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Tito is in his early twenties. Born in Cuba, he speaks fluent Russian, lives in one room in a NoLita warehouse, and does delicate jobs involving information transfer.
Hollis Henry is an investigative journalist, on assignment from a magazine called Node. Node doesn't exist yet, which is fine; she's used to that. But it seems to be actively blocking the kind of buzz that magazines normally cultivate before they start up. Really actively blocking it. It's odd, even a little scary, if Hollis lets herself think about it much. Which she doesn't; she can't afford to.
Milgrim is a junkie. A high-end junkie, hooked on prescription antianxiety drugs. Milgrim figures he wouldn't survive twenty-four hours if Brown, the mystery man who saved him from a misunderstanding with his dealer, ever stopped supplying those little bubble packs. What exactly Brown is up to Milgrim can't say, but it seems to be military in nature. At least, Milgrim's very nuanced Russian would seem to be a big part of it, as would breaking into locked rooms.
Bobby Chombo is a "producer," and an enigma. In his day job, Bobby is a troubleshooter for manufacturers of military navigation equipment. He refuses to sleep in the same place twice. He meets no one. Hollis Henry has been told to find him.
Pattern Recognition was a bestseller on every list of every major newspaper in the country, reaching #4 on the New York Times list. It was also a BookSense top ten pick, a WordStock bestseller, a best book of the year for Publishers Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and the Economist, and a Washington Post "rave."
Spook Country is the perfect follow-up to Pattern Recognition, which was called by The Washington Post (among many glowing reviews), "One of the first authentic and vital novels of the twenty-first century."
"Despite a full complement of thieves, pushers and pirates, Spook Country is less a conventional thriller than a devastatingly precise reflection of the American zeitgeist, and it bears comparison to the best work of Don DeLillo. Although he is a very different sort of writer, Gibson, like DeLillo, writes fiction that is powerfully attuned to the currents of dread, dismay and baffled fury that permeate our culture. Spook Country-- which is a beautifully multi-leveled title -- takes an unflinching look at that culture. With a clear eye and a minimum of editorial comment, Gibson shows us a country that has drifted dangerously from its governing principles, evoking a kind of ironic nostalgia for a time when, as one character puts it, "grown-ups still ran things." In Spook Country, Gibson takes another large step forward and reaffirms his position as one of the most astute and entertaining commentators on our astonishing, chaotic present."
--Washington Post Book World
from Wired, 7/24/07
Like Pattern Recognition before it, William Gibson's eighth novel, Spook Country , feels like dictation from the zeitgeist. Its "illegal facilitators," nonexistent magazines, terrorists, pirates, junkies, mad art dealers, and WMD are all woven together into something more unsettling and blackly comic than anything he's done before. Gibson and I started talking in '04, shortly before meeting in person while I was in Vancouver working on a doomed TV pilot based on my comic book series Global Frequency. At the time, he disclosed that near-future events would determine whether Spook Country would be comedy or horror. We've stayed in touch electronically ever since, and when wired asked me to talk to him about the book, set for release in August, we picked up right where we left off.
Wired: So, comedy or horror?
Gibson: I think it turned out to be satirical, which is what comedy best aspires to in tragic times. I can't make a narrative up beforehand, can't write before I start typing, so I literally don't decide what a story is or where it goes.
Wired:I was surprised to see Hubertus Bigend from Pattern show up. It made me wonder if that novel and Spook are consciously building to form your third trilogy.
Gibson: You know, I've never wanted to write a trilogy. I tacked that "He never saw Molly again" on the end of Neuromancer to indicate no sequel was to be expected. The fact that I've done it twice now ... Well, it seems to be one result of my "method." I wasn't suspecting H.B. either, for the longest time, but then it became apparent that Node, the shadowy magazine startup, was way Bigendian.
Wired: One of the details that leaped out at me was the Adidas GSG9, named for the German counterterrorism squad. I felt certain you'd invented the shoe, but then I Googled it.
Gibson: The Adidas GSG9s were the obvious choice for the thinking man's ninja. Nothing I could make up could resonate in the same way. There's code in name-checking the GSG9 history — esoteric meaning. Something that started with Pattern Recognition was that I†discovered I could Google the world of the novel. I began to regard it as a sort of extended text — hypertext pages hovering just outside the printed page. There have been threads on my Web site — readers Googling and finding my footprints. I still get people asking me about "the possibilities of interactive fiction," and they seem to have no clue how we're already so there.
