Turn The Page: Spook Country by William Gibson

There is something that struck me about Gibson, reading this latest novel, and that was a quality of his prose that I had not noticed before. The scenes that he presents are like those slides of specimens that scientists use and it is as if he allows your eye to pierce through all the events and see them both frozen (as if in the slide) and for your eye to travel to all those other points in the narrative timeline simultaneously. Not clear? Maybe think of the prose as being a textual equivalent of those glass cases of Damien Hirst’s where an exploded carcass is at once separate elements and a single narrative. I want to convey the almost architectural and transparent nature of his work and how novel it seemed to me. I feel an urge to say that he is not a typical male writer — that there is something in the way that he writes that  more closely resembles Atwood, Diski, Winterson. It is a clarity and almost divorce from the sense one often feels of the author’s ego pressing in and the idea that they are showing off for their audience. Gibson has always had a way of presenting new ideas that is reminiscent of Philip K. Dick in that he doesn’t dwell too much on exposition but instead shows us the way it would work in the world and through the actions and reactions of the characters. As with his recent novels the concepts on show here are closer and more believable, or rather more attainable perhaps, than those in his earlier works and allow an even greater depth of both reflection and dissection of the modern condition. This book floats effortlessly between the art world of Chombo and the idea of locative art, and the world of the base jumpers and spooks, and that of Brown and Milgrim. Hubertus Bigend and Blue Ant make a welcome return and in Hollis Henry they have the perfect blend of world weariness and person lost at sea to guide the reader through this world. There are not many people out there writing like this — both in regards to the area of near future Gibson tackles, and writing so well; so fluidly, so poetically. At no point does this book flag or falter and thankfully at no point does it feel the need to fall back on cliched plot devices to drive it on. People have seemingly not caught on or caught up with Gibson as far as writing this kind of fiction yet, so he is once again ahead of the pack. The readers are there — let us hope the writers realise this (not that I of course want a whole raft of Gibson-a-likes to manifest).

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