Zero History (Blue Ant) Paperback – 28 Jul 2011
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"His eye for the eerie in the everyday still lends events an otherworldly sheen." -"The New Yorker" "Gibson's ability to hit the sweet spot of cutting-edge culture is uncanny." -"The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" "A writer who can conjure the numinous out of the quotidian." -"The Washington Post Book World " "William Gibson can craft sentences of uncanny beauty, and is our great poet of crowds." -"San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle " --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Gene Wolfe once said that being an only child whose parents are dead is like being the sole survivor of drowned Atlantis. There was a whole civilization there, an entire continent, but it's gone. And you alone remember. That's my story too, my father having died when I was six, my mother when I was eighteen. Brian Aldiss believes that if you look at the life of any novelist, you'll find an early traumatic break, and mine seems no exception.
I was born on the coast of South Carolina, where my parents liked to vacation when there was almost nothing there at all. My father was in some sort of middle management position in a large and growing construction company. They'd built some of the Oak Ridge atomic facilities, and paranoiac legends of "security" at Oak Ridge were part of our family culture. There was a cigar-box full of strange-looking ID badges he'd worn there. But he'd done well at Oak Ridge, evidently, and so had the company he worked for, and in the postwar South they were busy building entire red brick Levittown-style suburbs. We moved a lot, following these projects, and he was frequently away, scouting for new ones.
It was a world of early television, a new Oldsmobile with crazy rocket-ship styling, toys with science fiction themes. Then my father went off on one more business trip. He never came back. He choked on something in a restaurant, the Heimlich maneuver hadn't been discovered yet, and everything changed.
My mother took me back to the small town in southwestern Virginia where both she and my father were from, a place where modernity had arrived to some extent but was deeply distrusted. The trauma of my father's death aside, I'm convinced that it was this experience of feeling abruptly exiled, to what seemed like the past, that began my relationship with science fiction.
I eventually became exactly the sort of introverted, hyper-bookish boy you'll find in the biographies of most American science fiction writers, obsessively filling shelves with paperbacks and digest-sized magazines, dreaming of one day becoming a writer myself.
At age fifteen, my chronically anxious and depressive mother having demonstrated an uncharacteristic burst of common sense in what today we call parenting, I was shipped off to a private boys' school in Arizona. There, extracted grub-like and blinking from my bedroom and those bulging plywood shelves, I began the forced invention of a less Lovecraftian persona - based in large part on a chance literary discovery a year or so before.
I had stumbled, in my ceaseless quest for more and/or better science fiction, on a writer name Burroughs -- not Edgar Rice but William S., and with him had come his colleagues Kerouac and Ginsberg. I had read this stuff, or tried to, with no idea at all of what it might mean, and felt compelled - compelled to what, I didn't know. The effect, over the next few years, was to make me, at least in terms of my Virginia home, Patient Zero of what would later be called the counterculture. At the time, I had no way of knowing that millions of other Boomer babes, changelings all, were undergoing the same metamorphosis.
In Arizona, science fiction was put aside with other childish things, as I set about negotiating puberty and trying on alternate personae with all the urgency and clumsiness that come with that, and was actually getting somewhere, I think, when my mother died with stunning suddenness. Dropped literally dead: the descent of an Other Shoe I'd been anticipating since age six.
Thereafter, probably needless to say, things didn't seem to go very well for quite a while. I left my school without graduating, joined up with rest of the Children's Crusade of the day, and shortly found my self in Canada, a country I knew almost nothing about. I concentrated on evading the draft and staying alive, while trying to make sure I looked like I was at least enjoying the Summer of Love. I did literally evade the draft, as they never bothered drafting me, and have lived here in Canada, more or less, ever since.
Having ridden out the crest of the Sixties in Toronto, aside from a brief, riot-torn spell in the District of Columbia, I met a girl from Vancouver, went off to Europe with her (concentrating on countries with fascist regimes and highly favorable rates of exchange) got married, and moved to British Columbia, where I watched the hot fat of the Sixties congeal as I earned a desultory bachelor's degree in English at UBC.
In 1977, facing first-time parenthood and an absolute lack of enthusiasm for anything like "career," I found myself dusting off my twelve-year-old's interest in science fiction. Simultaneously, weird noises were being heard from New York and London. I took Punk to be the detonation of some slow-fused projectile buried deep in society's flank a decade earlier, and I took it to be, somehow, a sign. And I began, then, to write.
And have been, ever since.
Google me and you can learn that I do it all on a manual typewriter, something that hasn't been true since 1985, but which makes such an easy hook for a lazy journalist that I expect to be reading it for the rest of my life. I only used a typewriter because that was what everyone used in 1977, and it was manual because that was what I happened to have been able to get, for free. I did avoid the Internet, but only until the advent of the Web turned it into such a magnificent opportunity to waste time that I could no longer resist. Today I probably spend as much time there as I do anywhere, although the really peculiar thing about me, demographically, is that I probably watch less than twelve hours of television in a given year, and have watched that little since age fifteen. (An individual who watches no television is still a scarcer beast than one who doesn't have an email address.) I have no idea how that happened. It wasn't a decision.
