Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Count Zero

William Gibson Count Zero (1986)
It was the only one I hadn't read, and I have a feeling I may even have owned a copy once before without ever having got around to it, so despite everything I thought why not? The reason why not can be gleaned from the contents of the aforementioned everything - or at least everything I've read except Pattern Recognition, which is great - namely that whilst William Gibson wields a positively breathtaking turn of phrase and his sentences are frequently assemblages of great poetic beauty, his novels can be mystifyingly dull and incomprehensible. At least that's how I've found a few of them, and Count Zero is unfortunately in this tradition. His narrative is all about surface, fixating on the details of gadgets, gizmos, products, and labels, which initially makes for a fairly vivid read but gets repetitive after a while, particularly in combination with largely interchangeable personality-free characters whose job is seemingly to provide definition for the gadgets, gizmos, products, and labels. I suppose otherwise the book would just be a list of stuff.

As I've probably said in previous reviews of Gibson novels which I'm probably just rewriting because I can't be bothered to go back and read what I've already said, and in any case the same applies here, I suspect he's making some sort of point about the shared hallucination of society as an artificial construct held together only by everyone agreeing to play the game; and I suspect Gibson's cyberspace is a metaphor for this; as are the attendant references to voodoo and numerous loa which appear throughout this one, but not with quite the frequency or depth to make it as interesting as - just off the top of my head - Lawrence Miles' This Town Will Never Let Us Go. On the other hand, I took the talking book version of Distrust That Particular Flavour - Gibson's collected essays as read by himself - out of the library recently, and he just sounded like some dribbling hipster burbling on about buying really rare Soviet wristwatches on eBay, so perhaps the focus on surface is really all there is to this stuff.

Surface was more or less all I could follow after the first fifty or so pages, that being the point at which I'd ceased caring who was who, what they were doing, or why. I made it to page two-hundred with forty left to go, then Mark Hodder sent me a few chapters of his next book so as to get a second opinion, and it looked about a billion times more engaging than this droning shite; and then David Bowie pegged it, and life suddenly felt too short to bother with Zero on the Clapometer.

Perhaps one day I'll give it another go and I will enjoy it a little more, but right now I just can't be arsed.

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