Saturday, February 29, 2020

Review of Spook Country by William Gibson

With scalpel-sharp diction and splash of ideas, what often goes overlooked in William Gibson’s oeuvre is that the author may also be a master of theme. Given so much credit for minimalist writing and sensawunda science fiction, some readers become enamored by this dynamic surface and fail to gain a sense of what lies beneath, namely understated commentary on society, politics, and technology. 2010’s Spook Country, second in the so-called Blue Ant trilogy, is no exception—and may very well be the most overlooked of the overlooked.

The three strands of Spook Country’s story braid consist of Hollis Henry, former rock-n-roller turned journalist; Tito, a Chinese-Cuban living in NYC who, with his family, helps facilitate various crimes involving the latest technology, and Brown, a covert operative ostensibly associated with the US government who has been given the assignment of tailing Tito. The three unaware, a mysterious shipping container in Vancouver of unknown contents forms the point at which all their various and peculiar stories converge.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Review of Deliverer by C.J. Cherryh

Opening just after the chaotic run of Pretender (relatively speaking, of course, this is the Foreigner universe, after all), the opening of C.J. Cherryh’s Deliverer (2007). Ninth book in the Foreigner universe, sees Bren, Lord Taibini, Isildi, Cajeri, and the entire entourage return to power in the atevi capital. This group responsible for cleaning matters up in the wake of the attempted coup, they look to restore Taibini’s power base. But before the dust can settle, a new crisis emerges that puts the idea the insurrection has been quelled back up for question. Question is, from which side is the attack, and what are the long term effect?

In telling this story, Deliverer marks a major departure from the pattern, if it can be called as such, that has emerged over the first eight Foreigner books. Bren is no longer 100% the viewpoint character; Cajeri, Lord Tabini’s grandson, shares screentime. Deliverer thus offers two perspectives on atevi life. Given the plot directions that are revealed, it’s a fitting departure, which, for as surprising as it is, still feels natural. The second departure is that Cherryh abandons, or at least appears to abandon the trilogy structure. If events in Destroyer seemed to be wrapped up by Pretender, Deliverer only adds to the feeling. It cleans up the relative mess left over from Pretender, but given the majority of plot threads were also tied off by that book, there is little for Deliverer to capitalize on save introducing new elements, which in turn breaks the mold of the first two trilogies which featured strong, overarching plot lines.