8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I completely disagree...
with many of the reviews of this book by other readers. The gist of their complaint seems to be that in the "Blue Ant" trilogy Mr. Gibson has strayed from his cyberpunk background into something different that they don't like. While it is true that these last three books are different than Mr. Gibson's early work, why would you expect that they would not be? Certainly no...
Published on March 4, 2011 by Matthew Clayton
77 of 84 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Weak conclusion to the Bigend trilogy
I have been reading William Gibson for many years and read and enjoyed Pattern Recognition and Spook Country. I was looking forward to Zero History but have come away from it quite disappointed and with the feeling that Gibson missed a real opportunity with this novel. One of the great things about Pattern Recognition was how it capture the stunned, dispirited, paranoid...
Published on January 15, 2011 by R. Hubbard
Most Helpful First | Newest First
77 of 84 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Weak conclusion to the Bigend trilogy,
I have been reading William Gibson for many years and read and enjoyed Pattern Recognition and Spook Country. I was looking forward to Zero History but have come away from it quite disappointed and with the feeling that Gibson missed a real opportunity with this novel. One of the great things about Pattern Recognition was how it capture the stunned, dispirited, paranoid zeitgeist of the world post-911. Zero History had the opportunity to do the same for the post-economic crash world. Instead it focuses exclusively on the meanderings of a few wealthy and privileged hipsters who wander around London and Paris talking on their iPhones. I found the Apple fetishism to really detract from the credibility of these characters as being on the cutting edge of cool, outside the ebb and flow of the normal trends followed by boring people like me. If these characters are going to fetishize some piece of technology couldn't it have been something cooler than an iPhone? I have an iPhone for Pete's sake.
The other big disappointment of this book was the very lazy plotting. The characters are incredibly passive with almost all the action occurring around them while they merely react. Because of this no one does anything to move the plot forward; developments just drop into their laps, primarily due to unlikely coincidences. And therein lies my biggest complaint. Many writers use coincidence to propel a narrative. But in Zero History coincidence is the only driver of the plot. The primary action (if you can call it that) is around Hollis and Milgrim's search for a super-secretive fashion designer. We are supposed to believe that even the great and powerful Bigend can't track this person down and yet, by coincidence, it turns out that every single person Hollis interacts with just happens to know where to find this designer. No spoilers, but by the time this plot line reaches its conclusion the coincidences had started coming so thick and fast it had gotten to the point of being truly ludicrous. And when an element of danger is introduced later in the book another character just happens to be dropping by who knows exactly what to do to diffuse it. How fortunate!
I know some people disliked this book because it was not science fiction or because it was about fashion. I went into it having no problem with either of those points. But 400 pages about passive, unrelatable, unrealistic hipsters with no connection to what's going on in the world right now and really weak plotting made for a very disappointing read. I can't imagine recommending this book to anyone at all.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No ideas - just descriptions,
I've been an avid Gibson fan for years, but this novel was very disappointing. I want the old Gibson back - the Gibson who was a brilliant observer of life and culture and made me see things in ways I had not. In this book Gibson follows the path of science fiction hacks who think that description is everything and who add page after page of descriptive fill to their books. I do not care what the brass shower is like in the upscale London club and don't want to read a page of description of it. I do not care about the tea bar in Paris with the two halogen lights shining on a wall of narrow, thin, white shelves with one tea product in each depression and that they don't serve croissants but do serve mini Madelleins (in threes: one chocolate, one almond and one sugar coated). I don't care, I Don't Care, I DON"T CARE!
This book isn't a series of observations about society and how we are effected by it in subtle ways, but a series of detailed descriptions of roads, hotel bathrooms, tea shops, desert plates, armored cars and other uninteresting fill. Instead of a book of ideas, ideas, ideas, Gibson has written a book of descriptions, descriptions, descriptions.
110 of 135 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Zero Gravitas,
With "Zero History", you get the feeling that William Gibson, finding the world has finally caught up with his Marshall McLuhan-meets-Timothy Leary vision of the future, has decided to escape instead into the world of fantasy.
This accentuates a trend in Mr Gibson's recent novels. Starting with 2003's "Pattern Recognition", the settings of his books have pulled closer and closer to the contemporary world, even as his storylines have pushed further into la-la land. You almost wonder if he's being deliberately perverse. How else to explain "Zero History's" bizarre concoction of macho military fashion designers, ninja rock drummers, Japanese tailors and base-jumping super-spies? And that Mission Impossible-as-done-by-the-A Team ending? Please dear God, let that be a joke.
Don't get me wrong, Mr Gibson remains one of the most effortlessly stylish and readable authors out there. It's his choice of subject matter. I feel like I'm watching Michelangelo doing potato painting.
Let me explain.
