Zero history. An end point and a beginning. William Gibson brings us to an end and in a way back to the beginning in his latest novel, Zero History.
Hollis Henry has been hired by Hubertus Bigend from Blue Ant to discover the designer behind the Gabriel Hounds brand. Joined with Milgram, a translator recovering from drugs, they cross continents but their quest brings back to the starting point. Whilst chasing the brand, they are pursued by a rogue operative who is trying to stop Bigend.
Gibson has been refining his science fiction in this trilogy, updating it from the Corporate driven world of Neuromancer to a nearly post-Corporate one here. Not to say that corporations have gone but it is clear that Blue Ant is increasingly meaningless as is Bigend. Bigend cannot really use or even recognise his own work as the search for Gabriel Hounds brand demonstrates. The hacker / artisan is more important than the hirer, who clearly cannot understand the world that they are in. It becomes clear that the argument regarding imitation and reality has been won, in part, by reality. Blue Ant can replicate strangeness of the Stellanor video or the intensely personal designs but not at the level which truly make it work. He is not obsessive enough, something that is shown by the willingness to use the Hounds in his next adventure – military wear. Perhaps it is over reading it but it seems like he is trying to wage war through seemingly innocuous Festo Air Penguins and clothing.
Is the trilogy sf? I think that it is. Following on from Clute’s argument that the cognitive estrangement is us, Gibson revels in a world which is unknowable. At least unknowable in the same sense that First Sf appears to have understood it. Seemingly it stands on the cusp, unsure whether to move forwards or backwards, not sure which “post-” it needs to be.
I do wonder about the influence of Gernsback and post-cyberpunk/cyberpunk. Just started re-reading Gary Westfahl‘s engaging ‘The Mechanics of Wonder’ (Liverpool University Press, 1998) and Paul Kincaid’s ‘What it is we do when we Read Science Fiction’ in the eponymous collection published by Beccon.
I’m definitely looking forward to the signing at Forbidden Planet on oct 9th though. On a different note, there is an op ed piece that Gibson wrote for the New York Times exploring some of the themes of the last three books and explaining how smart cookies are using the new order and how it is already strange to us.