About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

#22: Zero History

Zero History, by William Gibson (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2010)

"Hollis Henry worked for the global marketing magnate Hubertus Bigend once before. She never meant to repeat the experience. But she's broke, and Bigend never feels it's beneath him to use whatever power comes his way -- in this case, the power of money to bring Hollis onto his team again. Not that she knows what the 'team' is up to, not at first.

"Milgrim is even more thoroughly owned by Bigend. He's worth owning for his useful gift of seeming to disappear in almost any setting, and his Russian is perfectly idiomatic -- so much so that he spoke Russian with his therapist, in the secret Swiss clinic where Bigend paid for him to be cured of the addiction that would have killed him.

"Garreth has a passion for extreme sports. Most recently he jumped off the highest building in the world, opening his chute at the last moment, and he has a new thighbone made of rattan baked into bone, entirely experimental, to show for it. Garreth isn't owned by Bigend at all. Garreth has friends from whom he can call in the kinds of favors that a man like Bigend will find he needs, when things go unexpectedly sideways, in a world a man like Bigend is accustomed to controlling.

"As when a Department of Defense contract for combat wear turns out to be the gateway drug for arms dealers so shadowy that even Bigend, whose subtlety and power in the private sector would be hard to overstate, finds himself outmaneuvered and adrift in a seriously dangerous world."

Opening Line:
"Inchmale hailed a cab for her, the kind that had always been black, when she'd first known this city."

My Take:
A bit too much description of hotel room decor and clothing in the first few chapters; I'm a bit confused by exactly who and what everything means in this world. Maybe that's deliberate. We'll see.

Meh. I think this is the first of Gibson's oeuvre I've read, and honestly, it was a letdown. I can accept a slow-ish start in this genre; it's not what I read the majority of the time and it always seems to take me a little while to put all the who's who and who's on which side together. And the surveillance technologies were both cool and creepy, the characters at least reasonably interesting ...

But. Yeah, there's a but. Maybe I Just Didn't Get It or maybe this was the whole point, but the bad guys just, um, weren't. Hubertus Bigend, despite his awesome name, always comes off as a rich eccentric rather than someone with ill intentions. And all this skulduggery and danger around, um, getting a contract to design military or pseudo-military clothing? Frankly that seemed more than a bit of a stretch to me, and nothing in how Gibson got us there made it less so. One of those books I ended up finishing because by the time I realized it wasn't really going to get much better, it was too late not to. Definitely underwhelming, though.

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