until it grows dark and cold. She is found with night-vision goggles by a helicopter pilot and met by Parkaboy, who says he emailed Stella after they hauled Cayce away on a gurney and told her what happened, and that he was a friend. Thirty minutes later he was rushed through Moscow to some very high-end real estate to meet Stella, her uncle, Bigend, and the Chinese hacker, Boone Chu, who had hacked her hotmail.
The helicopter takes Parkaboy and Cayce back to the "prison" which Parkaboy reveals is the CGI render farm for the Footage. Bigend is glad Peter found her and relieved that Cayce is well. Bigend and Andrei Volkov, the wealhiest man in Russia, have become partners, if not friends. Andrei had been obsessed with protecting his neices, and the mechanism he put in place for that did not mesh entirely with Stella's desire to make Nora's work public, and all of Cayce's recent troubles stemmed from that. The software they used to track the footage flagged Blue Ant's interest in the Footage, and that's why Dorotea was ordered to disrupt Cayce's relationship with Bigend. Cayce is pressed by Bigend and Andrei's security chief on how she got the email address and she answers in such a way that both conclude it was a friend of her father's with access to Eschelon.
Later, Cayce and Parkaboy have become a couple, and Cayce has discovered that she no longer has her allergy to trademarks, perhaps a side effect of the drug Dorotea gave her. She wonders if it also means her work as a coolhunter is impossible. Judy Tsuzuki has flown to Tokyo to be with Taki and at the bidding of Cayce she is employed by Blue Ant there. Cayce has sent some money and information provided by Volkov's group that will allow her mother to have Win Pollard declared legally dead, which will clear the way for the life insurance and the pension money to come through.
The current Wikipedia entry on Spook Country contains the following nugget:
The identity of the old man remains unclear, though context implies that he may be Pattern Recognition's protagonist Cayce Pollard's father, having removed himself from the channels of normal life to focus on disrupting what he sees as criminal elements operating in the United States Government.
This is an interesting speculation that would fit within the principle of Occam's Razor as applied to writing, do not multiply characters needlessly. However, from what we know in the following book with respect to the Ugly T-Shirt, he still has friends in high places and markers to call in. If he had faked his death to protect his family, then he could not resort to obtaining those favors, since two men can keep a secret if one is dead.
Hollis Henry, lead singer for the now defunct alt.rock band The Curfew, and a former drug addict and Columbia-educated linguist named Milgrim find themselves in London working for advertising magnate Hubertus Bigend, unaware that their lives previously crossed in Spook Country.
One of Bigend’s current interests is fashion, particularly the intersection between street wear, work wear and military clothing. Milgrim is sent to South Carolina to take photographs of a pair of Army BDUs where he gains the notice of a federal agent named Winnie Tung Whittaker employed by DCIS. Winnie photographs Milgrim and intimidates him into working as an informant.
Bigend asks Henry and Milgrim to investigate a secret brand of clothing named Gabriel Hounds after an obscure English legend. At the same time, he becomes aware that a coup is being plotted within his company, Blue Ant. When Milgrim realizes his cell phone is being tracked by rogue elements in Blue Ant, he slips the phone into a pram belonging to the moll of a member of the Russian mob, which leads to one of the mercenaries involved in the coup, who followed the pram, being captured and beaten. Revenge against Milgrim then becomes the top priority of the mercs.
A parallel subplot follows Hollis as she tracks down the Gabriel Hounds designer, strongly implied but not expressly stated to be Cayce Pollard, the protagonist of Pattern Recognition. Joined by her boyfriend Garreth, the mysterious daredevil featured in Spook Country who had been severely injured in a BASE jump, Hollis Henry offers to help Bigend gain the release of Bobby Chombo, who has been captured by the mercenaries to force Bigend to swap him for Milgrim, but as part of the deal, Bigend must allow the Hounds designer to remain anonymous. Bobby Chombo is absolutely critical to Bigend’s plan to gain the ability to foresee stock market prices by a number of minutes. Events reach a climax at night in an open space in London named Wormwood Scrubs where the mercs demand the prisoner exchange to take place.
Zero History concludes a trilogy of contemporary novels written by Gibson using what he calls his speculative-fiction “toolkit”, making them just as enjoyable from a literary standpoint as Neuromancer or Idoru (Gibson’s descriptive prose and plotting is unassailable) while totally immune from being overtaken by real world technology and events. That these books are just as bewildering as his previous two trilogies set much further up the timeline says very much about the times we live in, a world of constant future shock. Fact has become stranger than science fiction.