Aug 12, 2008

Count Zero by William Gibson

Count Zero

I feel like I've read the Sprawl series as a set of flashbacks. I started with the most recent, Mona Lisa Overdrive, slammed all the way back to Nueromancer, and then wound up filling in the final blanks in the middle. I don't know if it's because I have all the pieces now or just the way this one was put together, but Count Zero is my favorite of the three. (The only big flaw being the complete lack of Molly).

But what's not to like? Corporate rule may be my "favorite" form of dystopia in fiction - it's just so god damned possible these days - and Gibson loves it as much as I do. There's less out and out techbabble and more story (necessary, I guess, when you have at least three plot lines tangling up together and no dearth of worthwhile characters to follow) - although, as usual with the godfather of cyberpunk, most of the techy stuff is right on the nose some 20+ years later.

From what I understand, the reason Gibson let his image of the internet wander so far is that he really didn't have much of a clue about computers when he started writing these things. He heard a few things about it, came up with ideas that sounded cool to him, and went with it. That's how he wound up presenting us with steampunk computers and fractured AI personalities mimicking Vodun spirits and the web itself as a sort of shared hallucination of infinite space and possibility. He didn't know what was considered impossible, so he went ahead and invented it anyway.

Having finished all three of his Sprawl novels, I'd like to see a book of short stories by different authors set in that vast urban landscape. Jack Womack, China Miéville, maybe even someone like Haruki Murakami. Just an idea.

final thought: Putting aside his agile story-telling, his amazing tech predictions, and his ability at world-building, you know what I really do appreciate about Gibson? He offers a sort of hope for his characters at the end, and us through them. Not everyone makes it, but those who do are often better off, thanks to dumb luck and their own effort, at the end than they are at the beginning. And after 8 months of nearly unmitigated dark resolutions, that's something worth having.


John M. said...

Right on.

I recently re-read all of Gibson's books, (except for The Difference Engine) and Count Zero still stands up and remains my favorite.

It has well-developed and believable characters, a good story arc and a decent ending. The integrity of the environment was solid. The tech and the brand-name-dropping didn't take me out of the story like some of his other books.

downtown guy said...

Exactly. If I was going to suggest someone try him out, I'd set them on this book first.

B.E. Earl said...

I've never read Gibson, so maybe I will start with this one.

I finally got around to reading Disch's "The Genocides" last night. Short book, but pretty good. Took a few turns I wasn't expecting.

downtown guy said...

Cool. I'm looking forward to finding a copy.

B.E. Earl said...

My local library had it.

I'm reading Newton's Wake by Ken MacLeod next.

downtown guy said...

I don't think I know about that one.

B.E. Earl said...

I don't know if it fits in with your current reading habits. It's sci-fi and recent (won a Hugo in 2006, I think), but not sure if its dystopian. Haven't started it yet.

downtown guy said...

Well, let me know how it goes.