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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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The blank pages separating each article in this book are coloured blue, and as most of the articles herein are only a page or two long, about half of the book seems to consist of blank blue pages. Add to this the enormous font, double spacing and acres of white space, and one surmises that the publishers have managed to pad out a couple of dozen short pieces into a 17 quid hardback.

Additionally, most of the stuff here dates back to the early days of the internet, when Gibson was the go-to guy for cyberspace. Hence a lot of it now seems quaintly old fashioned and a bit pointless to read 20 years on. - One article, for instance, is about how Gibson doubts Ebay being able to work practically. Really, most of this is stuff most authors would have stuck up on websites for free at this point in their career.

I started reading the book at 7 yesterday evening, had finished it well before 9PM, and felt royally ripped off. Not recommended.
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This is a collection of the shorter writings of William Gibson, with recent short reflections added by the author on each piece.

Gibson has a sure instinct and interest on the impact of technology on society, and the pieces offer brief glimpses into the life of a digital seer, hanging out drinking in Tokyo with Douglas Coupland, pursuing random items on eBay. He seems to have a critical subeditor hard wired into him, criticising his own articles for being too long, or just not good enough. This is not bloggy ramblings but sharp commercial standard articles.

The collection is short, so I rationed it by reading a couple of other books at the same time. That encourages you to savour the pieces all the more. I have marked down slightly because it does feel a bit short for the money, but this is good stuff.
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on 13 January 2012
William Gibson has said more than once that science fiction possesses a unique toolkit for dealing with our science fictional present. He said that again when I asked why mainstream writers are turning increasingly to science fiction during a question and answer session held during his New York City literary event for this very book. He could have offered similar advice to journalists with respect to their narrative nonfiction and journalistic reporting; "Distrust That Particular Flavor" makes a most powerful case for that, in vivid, often concise, prose that will remind his most ardent fans of his early "Sprawl" stories and others collected in "Burning Chrome" and the novels "Neuromancer" and "Count Zero", and one that also evokes "Idoru", and other, later novels like "Zero History", in its relentless attention to detail. Any new book written by William Gibson should give readers ample cause for celebration, but this, his first foray into nonfiction, is not only a most distinguished collection of essays, but one that will be admired for years.

There is undoubtedly a strong cyberpunk-like beat in much of Gibson's narrative nonfiction. His poignant remembrance of his favorite SoHo (New York, NY) antiques store written within days of the 9/11 terrorist attacks ("Mr. Buk's Window") could have easily been part of one of his early "Sprawl" stories (Not surprisingly, he admits in a concise afterword that that antiques store would inspire him to finish writing the novel he had just started; "Pattern Recognition".). He has written a most concise tribute to "Steely Dan" ("Any `Mount of World") that not only pays tribute to the songwriting duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, but does so in such a way that anyone reading it will think that it is really a free verse poem instead of a most insightful piece of criticism. He finally explains his interest in Japanese culture in several compelling essays that explain why he thinks Japan represents our future. When he writes about his visits to Japan and Singapore, he does so in narratives that are so eerily reminiscent of his densely layered prose in novels like "Neuromancer", "Idoru", and even his most recent ones like "Pattern Recognition", and especially, "Zero History". Readers will be pleasantly surprised reading how he finally succumbed to the ample charms and distractions of the Web via eBay in his essay "The Net is a Waste of Time". And of course, he also discusses his longstanding admiration for writers as diverse as H. G. Wells, George Orwell, J. G. Ballard and Samuel Delany. In short, Gibson has given readers a concise introduction into his thought and an introductory trek that is one well worth taking.
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Gibson's fiction - for example, the classic Neuromancer - provides a clever, challenging and imaginative view of the world's future which is usually, but not always, dystopic. Here, he collects together several short pieces of non-fiction (together with a contemporary post-script for each one), some of which provide a partial background to how his novels come to be written. Others contain his thoughts and observations about Japan (a location he returns to many times over the course of this collection, since, "[i]f you believe, as I do, that all cultural change is essentially technology-driven, you pay attention to Japan" [p157]), Singapore (memorably described here as "Disneyland with the Death Penalty"), Steely Dan, film and the internet.

I found his pieces about this final topic to be the most interesting, since a number date from very close to (or perhaps just before) the explosion of that technology into general use. Presumably, he's included them here to indicate a degree of justification for his standard appellation of "visionary"; on this evidence, it's pretty good - for example, back in 1989, he predicted the erosion of the distinction between family media appliances (TV, CD player, computer,...), and in 2000, he views our interactions with the net as communications with a global computer. However, I found other items - such as the one about Skip Spence's jeans - to be more throwaway, and the overall length of the book (which - as has been pointed out by others - contains some degree of padding in the form of blank pages and a generous line-spacing) to be unsatisfactory, particularly when compared to - for example - Some Remarks, Neal Stephenson's recent collection, which appears to be aimed at the same market.