I do have an email address, yes, but, no, I won't give it to you. I am one and you are many, and even if you are, say, twenty-seven in grand global total, that's still too many. Because I need to have a life and waste time and write.
I suspect I have spent just about exactly as much time actually writing as the average person my age has spent watching television, and that, as much as anything, may be the real secret here.
6 Nov 2002
William Gibson is the award-winning author of Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive, The Difference Engine, with Bruce Sterling, Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow's Parties and Pattern Recognition. William Gibson lives in Vancouver, Canada. His latest novel, published by Penguin, is Spook Country (2007).
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Top Customer Reviews
It's almost obligatory when writing anything about William Gibson to recall that in an earlier short story, he invented the term 'cyberspace'. Gibson remains at the cutting edge of what is 'cool. Like most of his books, Zero History is a thriller, but at its core are issues surrounding technology, how we interact with it, branding and marketing. It would be easy to criticise much of his content as being too shallow and concerned with 'nothing' - but then that's part of his point.
Gibson also has a history of writing in trilogies - and this is indeed the third of his books to deal with the mysterious Blue Ant ad agency run by the gloriously named Hubertus Bigend. But equally, it stands perfectly on its own and no prior familiarity is required with the other two books (Pattern Recognition and Spook Country).
Although set firmly in the present, Gibson writes about cutting edge issues that gives his books an almost science fiction feel, and if you are a fan of some of the lighter sci fi genre, then you will find much to enjoy here. There's plenty of gadgets and no small amount of humour.
At the heart of this thriller is a subject that is, at first, unexpected; namely a secret brand of denim jeans, known as The Gabriel Hounds.Read more ›
I thought the English stuff was fairly well done in terms of location and dialect, but the plot didn't really engage me and I found it somewhat confusing at times. There is something (big) that Bigend really wants, but it's hidden away and almost inconsequential.
Having said that there is some excellent writing: "[The Neo phone]....was also prone to something Sleight called "kernel panic" which caused it to freeze and need to be restarted, a condition Milgrim himself had been instantly inclined to identify with."; "Milgrim....was caught in some frustrating loop of semi-sleep, slow and circular, in which exhaustion swung him slowly out, toward where sleep should surely have been, then overshot the mark somehow..."; And my favourite: "These were, she gathered, private internets, unlicensed and unpoliced, and Garreth had once remarked that, as with dark matter and the universe, the darknets were probably the bulk of the thing, were there any way to accurately measure them."
And there are good ideas - not so much the fashion stuff for me, but the "Order Flow" is clever and the idea of the hideous T-shirt having an impact on surveillance is wonderful - although both of these ideas are credited to others in the acknowledgements.Read more ›
Hollis is a rock singer employed by Bigend to find the designer of an achingly trendy denim brand. Milgrim is a fixer with a mysterious past, involved in shady dealing for Blue Ant and assigned to aid Hollis. The story is told, in alternate chapters, from the viewpoints of these two main protaganists.
In his iconic sprawl novels, Gibson wrote something that was unequivocally science fiction, albeit virtually inventing the sub genre of cyberpunk as he did so. Zero History is barely, if at all, a work of science fiction. His world is very recognisably our own, driven by iPhones, the internet, and twitter, although he writes in the margins of society, where shady power brokers trade real violence in battles for brands and for market position and information.
If that makes this sound like a techno-thriller, it is a long way from the works of Michael Crichton or Tom Clancy. It is more as if Gibson has taken the real world which has evolved in a parallel manner to his cyberpunk vision, and has created a new version of what the semi legal nether world looks like and how it underlies and interfaces with a mainstream market economy.
Although this is barely science fiction, it is closer to Gibson's sprawl trilogy than any of his other novels since. Both are based in the fringes of an interconnected, networked society, the former the fictional cyberspace, the latter what it has in reality become. It is interesting to note that the importance of branding and marketing is the major development which Gibson didn't foresee in the 80's. The street samurai of the Sprawl is re-incarnated as a female despatch rider.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Absolute s***. Used to be a fan. Hopeless weak. sorry I wasted my time.Published 7 months ago by Mr. Paul J. Gibson
The worst of this series. The worst Gibson has ever written I reckon.
Plot was thin. Ideas were few.
Rich in detail about the clothes people were wearing. Read more
As ever, Gibson's taut, poetic prose is utterly unique, and a sheer delight. I simply do not know of anyone who can weave together the coolness of modern life and the drabness of... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Moom
Along with Iain Banks, still my favourite modern author.Published 23 months ago by Mr. D. Roy Fraser
I won't say too much about the quality of the actual book which was OK... Not one of Gibson's best by any means but engaging enough with some interesting ideas. However... Read morePublished on 27 May 2014 by D. J. Dubery