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on September 1, 2007
I have always been a fan of Gibson's, and so I was surprised by some of the negative reviews of this book-- and even more surprised now that I've read it! Gibson's writing hallmarks are here-- deft characterization, gorgeous writing, a way of presenting the world of (as one reviewer put it) product placement through a new perspective. In this book, echoes of other characters can be found-- musician-turned-journalist Hollis reminded me of Marly, and tranquillizer-addict Milgrim drifts through his experiences with a distance much like Laney's in Idoru. What's changed, however, is that instead of projecting his story into the future, it's set in a present-day which is as much science-fiction to most people as the future could be-- a world where wartime corruption, Malay straits pirates, artists working in GPS, and Ativan addicts come together and drift apart again. Gibson himself pokes fun at his own Neuromancer vision of VR, and suggests that we are all doing it now-- just without the gloves and goggles. This book was clever, thought-provoking, and surprisingly gentle in the end, with its characters and also with its vision of our (possibly not all that bleak) world, with lots of possibilities for redemption or at least continuing forward-- and, I thought, well-paced from beginning to end.

One warning: a lot of the reviews below, esp. the negative ones, have spoilers in them.
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VINE VOICEon September 15, 2007
Gibson's Pattern Recognition is brilliant, Spook Country is not. While not a particularly awful book, it's just not a very good one. Gibson tries to tell 3 disconnected stories in parallel - a narrative device that never seems to really connect. When the 3 story lines of the novel do finally collide, the payoff is so weak and anticlimactic that it makes the arduous journey through this book feel even more worthless.

There are some interesting moments in Spook Country and some good characters, but just when you start to connect with them Gibson yanks them away. The problem here is focus, Gibson seems
to be trying to do too much in Spook Country and he isn't able to do all of it well. Had he picked one thread and developed it better he would have had a much better book.

I bought this book in Hardcover right when it was released with the expectations that it would be in the league of Patter Recognition. Unfortunately it isn't. I won't completely warn people off this book because there are so many books out there that are much worse. But I don't feel like I particularly got my moneys worth.
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on September 17, 2007
I've read everything William Gibson has written, and I guess that in and of itself betrays that I like his work. He has a sort of detached writing style, reminding me of "Blade Runner" or "L.A. Confidential." The characters don't reveal much of themselves, and sometimes their material possessions seem more important than how they feel and who they are.

Spook Country was the hardest book to read of Gibson's, a very difficult read. Is he getting obsessive-compulsive? Try the shoehorning on page 71: "Inchmale understood it, though, and indeed had championed it, as soon as it was digitally possible pulling guitar lines out of obscure garage chestnuts and stretching them, like a mad jeweler elongating sturdy Victorian tableware into something insectile, post-functionally fragile, and neurologically dangerous." Really?

On the other hand, some of the descriptive verbage to me borders on genius - 126, "The Frankfort School, as they'd called themselves, had wasted no time in plunging their intellectual ovipositors repeatedly into the unsuspecting body of old-school American academia."

So you have to realy like William Gibson - which I do - to fight your way through a difficult but enjoyable read.
Pierce Scranton M.D.
author, "Death on the Learning Curve"
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on September 24, 2007
Gibson is back with his tradmark use of language to set mood and feeling, but he laid it on a bit thick in this one.

Early in the book, the words were so thick in meanings that I found it hard to focus on the plot. The characters were so opaque that I felt like I was wading through mud.

But I got past that, and once I was into the swing of the book and the rythem of the words, I was hooked. The characters reveal themselves slowly, like opening flowers, into fully realized people with lives and goals that swing from the mundane to the complusive.

The plot is slow at first, but then picks up. Everyone seems to be focussed on a mysterious cago container containing...well, something. Most of the characters who take the rotating narration are unaware of what's going on, but become important to the other players in their quest for the container.

In the end, the overall story is surprisingly low key, but the process to get there was worth it.
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on September 20, 2007
Okay, let's start by acknowledging the truth: you are going to read this book, because it's William Gibson, and you and I both read everything he writes.

That said, this is not Gibson at his best. Some of the characters are brilliant, and others are either sketched in or shouldn't have arrived on-scene at all. The plot, such as it is, is basically an excuse to create scenes and have characters react to them. He hasn't lost his voice, but he hasn't got much to say with it here.

So, go ahead and read it, but it will be most satisfying if you go into it not expecting too much.
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on November 30, 2011
I was excited to read this book. William Gibson is one of my favorite authors. When he stopped writing cyberpunk scifi, I was skeptical, but I gave his non-sf novel "Pattern Recognition" a try anyway, and I'm glad I did. It took a while to get into, but once I did, I couldn't put it down! Since "Spook Country" takes place in the same world, I was prepared for the story to start out slow. After all, I stuck with "Pattern Recognition" for over 50 pages before it got interesting, and I was rewarded.

"Spook Country" still had me waiting at over 200 pages. There was next to no plot, and I didn't care at all about the characters. Chapters are hardly that-- just little insignificant snapshots of these characters' daily lives. It seemed more like an experimental writing exercise than a novel. Don't get me wrong-- sometimes that sort of thing can work, but in this case it didn't.