Perhaps the book is ultimately a good illustration of Gibson's preference for fiction-writing, which he in fact refers to several times throughout the comments on these pieces. There are some nice insights in here, but I could have done with more of them, I think.
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on 9 March 2012
A grab-bag of William Gibson's non-fiction that demonstrates why he's probably not better known for this sort of work.

The pieces themselves are, overall, quite well written but there are times, as Gibson admits, when he is plainly uncomfortable with the format. On occasions there are paragraphs where one wonders quite what exactly Gibson is talking about as he indulges himself and drops in some technobabble that only serves to sound vaguely futuristic (an expectation I believe he feels a need to live up to) and to obscure whatever point he's trying to make.

Probably the biggest issue with this book is the fact that many pieces divorced from their original context and lacking any sort of copy are bereft of an anchor in the reader's mind. On some pieces this is fine: for "Disneyland With The Death Penalty" we all have some idea of Singapore in our heads; but when faced with an introduction to the photographs of Greg Girard or the work of Stelarc I, personally, am lost and such pieces are rather devoid of meaning as a result.

There are certainly positives - Gibson can be insightful and it's fun to see where his predictions have turned out right or wrong. That's not enough though to recommend anyone read this book except for the Gibson enthusiasts.
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on 1 April 2012
By the standards of anyone else, a pass.

By the standards Gibson has accustomed us to, decidedly sub-par.

There's a broad gamut of works in here, ranging from the epochal "Disneyland With A Death Penalty" WIRED article reportage on mid-1990s Singapore, to a music review whose concluding remark was "I really like this music" (or something to that effect).

One has to respect the author's courage in resuscitating certain less-than-stellar works in an effort to provide a balanced portfolio of his works. That's laudable. The end result, however, isn't terribly compelling.
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on 15 March 2012
This is a collection of articles previously published in newspapers and magazines. I'm a huge fan - I like his style of writing and find his quirky views on technology and stuff very interesting, so I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to other fans.
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on 6 February 2012
The overwhelming impression this book leaves you with is that William Gibson hasn't written much non-fiction. It's a slender volume that purports to stretch to 250 pages but that, in fact, contains only 158 pages of text once you edit out the four blank pages separating each of the 25 pieces featured. I assume this is Gibson's entire non-fiction output, given the somewhat rag-tag nature of the reviews, forewords, essays and talks assembled here. Much of the content is dated and some of it repeats or re-interprets material covered in other pieces. All of it is terse, but it's also recognisably Gibson in style and in its discovery of novel perspectives on the mundane. Each piece is followed by a very brief commentary which, along with the introduction, appear to be Gibson's sole original contributions to the book.

A light-weight affair that costs far too much and is probably of most interest to Gibson completists.
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on 21 February 2012
I have been a fan of William Gibson for a long time. I guess it's fair to say he converted me from not liking science fiction all too much, to at least appreciate the better writers in the genre. "Distrust that Particular Flavor" is a series of short stories, or sometimes "just" a preface to a book written by a colleague, or a relatively short article on a given topic. Some I've read before, but most of them were new to me. All delightful in their own way. If you for some reason have run out of books to read, or have a period when no book that you pick up seem to really grab you - try this one! Short stories that often make you smile (he has a dry, wry kind of humour Mr Gibson), references to musicians and artists that you would like to know more about. A delight, a joy to read!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 21 August 2014
If anyone expects this to be a novel, well, it is clearly not. It is a far greater treat.

Distrust That Particular Flavor is a collection of essays and articles William Gibson had given over the years. If you have been touched by his mesmerizing prose and kaleidoscopic Futures he keeps weaving one trilogy at a time, you would want to read all of them. Instead of fine combing the net to locate them all, you can easily find them now in one printed source. I am a great fan, ever since I plunged into Neuromancer as a freshman in the nineties, and thought I had a complete collection of all of William Gibson's articles. Well, I was not even halfway done!

What I particularly appreciated was how Gibson took the risk to humbly come back to every essay of his with honest criticism. And I was thrilled to learn that we share a wrist-watch chronograph fetish (and now the Jaegers traded on the Bridge, in Virtual Light, make a whole different kind of sense).

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (especially for fans and aspiring SciFi writers).
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