Spook Country - Far from Gibson's Best: a Review

Burning Chrome, William Gibson's 1994 collection of short stories, is on fire. Here, Gibson's literary pyrotechnics are dazzling - and every story is a masterpiece: lean, stark, gritty, vivid and haunting.

"Johnny Mnemonic" is probably the single greatest literary source from which the Matrix is drawn, and in "Burning Chrome", Gibson invented the term cyberspace, now part of the everyday English lexicon.

"Dogfight" is devastating and beautiful, as profound and pretty as a D. H. Lawrence short. And "The Winter Market" serves up unforgettable characters. In fact, there isn't a single turkey in the entire, peerless collection. It's undoubtedly destined to be recognized as a literary classic.

But I've come to the reluctant conclusion that Gibson is simply not at his best writing full-length novels.

Read the rest here:

Original Post
Are you living in the XXIst century?

First of all, Burning Chrome was published in 1986, and like all the literature from the 80s, it is showing its age. Now, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but the only writers that keep writing as they did when they were young are those who only write the same novel, time and time again. So when you say you stopped liking his books in 1993 (Virtual Light), you seem to be looking for something he is no longer interested in writing. Considering that he has always written about the present (Neuromancer being a blend of Reagan, Gates and Reed), maybe you need a different present. Or stop feeling nostalgia.

Your review then is weakened by your particular view of the science fiction genre as a particularly limited continuum, in part because Tom Clancy would disagree with you, in part because William Gibson would also disagree with you (he defines what he has written this century as speculative fiction of the near past), but mainly because you ignore the biggest bulk of what is self referenced as Science Fiction, from Space Opera, with political (Banks, McLeod), military (most ex-military Sci-fi writers) or technological (Egan, Reynolds) bents, to hard close extrapolation (Stross, Cadigan, Williams), and there to escapist science as fantasy, like Harry Harrison. So your comment would be like saying you do not like Tolkien because it is not enough like Howard's Conan, while ignoring almost anything written in the last fifty years.

To be fair, here is my own Spook Country review (four stars of five):

William Gibson always wrote about the present, but now he wants us to really see it.

Although it resembles superficially a standard thriller, this book is much more ambitious. It also tries to showcase some of what is wrong in the USA, while making a serious effort to remain cool, artistic and full of insights on where technology and people will evolve certain applications, from GPS to wireless internet, from hotels to cars.

He has gone back to his often used differing viewpoints, three main characters. In a way, one looks to the past and explains why we are where we are, another looks inside, at why things change, as we change (and is the only character that can really say to evolve), and the last one just sees the outside, plays witness to the plot, the modernity, the tech, while remaining mostly untouched by it all.

As usual with Gibson, it is the secondary characters who really drive the story and get the best literary moments. I hope we meet some of them again, in what is (again) starting to look as a trilogy, paired with his previous novel, Pattern Recognition.

It does not get five stars because two of the main characters do not really fly, despite all the support from the secondary characters, and too much exposition rather than the clipped descriptions he has us used to. It is supposed to be a book to google things about, but instead, at times, he gives us his own google results, breaking the spell.
I thought I was, my good sir. I have a blog, in which I post reviews, and, since this seemed particularly germane to Mr. Gibson's forums, I wanted to share it.

I'm not sure I'd say Mr. Gibson's novels are "lesser" creations, I just think his pacing is far more natural and exciting in short story form. I feel like he loses a lot of passion in novel format, at least of late.

That in no way diminishes my deep respect for his formidable intellect. I have, after all, read nearly everything he's published in the mainstream.

It's entirely possible I'm too lowbrow to fully appreciate his longer works, but I do enjoy liberal doses of action.
From the top of my head, good writers if you want what Gibson no longer writes are Walter Jon Williams, George Alec Effinger, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, the early Richard Morgan (Kovacs trilogy), and of course the early Stephenson. If you want the feeling of future shock, Ian McDonald's River of Gods and Dervish House, or Charles Stross' Accelerando or Halting State.

I am sure there are others I have not read or not enjoyed (Pat Cadigan comes to mind).

Ipso facto half not bee
I'm not slaggin' you Eric - I just love that Monty Python song-

"Half a bee, philosophically
Must, ipso facto, half not be
But half the bee has got to be
A vis-a-vis its entity, d'you see?

But can a bee be said to be
Or not to be an entire bee
When half the bee is not a bee
Due to some ancient injury?
A-laa dee dee, a-one two three
Eric, the half a bee
A, B, C, D, E, F, G
Eric, the half a bee

Is this wretched demi-bee
Half asleep upon my knee
Some freak from a menagerie?
No! It's Eric, the half a bee

A-fiddle de dum, a-fiddle de dee
Eric, the half a bee
Hoh hoh hoh, tee hee hee
Eric, the half a bee

I love this hive employee
Bisected accidentally
One summer afternoon, by me
I love him carnally

He loves him carnally
The end

Cyril Connolly?
No, semi-carnally
Cyril Connelly"

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