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Spook Country Hardcover – August 7, 2007

3.2 out of 5 stars 237 customer reviews
Book 2 of 3 in the Blue Ant Series

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  • Get an exclusive look at William Gibson's original proposal for Spook Country. Warning: it bears only a slight (but fascinating) relation to the final novel.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Now that the present has caught up with William Gibson's vision of the future, which made him the most influential science fiction writer of the past quarter century, he has started writing about a time--our time--in which everyday life feels like science fiction. With his previous novel, Pattern Recognition, the challenge of writing about the present-day world drove him to create perhaps his best novel yet, and in Spook Country he remains at the top of his game. It's a stripped-down thriller that reads like the best DeLillo (or the best Gibson), with the lives of a half-dozen evocative characters connected by a tightly converging plot and by the general senses of unease and wonder in our networked, post-9/11 time.

Across the Border to Spook Country

For the last few decades, William Gibson, who grew up in Virginia and elsewhere in the United States, has lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, just across the border from Amazon.com's Seattle headquarters, which made for a short drive for a lunchtime interview before the release of Spook Country. We met just a few miles from where the storylines of the new novel, in a rare scene set in Gibson's own city, converge. You can read the full transcript of the interview, in which we discussed, among other things, writing in the age of Google, visiting the Second Life virtual world, the possibilities of science fiction in an age of rapid change, and his original proposal for Spook Country, which we have available for viewing on our site. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

Amazon.com: Could you start by telling us a little bit about the scenario of the new book?

William Gibson: It's a book in which shadowy and mysterious characters are using New York's smallest crime family, a sort of boutique operation of smugglers and so-called illegal facilitators, to get something into North America. And you have to hang around to the end of the book to find out what they're doing. So I guess it's a caper novel in that regard.

Amazon.com: The line on your last book, Pattern Recognition was that the present had caught up with William Gibson's future. So many of the things you imagined have come true that in a way it seems like we're all living in science fiction now. Is that the way you felt when you came to write that book, that the real world had caught up with your ideas?

Gibson: Well, I thought that writing about the world today as I perceive it would probably be more challenging, in the real sense of science fiction, than continuing just to make things up. And I found that to absolutely be the case. If I'm going to write fiction set in an imaginary future now, I'm going to need a yardstick that gives me some accurate sense of how weird things are now. 'Cause I'm going to have to go beyond that. And I think over the course of these last two books--I don't think I'm done yet--I've been getting a yardstick together. But I don't know if I'll be able to do it again. I don't know if I'll be able to make up an imaginary future in the same way. In the '80s and '90s--as strange as it may seem to say this--we had such luxury of stability. Things weren't changing quite so quickly in the '80s and '90s. And when things are changing too quickly, as one of the characters in Pattern Recognition says, you don't have any place to stand from which to imagine a very elaborate future.

Amazon.com: Now that you're writing about the present, do you consider yourself a science fiction writer these days? Because the marketplace still does.

Gibson: I never really believed in the separation. But science fiction is definitely where I'm from. Science fiction is my native literary culture. It's what I started reading, and I think the thing that actually makes me a bit different than some of the science fiction writers I've met who are my own age is that I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs and William Burroughs in the same week. And I started reading Beat poets a year later, and got that in the mix. That really changed the direction. But it seems like such an old-fashioned way of looking at things. And it's better not to be pinned down. It's a matter of where you're allowed to park. If you can park in the science fiction bookstore, that's good. If you can park in the other bookstore, that's really good. If people come and buy it at Amazon, that's really good.

I'm sure I must have readers from 20 years ago who are just despairing of the absence of cyberstuff, or girls with bionic fingernails. But that just the way it is. All of that stuff reads so differently now. I think nothing dates more quickly than science fiction. Nothing dates more quickly than an imaginary future. It's acquiring a patina of quaintness even before you've got it in the envelope to send to the publisher.

Amazon.com: So do you think that's your own career path, that you're less interested in imagining a future, or do you think that the world is changing?

Gibson: I think it's actually both. Until fairly recently, I had assumed that it was me, me being drawn to use this toolkit I'd acquired when I was a teenager, and using my old SF toolkit in some kind of attempt at naturalism, 21st-century naturalistic fiction. But over the last five to six years it's started to seem to me that there's something else going on as well, that maybe we're in what the characters in my novel Idoru call a "nodal point," or a series of them. We're in a place where things could just go anywhere. A couple of weeks ago I happened to read Charlie Stross's argument as to why he believes that there will never, ever be any manned space travel. It's not going to happen. We're not going to colonize Mars. All of that is just a big fantasy. And it's so convincing. I read that and I'm like, "My god, there goes so much of the fiction I read as a child."

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Set in the same high-tech present day as Pattern Recognition, Gibson's fine ninth novel offers startling insights into our paranoid and often fragmented, postmodern world. When a mysterious, not yet actual magazine, Node, hires former indie rocker–turned–journalist Hollis Henry to do a story on a new art form that exists only in virtual reality, Hollis finds herself investigating something considerably more dangerous. An operative named Brown, who may or may not work for the U.S. government, is tracking a young, Russian-speaking Cuban-Chinese criminal named Tito. Brown's goal is to follow Tito to yet another operative known only as the old man. Meanwhile, a mysterious cargo container with CIA connections repeatedly appears and disappears on the worldwide Global Positioning network, never quite coming to port. At the heart of the dark goings-on is Bobby Chombo, a talented but unbalanced specialist in Global Positioning software who refuses to sleep in the same spot two nights running. Compelling characters and crisp action sequences, plus the author's trademark metaphoric language, help make this one of Gibson's best. 8-city author tour. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons; First Edition edition (August 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399154302
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399154300
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (237 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #660,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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