William Gibson: ‘Zero History’
So, the Masters is coming to an end, with my dissertation due to be handed in in one weeks time. All that is left to do is write a 1000 word conclusion, and fiddle around a bit with the formatting. However, instead of doing this, I have been reading George Martins A Song of Ice and Fire series (In which George Martin has created a new genre: Protagonist Snuff). I have also, as if 5 brick-thick fantasy novels were not procrastination enough, read the conclusion of William Gibson’s ‘Bigend’ trilogy, the first of which was required reading on the Postmodernism module of my MA. The final installment in the trilogy is, happily, a very good finish to the series. Hollis Henry returns, this time hired against her will by the Blue Ant Advertising Agency to find the designer of a ‘secret’ fashion label which produces extremely high quality denim called ‘Gabriel Hounds’. This time, she has both a reformed and reforming Milgrim in tow (The drug addled petty crook from Spook Country), as well as a highly strung Heidi, ex drummer for Hollis’ formative band, The Curfew. Other than this, the novel features a cast of characters whose motivation and actions lie largely outside the frame of the narrative, allowing the reader to feel the same doubt, suspicion and paranoia of being followed and manipulated by shadowy figures of dubious professionalism that plagues the main characters.
The action is tighter and more fast paced than in Spook Country, although it lacks some of the SF’nal trappings and technological dazzle of the preceding novels. The ending is particularly pleasing, with the tale both coming full circle, and the displaced centre coming finally and unexpectedly to the fore. Bigend’s apotheosis is both unlikely and beautiful, with the man who has managed to monetize his curiosity becoming a likeable yet suspiciously unpleasant, larger than life character both inside and outside the novel. Indeed, the term ‘Bigendian’ is, in some circles, coming not to refer Swift’s quarrelsome egg eaters, but to a form of innovative viral marketing that manages to exploit the best and most marketable aspect of a niche community in the service of rampant capitalism.
Overall a wonderful save after the lacklustre Spook Country. It is perhaps also worth me dropping a link here to Node magazine; a website originally devoted to a hyperlink version of the text of Spook Country named after a fictional magazine inside the novel (making it doubly fictional – get your semiotic teeth into that, then go read The Name of the Rose by Eco with a brain mop handy because yours will dribble out your ears).