William Gibson is an author who burst into the world with a brilliant first novel, then never did anything equivalent again. Neuromancer is a remarkable piece of science fiction and marked the starting point of the cyberpunk sub-genre. Unfortunately, Gibson’s further forays into that terrain – which extended across about twenty years – never produced something of even moderately comparable quality.
Recently, he has moved on to writing technology-centred books set in the present. Spook Country, which I finished today, is his latest such work. It follows Pattern Recognition, his first novel of this type, and improves on it to a certain extent. As such, it is probably the best thing he has written since Neuromancer. Like Pattern Recognition, it is better at setting up a mystery than it is at revealing an interesting solution at the end. Part of what made Neuromancer so remarkable was the strength of the characters. There was no danger of confusing them or having them become blank nothings. Spook Country‘s most significant flaw is that, for all but a few characters, there is no such definition, and thus no such interest.
If you have never read Gibson, and have any appreciation for science fiction, I recommend reading Neuromancer. If you have read it already, you would be well advised to give Spook Country a try. If you are a technologically inclined Vancouverite, you are likely to find every page addressing you directly.