Zero History

William Gibson centres on individuals sifting data streams for meaning

William Gibson’s novel Spook Country (2007) was a cool, sophisticated thriller wired on prankish humour and high-end cultural referents. The same weird protagonists are in Zero History, his latest take on his habitual theme: individuals sifting the world’s data streams for meaning.

Former rock star Hollis Henry is coerced by marketing mogul Hubertus Bigend into tracking down the source of Gabriel Hounds, a brand of fantastically desirable but clandestine heavy denim clothing that’s being virally marketed. She’s assisted by Milgrim (a hyper-intuitive former valium addict) and more surveillance frippery than a Bond film. Sadly there’s almost as much product placement, with Apple powering the geeky commercial espionage.

The gung-ho resolution of this gleefully puerile plot, albeit pacy and seductive in parts, detracts from Gibson’s understated dialogue and subtle characterisation. His previous novels generated complex psychology and cultural semantics; here he comes close to spoofery.

Zero History, by William Gibson, Penguin, RRP£8.99, 404 pages

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