Zero History by William Gibson – review

As mentioned in my review of Spook Country, I recently decided to catch up on William Gibson’s more recent work.

Spook Country and Zero History form a loose trilogy with one of Mr Gibson’s earlier works Pattern Recognition, which I read long enough ago to have completely forgotten the plot to. Fortunately each book seems to stand fairly independently.

Zero History is told from the perspective of two main characters, both of whom featured in Spook Country:

  • Hollis Henry, a former rock star and writer, still somewhat down on her luck and again running short of money (mostly it seems because of her decision to live in a ludicrously expensive hotel).
  • Milgrim, an expensively detoxed drug addict trying to pull the threads of his life together.

The plot involves both characters finding themselves in the employment of the somewhat enigmatic Bigend, this time searching for a elusive secret brand of clothing. By the end of the book, you are a long way from where you started but the quality of writing kept me in the willing suspense of disbelief zone.

Each short chapter alternates between Hollis and Milgrim’s point of view. This time I took my own advice and read the book in longer bursts, which did make the story flow a lot better.

Like Spook Country, there is not a lot of science fiction in Zero History. There were no real fantastical elements at all in the story (unlike the description of systema in Spook Country). Current technology is pushed to plausible but extreme limits. Again, the story in very explicitly of its time – the difference from Spook Country is that my reading happened while the technology is still fresh. I still have the same concerns about longevity, but I found myself not being distracted as much by dated references to products and brands.

The plot was much more compelling – it seemed to build much more satisfyingly to a conclusion. The last 20% or so of the book kept me hooked in and I read it in one session.

Overall I had a very pleasurable reading experience on this one, and would recommend it. If you’ve read Pattern Recognition and/or Spook Country you’ll know if you’ll enjoy this book though – it has a very similar style to it.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

Author: mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good. OK, sometimes good.

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