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Spook Country (Blue Ant) Paperback – March 3, 2009
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• spook (spo͞ok) n.: A specter; a ghost. Slang for “intelligence agent.”
• country (ˈkən-trē) n.: In the mind or in reality. The World. The United States of America, New Improved Edition. What lies before you. What lies behind.
• spook country (spo͞ok ˈkən-trē) n.: The place where we all have landed, few by choice. The place we are learning to live.
Hollis Henry is a journalist, on investigative assignment for a magazine called Node, which doesn’t exist yet. Bobby Chombo apparently does exist, as a producer. But in his day job, Bobby is a troubleshooter for military navigation equipment. He refuses to sleep in the same place twice. He meets no one. And Hollis Henry has been told to find him...
“A devastatingly precise reflection of the American zeitgeist.”—The Washington Post Book World
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“Arguably the first example of the post-post-9/11 novel, whose characters are tired of being pushed around by forces larger than they are—bureaucracy, history and, always, technology—and are at long last ready to start pushing back.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Like Pynchon and DeLillo, Gibson excels at pinpointing the hidden forces that shape our world.”—Details
“[A] dazed, mournful quality…[An] evocation of post-9/11 displacement, the sense of a world in which nothing seems fixed or reassuring…one of our vital novelists.”—Newsday
“Although wearing the trappings of a thriller, Spook Country is essentially a comedy, albeit a dry, dark, and disturbing one.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“A fitful, fast-forward spy tale...It’s to Gibson’s credit that he weaves his strands of disparate narrators, protagonists and foils, and his panoply of far-forward technology, into a vivid, suspenseful and ultimately coherent tale.”—USA Today
“Part thriller, part spy novel, part speculative fiction, Gibson’s provocative work is like nothing you have ever read before.”—Library Journal
“Set in the same high-tech present day as Pattern Recognition, Gibson’s fine ninth novel offers startling insights into our paranoid and often fragmented postmodern world....Compelling characters and crisp action sequences, plus the author’s trademark metaphoric language, help make this one of Gibson’s best.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Gibson excels as usual in creating an off-kilter atmosphere of vague menace.”—Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
- Publisher : Berkley; Reprint edition (March 3, 2009)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 512 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0425226719
- ISBN-13 : 978-0425226711
- Item Weight : 10.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.3 x 1.07 x 7.47 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #548,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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Spook Country follows three characters -- Hollis, the former lead singer of a semi-successful indie rock band, Tito, the young member of a Cuban "boutique" crime family, and Milgrim, an addict who has somehow fallen in with a mysterious intelligence agent called Brown. All are swept up into the search for a cargo container that keeps shuffling around the GPS grid, a search that will eventually lead them to converge in a single place.
McGuffins are nothing new to Gibson's novels, used primarily as a vehicle for exploring societal shifts, and the shipping container in Spook Country is no exception. In this case, however, he uses a McGuffin to examine the impact of computer-generated worlds on our own perception of reality, the atemporal nature of celebrity (including an interesting mediation on the trust that people are willing to invest in celebrities, who would otherwise be strangers to them), Iraq war profiteering, Bush-era paranoia and the infusion of pagan religion into contemporary Catholicism.
There is a startling array of threads and ideas spun out of Gibson's mystery shipping container, and although the ending is not as satisfying as his past works, the ideas he brings up are definite worth exploring.
This may not be Gibson's best book (I'm still partial to Virtual Light), but it's certainly an entertaining and thought-provoking of life in the mid-oughties. Definitely recommended to both old fans and novices alike.
The heart of this story is an espionage mystery, but who is chasing whom, and to what end? The plot thickens around, on the one hand a family of Russian trained Cuban ex-pat's practicing their spy tradecraft with devotion and skill, and on the other a drug addicted kidnap victim being dragged around and controlled by a mysterious detective-type. The object of the quests of these two factions remains unknown for most of the book, but that only sweetens the mystery. There is plenty of suspense and action.
The Machiavellian uber-publisher/advertiser and seemingly omniscient manipulator from Pattern Recognition, Hubertus Bigend, puts his own horse into the race to unravel the mystery. That horse is Hollis Henry, former rock singer and aspiring journalist. The chase for what-is-sought takes us deep into the heart of motive, greed, spycraft, cultural meaning, and ultimately to a negation of the value of the object of the search. The ending, which I won't spoil, evokes that of Hammett's classic detective tale, The Maltese Falcon - also a wild search for an unknown object whose value is negated at the tale's end.
Gibson sits at a nexus that he alone seems to occupy, from he which he spins tales with deep insight into the edges of technology and their roles in shaping art, commerce, corruption, and high and not-so-high culture. And as always, he writes brilliantly.
Top reviews from other countries
Then I had some time to read it much more slowly and carefully and it turned out to be all I have just said but it was also very, very funny. His descriptions of events were, if you read them carefully, really quite hilarious. All of the characters are so beautifully developed and yet are just unbelievably funny.
I really cannot recommend this book strong enough. It makes me want to go back read some of his other ones again and I think I’m going to have to this.
I loved it, especially having enjoyed 'Pattern Recognition' shortly before. I'd recommend 'Pattern Recognition' first to give added depth, but it's by no means essential: 'Spook Country' can stand on its own merits perfectly well. I'm looking forward to moving on to 'Mona Lisa Overdrive' next as a return to the original sci-fi series (it's in my Kindle already).
Some of the old Gibson is still there in this book, like separate characters converging at the end. However, the plot is thin & weak, and characters are just wandering in and out of rooms and cities without much to do or even say.
All we learn in the first 300 pages is that there is a container on a ship somewhere that interests a lot of people. It is only in the last 30 pages or so that things develop from there, when one of the shady characters decides to confide in our heroine (whom he has never seen before - huh?) and finally tells her (and us) what is going on. So now we know what is in the container and why these guys are after it, and the book ends soon afterwards. OK then.
The only character that is remotely interesting is the junkie, whose contribution to the plot is translating several sentences from a form of written Russian in latin alphabet. He is the only one with a credible inner world, thoughts and ideas. Gibson actually uses him on several occasions to voice his own thoughts on US stance on torture (blurted out when he was high), war on Iraq, etc.
In all, a disappointing book for those of us who know about Gibson's masterpieces. Perhaps he is getting old. Or maybe he should go back to writing about the future.
Is there nothing William Gibson can't bring life to? It seems not. I've been reading his books since I read Count Zero out of sequence in 1990, and I've been hooked ever since. Amazing stuff, as always.
I love William Gibson's writing, so anything I put here would be biased. I could recommend it but it may not be to your taste at all - how would I know?