"Zero History" completes the trilogy begun with "Pattern Recognition" and continued in 2007's "Spook Country", though it is much more closely tied to the latter. Freelance journalist Hollis Henry returns, again in the employ of insatiably curious marketing bigwig Hubertus Bigend. So is Milgrim, the benzo-addicted translator from "Spook Country", now straight thanks to Bigend's largesse and a stint at a clinic in Switzerland.
Also making a reappearance is the style of "Spook Country", which ratcheted down the flowery language in favor of bare-bones structures, non-linear conversations and off-beat settings. When it works, and it usually does, the words glide effortlessly, supple as old-fashioned denim.
There's a nice touch early on when Hollis googles "Gabriel Hounds" and describes what comes up first--a book by Mary Stewart, a Wikipedia entry, a CD title--because of course that's exactly what comes up if you or I try it, giving you a weird behind-the-looking glass feeling, and lending the story that extra touch of verisimilitude. There's also a reference to a YouTube video of someone jumping from the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. Again, same thing.
Hollis remains something of an enigma, a sort of existentialist hero drawn into absurd events, seemingly lacking the will to extract herself. Milgrim is more sympathetic, an innocent reborn through his detoxification, and not surprisingly he provides the loom that spins this particular story. Bigend remains plausible, a billionaire brat more spoiled than malevolent, but no less dangerous for it. This time, the objective of Bigend's fascination is fashion. Specifically, a cutting-edge guerrilla brand called "Gabriel Hounds", and in a parallel plotline, military outfitting contracts.
Fashion provides Mr Gibson an excuse to revisit his theme, present in both "Pattern Recognition" and "Spook Country", of the tension between the cutting edge and the mainstream, how the former becomes--or desperately seeks to avoid becoming--the latter. The subtext is that the mainstream is derivative, exploitative and false, an elaborate con game. One would-be designer speaks of her dream to escape "the seasons, the b_llsh_t, the stuff that wore out, fell apart."
I might feel better about this subplot if I didn't find the whole premise such an offensive, heaping, steaming pile of Hounds doo. There is nothing inherently superior in cliquey exclusivity or snobbery. I couldn't care less about "secret brands" of canvas shoes or Japanese denim, and as a result, this part just feels tiresome. At one point, Bigend refers to companies that "find brands ... with iconic optics or a viable narrative, buy them, then put out denatured product under the old label." I wish I could say this barrage of pretentious bafflegab is supposed to be indicative of the character, not the author, but Mr Gibson is forever having people spout lines like this.
It didn't use to irritate me. Mr Gibson has always been a bit of a hipster, but it grated far less when he was writing about the far future. Geeking out over the (purely imaginary) "Hawker-Aichi roadster" in 1999's "All Tomorrow's Parties" didn't bug me--the endless iPhone, iMac and Twitter references drive me a little bonkers.
The main plot kicks into gear, and sadly loses touch with reality, when Milgrim's investigation into military clothing upsets a competitor, who first tries to kidnap Hollis and Milgrim, then succeeds in nabbing one of Bigend's other employees (no, I won't spoil it by telling you who, though it's another returning character from "Spook Country") in retaliation. This sets up a rescue that involves the cast of Ocean's 11, conspiracy-theory worthy technology, the makeup effects from Mission Impossible, the camera balloons from "All Tomorrow's Parties", and the martial arts moves from, er, "Rush Hour 3". It's a hopeless, hideous letdown, a bit like the new Gap logo.
I said much the same thing about "Spook Country", and this only confirms it. The more I like Mr Gibson as a storyteller, the less I like the stories he tells. "Zero History" is a beautifully written, vividly imagined, totally preposterous pile of bunk.
192 of 241 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What's at stake here?,
ZERO GRAVITAS: The Play
Bigend: "Hollis!....I need to spend insane amounts of money on vague nothingness!....and you, being a woman of dubious talents and with no grasp of finances, need a job!"
Hollis: "I know.....it's true....(pouts)"
Hollis: "I'm being followed...or maybe not...oooo weird wallpaper......why hasn't my boyfriend called?"
Bigend: "Peel me a grape!...here's $10,0000!...I need you in Ulan Bator at 25:00 hours!...Something may or may not occur!"
Milgrim: "Who?......what?....will there be snacks?"
Hollis: "He's talking to me.....well, will there?......I mean, okay...(pouts)"
Fiona: "You may be under surveillance....motorcycles are cool"
Garreth: "I know a very interesting rich guy....No, you don't get to meet him.....oh, and I watched 2 seasons of The Unit"
Evil Spec Ops Villain (off screen): "I killed an entire Afghani village with a dead parrot...now I steal fashion designs and forgot everything I ever learned in sniper school"
Secret Clothing Designer: "I am too cool, to...you know...like, sell OUT?..you know....oh my god..."
