Spook Country
William Gibson
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Buy *Spook Country* by William Gibson

Spook Country
William Gibson
496 pages
March 2009
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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In a post-9/11 United States, things are not always what they appear to be. Electronic devices like iPods are conduits for the flow of top-secret information along unofficial channels. Wireless modems are a means to produce the most amazing virtual reality experiences in public settings. And cargo containers no longer hold everyday imports but weapons that could put an end to civilization as we know it. This is the setting for the ninth book by Canadian science fiction writer William Gibson, which will engross readers with its large cast of characters and clever plot twists similar to his classic novels Neuromancer and Mona Lisa Overdrive.

While there are several protagonists in this novel, a rock-star turned freelance journalist named Hollis Henry is the center of attention. Hired by an upstart computer magazine, Henry is flown to Los Angeles to write about a new-fangled virtual-reality called “locative art.” It quickly becomes evident that her actual duty is to help locate a missing shipping container that is being tracked by several hackers and intelligence agents, or "spooks", across the country.

Among those searching for the container is an operative named Brown whose affiliation appears to lie with the U.S. Government. In his custody is a drug addicted code-breaker named Milgrim who finds himself repeatedly contemplating his escape while attempting to guide Brown to the mysterious container. Together they follow a young man Brown deems his "IF", or Illegal Facilitator, "a criminal whose crimes facilitate the crimes of others."

As if that weren’t enough, Gibson also tells the story through the eyes of Brown’s "IF", a Russian-speaking, Cuban-Chinese man named Tito. Tito and his family are perhaps the smallest organized crime unit in the world, with Tito taking directions from his cousin Alejandro and following the teachings of his deceased grandmother, Juana. His main role is to pass encrypted messages saved on iPods to an elderly man who claims to have known his father, an ex-KGB agent with ties to Fidel Castro.

While the plot may seem convoluted and elaborate, it actually reads fairly easily. Unlike his earlier novels that are considered science fiction and overtly futurist, Gibson continues his exploration of the here and now as he did in his previous work, Pattern Recognition. While this book is not meant to be a sequel, avid readers and fans of Gibson’s previous book will celebrate the return of the ostentatious Hubertus Bigend, whose pockets continue to be as deep as his background. It should be noted that one could fully understand and enjoy the story without having read the previous book.

Though Gibson is noted for the ultramodern technology that he creates in his stories, his use of existing gadgets such as cell phones, iPods, and laptops throughout make this story entirely believable and all the more ominous.

Fans of smart political thrillers and conspiracy theorists alike will be in awe of Gibson’s intelligible approach and ability to convey mind-boggling ideas in a feasible manner. Science fiction readers will also be well entertained despite the story’s present-day setting, as Gibson manages to maintain a gloomy atmosphere familiar to his former works.

At times, the back and forth flow of the story can leave certain characters neglected for several chapters at a time, forcing readers to flip back and see where they left off. Despite these momentary lapses, the plot unfolds at a solid pace and, unlike many books of the same genre, doesn’t lose its audience in a complicated mess of unresolved storylines and baffling dialogue. Without editorializing, Gibson takes a clear-cut, unbiased look at the current state of a country that is growing progressively more distrustful of itself and its government.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Liam Brennan, 2007

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