Click here to read full interview.
- What effect does Blue Ant have on art and technology? Where should corporations draw the line when it comes to high art and consumer art? How can big business and the military play a role in nurturing art rather than bastardizing it for financial gain?
- “Secrets are the very root of cool.” The major players in this series exist solely to expose or protect undisclosed information. Compare Hobbs Baranov’s “old-boy networks,” Hubertus Bigend’s “viral agency,” and the old man’s covert operatives. How do these groups measure up to Cayce Pollard’s Gabriel Hounds company, Stella Volkov’s Film Footage family, and Dorotea Benedetti’s international associates? Which of these characters have access to the most heavily guarded intel? While Bigend, “wishes [his agency] could operate as a black hole, an absence,” are any of these groups actually untouchable? Why or why not?
- Milgram has an addiction to painkillers. Cayce Pollard has an unusual aversion to logos. Bobby Chombo cannot sleep in the same space twice. Where do think these allergies, addictions and obsessive behaviors come from? What do these conditions say about each individual? What other unusual personality disorders appear throughout these stories? How do these traits define these characters?
- Keiko, the flying penguin and Mama Anarchia are all modern tools of deception. Discuss the ways in which technology can be utilized to create false identities. How do these artificial characters successfully distract, mislead and deceive in Gibson’s world?
- “They broke laws, but they weren’t crooks.” Examine how certain characters are driven by a sense of patriotism. Does this devotion to their own country blind them from making decisions on a multinational level? Explain. Give examples of when patriotism usurps a character’s perception of morality?
- Gibson’s characters derive power from knowledge, technology and money. Which character stands to lose the most power if one of these elements were taken away? How would such an event change that individual’s drive for success?
- Describe the relationship between Milgram and Brown? How do their roles as captor and hostage evolve over time? What incidents stand out as pivotal in the shift of power between these two men? How would the situation have differed if Milgram weren’t an addict?
- Several characters are introduced or exposed gradually as double agents. Analyze these two-faced individuals and identify the motivation for their actions. Do they all shift from ally to adversary in each story? If so, do any of them ever see the error of their ways and redeem themselves?
- How are government agencies portrayed in these stories? Which characters are directly influenced by the private sector? How have these agencies changed through the eyes of these characters in a post cold war and post 9/11 world?
- Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a sister’s devotion or a mother and daughter’s bond, family plays an important role in all three of these stories. Evaluate the positive and negative influences familial relationships have on Cayce, Stella, Fiona and others.
- A general feeling of mistrust is interwoven into almost every character’s life. In what ways do Cayce, Hollis and others exhibit this sentiment? Are they justified in their thinking? Why? Which character(s) allows their suspicions to sway their actions? Which character(s) prevents paranoia from influencing their decisions?
- Evaluate the communities formed by culture, common interest or political affiliation in these stories. Do the locations of their existence, either in the real world or exclusively online, affect the level of allegiance among its members? Which characters feel torn between multiple communities and why?
- How do mobile phone technology, social media and wifi impact the level of security in the lives of Gibson’s characters? Which character would be the easiest to monitor regardless of location? Which character is immune to all three forms of “tracking?”
- “A nation consists of laws. A nation does not consist of its situation at a given time. If an individual’s morals are situational, that individual is without morals. If a nation’s laws are situational, that nation has no laws and soon isn’t a nation.” Discuss how this Rize-induced statement by Milgram would resonate with other characters in this series. What does this quote say about Milgram and how he views the world? How do you think this idea affected Brown?
- We’re introduced to several villains or opposing forces throughout this series. Which character or group of characters do you feel are the most ruthless in accomplishing their goal and why?
- Compare and contrast the following couples: Cayce Pollard & Peter “Parkaboy” Gilbert, Hollis Henry & Garreth Wilson, and Milgram and Fiona. What qualities make each pair successful in love and business? What flaws and incompatible traits hinder each partnership? Which couple do you feel is best matched? Identify other notable duos, romantic or platonic, that appear in this series.