I wish I could say William Gibson’s new book, Spook Country is, as Cory Doctorow finds it, “worth the wait.” I like it — I just wasn’t blown away. Like any Gibson fan, I enjoyed the fix. Spook Country is a good read — a great beach book for a web geek — but it is no Pattern Recognition*. Indeed, in some ways, Gibson seems burdened by the need to make Spook Country live up to the success of Pattern Recognition — and, therefore, it appears to fall into a formulaic pattern recognizable to anyone who read that previous book — it just doesn’t quite measure up.
If he keeps the formula going, he’ll be creating a genre of book that may earn the title, “techo-marketing thriller” — great reads for viral marketers, pop-culture trend-spotters and SEO-types. Both Pattern Recognition and Spook Country have a character, Hubertus Bigend, who is bent on capturing and bottling the next-new-online-thing in order to sell it to his worldwide network of advertising clients. In Pattern Recognition, Hubertus co-opted a young branding geekstress to help him crack the code on (in pre-YouTube days) a video viral marketing strategy. In Spook Country, he uses a former indie rocker-turned-journalist geekstress, to crack the code on “locative art,” a mashup of, let’s see, Google maps, GPS and virtual reality goggles one can wear around and view 3D images in real-space.
Gibson is great at weaving such a concept as locative art (technology that seems “out-there” to all but the hippest of hipster geek) with lots of pop-culture and contemporary web-savvy references and then packaging it all up in a good techno-thrilling page-turning yarn.
But don’t expect this “techno-marketing thriller” to be like a techno-military thriller, ala Clancy. This is strictly vegan techno-thrilling. There are plenty of bad guys, but Gibson’s bad guys are no Jack Ryans (or Jack Bauers, for that matter) — They don’t shoot to kill, rather, they shoot to make geo-political statements or to express themselves artistically — or, if they’re really-really evil, for branding purposes.
*A few years ago, I included Pattern Recognition among my list of books that are accidentally about blogging.