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Count Zero (Sprawl Trilogy) Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 1987
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Bobby Newmark is entirely human: a rustbelt data-hustler totally unprepared for what comes his way when the defection triggers war in cyberspace. With voodoo on the Net and a price on his head, Newmark thinks he's only trying to get out alive. A stylish, streetsmart, frighteningly probable parable of the future and sequel to Neuromancer
“An intriguing cast of characters and a tough, glitzy image of computer consciousness and the future of mankind.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Count Zero shares with Neuromancer that novel’s stunning use of language, breakneck pacing, technological innovation, and gritty brand-name realism.”—Fantasy Review
“William Gibson’s prose, astonishing in its clarity and skill, becomes high-tech electric poetry.”—Bruce Sterling
“Suspense, action...a lively story...a sophisticated version of the sentient computer, a long way from the old models that were simply out to Rule the World.”—Locus
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Imagine Hemingway writing SF. That might be a decent approximation to what Gibson is doing. Minimalist. Hemingway could write the bare minimum describing a cloudless sky in a hot desert in a way that would make you imagine a hawk screeching overhead without him actually writing it. That is a mastery of the art. The problem is when you try to do that with science fiction you leave the reader high and dry. We KNOW about skies, deserts, and the hawk not written about but we've never ventured into Gibson's "matrix" or his imagined world of internet voodoo gods so. . .how the hell is a reader supposed to fill in the blanks Hemingway-style?
My take is that science fiction, more than just about any other genera, demands description especially when the writer takes you on a ride to completely uncharted territories--which is exactly the case when you're writing about cyberspace. Gibson at once leaves too much to the imagination but demands that you remember the most inconsequential detail barely mentioned 60 pages earlier for the impending plot twist to make sense. Contrast this style with somebody from the opposite end of the spectrum, like Dan Simmons.
While Gibson leaves nearly the entire burgeoning internet to your imagination Simmons spends tens of pages describing the worlds of "Hyperion" that you've never been to and have never seen. I prefer Simmons' style to Gibson in the realm of science fiction. I come here to see things I've never seen before, not to be told "go figure it out for yourself." Heck, I was doing that anyway before I picked up the Sprawl Trilogy.
So Count Zero is a good read even though it is not my style. Maybe it's yours. You decide.
Bobby Newmark, a.k.a. Count Zero comes off appropriately like a teenage little puke. His character arc is. . .developed, I suppose. He's hired for his hacking "cowboy" expertise and his big scene amounts almost to just being in the right place at the right time (again with the minimalist approach). I was hoping for a little more action.
Turner is a good bad ass--a real bounty hunter/rogue Special Forces/007 type. He kicks ass when required and ends the book as just a tiny bit of a softie. SPOILER ALERT! He's a daddy and you're supposed to remember waaaaaay back 120 pages earlier he had a one night stand (you figure his character has had many, but this isn't that kind of book) with a third tier character who steps on the stage, fools around, and then leaves. Then at the end of the book in the epilogue he’s a daddy. The End. Huh? Yeah. Good night.
I mean the plot is decent, the characters aren't exactly cardboard cutouts. They live and breathe somewhat. And the story travels along. I suppose Gibson's greatness is in his ability to make you anticipate. . .something. The internet is apparently crawling with voodoo gods from the union of Neuromancer and Wintermute from the previous book but you barely see them. In fact, they're really only hinted at. As a reader, wouldn't you really want to get into what the hell these internet voodoo gods are? How they act? Get under their skin? I was hoping to at least meet them man-to-cybergod. Well, you won't get much of that here.
Gibson is all anticipation and not so much satisfaction. All tease and really little pay off.
You'll like Gibson if you like to be teased but without much fulfillment. He's a master at that. So, yeah, he has a following. And massive awards.
But I'm looking for a different style.
- Much of the dialog reads more like stream-of-consciousness babble than things people would actually say.
- Future jargon and tech thrown in with zero explanation, requiring the reader to eventually figure out what it means through repetitive context. Maybe this will take pages, maybe chapters. Some authors make this approach work; Peter F. Hamilton comes to mind. Gibson does not.
- Disjointed. The voodoo element never meshed or fit for me.
All in all, this writing comes across to me as trying to be too clever by half. I strongly prefer that an author simply tell a good story in understandable fashion. This isn't that.
This is the second of the Sprawl trilogy with Neuromancer preceding Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive coming after. You don't have to read Neuromancer first, but it definitely helps set the stage for the type of world that Gibson immerses you in. Very much looking forward to reading Mona Lisa Overdrive next.
Also, if you're deciding between this and Neal Stephenson (Snowcrash) I'd highly recommend the Sprawl trilogy instead.
The follow up to Neuromancer, Count Zero is another cyberpunk classic that revisits many themes of his previous book. It follows several interconnected stories: a mercenary hired to attack a corporate fortress that escapes with a girl that has undergone experimental modifications and can hack computers without a deck. A hacker that is almost killed as he is played into testing an experimental deck and discover that there are strange entities roaming the matrix. And a small art gallery owner from Paris that is hired by a eccentric trillionaire to find a series of boxes.
The language and descriptions here are top-notch. Gibson has an uncanny talent to makes this now retro-futuristic world come alive, along with several interesting and mind-bending themes. One is how corporations and Big Money end up having a life and will of their own, not only like a living organism, but a colony of different spheres with different agendas that compete among themselves. Another is how artificial intelligences adopt an air of godhood as they incorporate the persona of voodoo gods.
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