Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review of "Count Zero" by William Gibson

There are numerous examples of writers catching a wave and riding the idea for several books to great success.  Count Zero finds William Gibson shooting the curl.  Fitting between Neuromancer and Mona Lisa Overdrive, the imagery, terminology, and storyline are as fresh today as they were in the 1980s.  The just-out-of-reach future never seemed so realistic.  Neither u- or dystopia, Gibson’s vision features a society perpetually evolving and technology continuing to be exploited for better and worse.  And not a word is wasted in the telling.  Count Zero is a master of style and genre in full form. 

The story is of Virek, the world’s richest man and whose body survives in a vat.  From there, his brain spiders out across cyberspace, seeking the artist who created the seven most beautiful boxes he’s ever seen.  The reason: in their making lies the secret to his escape from the vat and return to the physical world.  Money no object, he employs at will those who will bring him closer to his goal, uncaring as to who is hurt along the way.  Despite being the catalyst, Virek remains a background character to the story.  Count Zero is instead told through the eyes of three people who are either directly involved with the mastermind, or drawn in regardless of intent.  Turner is the special forces man trying to do his job.  Bobby is the cyber cowboy suddenly experiencing the web like never before.  And Marly, the starving art student, is given a bottomless bank account and told by Virek to “follow her intuition” to the boxes’ creator.  As the plot progresses for each, what seem disparate storylines are woven together by Gibson in unfailing fashion, the narrative as smooth as the connection Booby jacks into at Jammer’s club.  What results is an ending not only breathtaking in form, but also one which strikes at the thematic heart of Gibson’s ideological exploration: the relationship of humanity with technology.  

High quality prose both anchoring and propelling the plot, the storyline of Count Zero does not lag for a moment.   Regardless of action on screen or not, the words roll.   Likewise, thematic content remains a backdrop to every scene, raising the novel above the majority of sci-fi available today which focuses only on the story.  Thus, for those interested in realistic portrayals of the future of the internet, a well-told sci-fi story, and a discussion point on the nature of humanity’s future with technology, the book comes highly recommended.  It is cyberpunk in full swing and not to be missed.

(If you have read the whole Sprawl trilogy and are interested in reading more, you may like to read my essay entitled The Uncertainty of Reality: William Gibson's Sprawl Series.)

No comments:

Post a Comment