If I had to wade through over half of the book, no amount of awesome plot twist will be able to make up for the painful experience of reading those first 200 pages. I went through hell with this book. I tried to keep on going-- I really did. I wanted to like this book because it was written by William Gibson. However, the truth is that it's terrible, and I sighed with relief when I finally decided to give up on it-- "Finally, reading can be FUN again!"
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on April 8, 2008
Much has been written about the similarities between the works of William Gibson and Don DeLillo, Certainly, as I read both Pattern Recognition and Spook Country, I couldn't help thinking of White Noise: Text and Criticism (Viking Critical Library), one of the great books of the past 50 years. Gibson captures the same sense of lurking dread DeLillo masterfully describes, but could never be accused of being a mere imitator. Here, as in his other novels, Gibson has his own way of drawing us in and pulverizing our emotions. I found this a compelling story, maybe not as gripping as Pattern Recognition, but nevertheless a marvelous story.

So, why all the negative reviews here? After reading many, which I did because I was so perplexed by the response to a book that had received considerable acclaim, I reached the conclusion that there is a core of Gibson fans who want him to write Neuromancer over and over and over again. Well, I loved that book as well, but I think Gibson has grown as an author, and his recent works are just as gripping but are not as rapidly paced as his earlier work. There's less adrenalin rush here, but much greater psychological depth. Gibson continues to grow as a writer, and when that happens some readers will be left behind, like the pop music fans who show up at a concert begging an artist to play their hit single with a bullet from 20 years earlier when the artist wants to share new work with the audience.
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on November 27, 2007
Spook Country (2007) is a near future SF novel. It takes place in a world little different from our own, yet a new artform has appeared. Based on a merger of GPS technology and virtual reality, locative art presents virtual art in specific geographical locations.

In this novel, Hollis Henry has been hired by Node magazine to write an article about locative art. Hollis is the former lead singer of Curfew, a well respected band that had produced one CD and then split up during the era of the Doors and the Who. Some people vaguely recognize her face in stores and other public places.

Node is supposedly a high tech European magazine similar to Wired, but not very well known. Hollis spends some effort just finding about her employer. Eventually she tracks its ownership down to Hubertus Bigend, a Belgian entrepreneur.

Odile Richards is her guide within this artistic community. Odile is a French curator of avant-garde art. In Los Angeles, Odile introduces Hollis to Alberto Corrales, an artist who constructs realistic death -- or near death -- scenes of famous personalities at the appropriate sites.

Alberto then introduces Hollis to Bobby Chombo, a technical facilitator for various locative artists. Bobby's day job involves aspects of GPS technology under contract from the military and related industries. He has a large warehouse with a VR giant squid floating in it. He even sleeps in the warehouse, but never twice at the same grid coordinates.

Tito is an independent espionage agent, working for his own family. They have been involved in such work since his grandfather became an agent for Castro's DGI. The grandfather had been trained by the KGB and passed on this training to the family.

Tito was born in Habana, but now lives as an illegal in New York City. His family knows every facet of the city, particularly the subway system. They have learned many ways to lose followers under the city.

Milgrim is an amphetamine addict. One day, Brown stopped him, flashed a badge and took him away. Now Milgrim translates Russian and Volapuk -- a Cyrillic language using a substitute alphabet -- for Brown. He no longer believes Brown is a cop, but the man wears a gun and cuffs, has many associates, and provides a pack of Ativan to Milgrim every day.

In this story, Tito passes on iPods to an old man. He is rather afraid of the guy, but does what the family tells him. His cousin Alejandro says that the old man was CIA at one time and knew their grandfather. Tito doesn't doubt that at all, for the old man seems to be a dangerous person.

Brown is surveilling an Illegal Facilitator -- Tito -- and takes Milgrim along to translate text messages sent to the IF. Other times Milgrim observes the activities of the IF from a converted van. Once he even accompanied Brown to the IF's room to change the battery in the cellphone listening device.

Brown is determined to capture the IF and his contact during the next exchange of iPods. Unluckily, the old man already expects the bust and passes on the word for Tito to prepare to move. The family helps Tito clear everything out of his room and then guards Tito during the meet.

Meanwhile, Bobby and all his gear disappear from the warehouse. Then Hollis meets Bobby's sister and learns that he comes from Vancouver. She later travels there and inadvertently becomes involved with Tito and the old man.

This story is a spook tale in more than one aspect. Of course, these are the virtual dead people in Alberto's locative art. Then there are the social bugaboos that drive Brown. But the real spooks are the espionage and counter-espionage agents: Tito, the old man, and Brown. Even Hollis becomes an inadvertent counter-espionage agent for Hubertus, but she is later preempted by the old man.

Prepare yourself for a wild ride through the world of unofficial agents working for government bureaucrats as well as retired agents working for themselves. Add Tito's family of independent professionals and then mix in Hubertus and his amateur nosiness. Events quickly become very problematical and eventually devolve into sheer confusion.

Recommended for Gibson fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of spies, counterspies, and nosy amateurs.

-Arthur W. Jordin
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on August 22, 2013
William Gibson, so famous for his cyber-punk novels, many of which predated the internet (well, at least the present incarnation of it) has gone on to write these funky, cyber-mystery novels. The writing style that we fell in love with, with its rapid-fire obscure references, is still present but other than that this novel is a complete drag. I found it drudgery to get through it and I completely didn't care about any of its characters. I like the way Gibson frames sentences and I like his unique use of metaphor but other than that there wasn't much here for me.
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on December 3, 2010
This is not a good book. This is what boredom looks like in print. There are no interesting characters, no interesting technologies, and no interesting plot points. I couldn't even finish it. Do not waste your time with this book.
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