Everyone: "Aren't we PRECIOUS!!!.....Hugs all around!"
PS: Huge William Gibson fan, just starting to wonder a bit ; )
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Search for Pants goes nowhere,
A long term fan of Gibson, I found this to be a "one sequel too many" type of book. My impression is he is attempting to apply espionage type scenarios over the fashion industry which ends up leaving the reader puzzled as to the extreme reactions of the antagonists (the good and bad guys) over attempts to find out the source of blue jeans. And the scenarios are endlessly repeated with Mr. BigEnds "full english breakfast" scene being played out numerous times. I finally gave up after 75% of the book as it was not going anywhere with any believable story line.
31 of 39 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Who Cares???,
There is no doubt Gibson knows how to "turn a phrase" with interesting descriptions of things. His favorite device of juxtaposing words to produce foreign sounding objects with an implied secret meaning (that you never find out) is legendary. Haitian banks, Nepalese locks, Somalian chowder, et al. I own and have read all of his books, some several times but it seems to me that he has lost his ability to develop characters and plot lines, relying heavily on his technique of implying something and letting the reader do the heavy lifting of filling in the blanks. Add to that the egregious Apple product promotion laced all through the book (I've never noticed him using an actual brand of anything before) and you have a very unsatisfying return on your investment. I'm sure fans will, as fans always do, rave about the book just because he wrote it but sadly, I think Mr. Gibson needs to get a fresh start and give us some characters we can care about and a story that actually goes somewhere.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, at best,
This has to be a joke, right? Or, did Big Blue feed all of Gibson's previous
novels, along with a few issues of Wired, into it's latest experimental AI?
Cause if a machine wrote this it's pretty good. If a human wrote it it's crap.
I'm disappointed because I'm a huge fan of Gibson; I want to see that genius that
was there earlier.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mediocre Gibson novel,
While I felt compelled to continue reading this book, I found the plot quite boring and somewhat implausible. And when I got to the ending, I was like, really, I went through the whole story for that? Hmmm, maybe I was expecting too much from Gibson as I love all of his past work. And I'm really happy I read this on the Kindle so I could take advantage of the built-in dictionary. It was almost like Gibson is mocking those of us with an American's minute grasp on the English language...but in an excessive way; almost to the point of being annoying. All in all, while I love the way Gibson writes and there were some genuinely good parts in the book, don't feel sad if you pass this one up.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 1000 "ain't it cool" tweets strung together as a novel,
First time I've ever reviewed a book, couldn't be bothered before...but now I'm "bothered" in a real sense. I really look up to Mr. Gibson's work, I've been reading him for 24 years- and his latest novels are worryingly bad. This one is the worst of all. I'm going to go out a limb and say that the Internet is ruining William Gibson's skills as an author. Let me explain.
I follow Mr. Gibson's Twitter posts (and they are interesting) but I never thought his next novel would read like an endless series of "look-what-I-know" tweets. It almost seems like he's deliberately created a mashup of things that shouldn't go together but which are Independently Interesting in lieu of a real plot. Visit his feed (GreatDismal) and see if you don't agree.
Another thing that disturbed me about Zero History took a while to notice. His characters have all become more...passive. Non-violent. Ecofriendly. Elitist. Like an Apple commercial, they seem to be a "safe" gestalt of everything that is acceptably trendy. Now I have no problem with any of these character traits in and of themselves, but it's not the edgy Gibson I remembered and enjoyed. Where are the damaged souls, the losers (perhaps aside from Milgram), the poor trash like Rydell in the Bridge Trilogy or Slick Henry from the Sprawl Trilogy? That's the kind of Gibson characters I grew up on, the kind I can get behind. I can't relate to the iPhone-brandishing painfully-cool types that populate Zero History...they don't seem real to me, almost as if Gibson is forgetting what normal people are like?
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Who's writing Gibson's books?,
A friend handed me a copy of the then-new Neuromancer as I got on a plane at Heathrow. I'd never heard of William Gibson or cyberpunk. I was almost the last person to deplane at LAX because I could not put it down until I finished reading it.
Sadly, Gibson's latest works have abandoned both cyberpunk and any sense of being compelling. Gibson still can craft a sentence and capture a mood, but his last few books have been so bad story-wise that I never would have purchased Zero History; I'd given up on Gibson.
Zero History confirms my decision. Gibson's current approach is to replace storytelling with smatterings of current trends viewed from a relentlessly metrosexual viewpoint. Where Neuromancer and Count Zero take place in a future that is at once unimaginable and inevitable, Zero History (and others) take place in a boring present, where unappealingly eccentric characters pursue absurd and trivial goals.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Zero History by William Gibson (Paperback - August 2, 2011)