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Paranoid prose

Stephen Bedford
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily
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Several years ago in his novel “Neuromancer” author William Gibson predicted the Internet, cyberspace and virtual reality before any of it actually existed.

Now, eight years after his startling, astute forecasts, he’s back and convinced that the age of computers has transformed society into a digital dystopia. He’s a paranoid man with a pessimism complex, which is probably unhealthy for him, but makes for entertaining reading.

In “Spook Country,” Gibson gives us a tour of a not-too-distant New York City, filled with myriad characters, all with their own agenda.

In earnest, the plot revolves a hipster named Hollis Henry, who’s writing for a supposed trendy, upstart magazine that’s yet to publish an issue. Hollis takes a seemingly innocent assignment to find a man named Bobby Chombo, who’s an expert on Global Positioning Software by day and the de facto leader of an underground art movement by night.

As Hollis performs her journalistic duties, she becomes entangled in a plot involving Russian-speaking Cuban spies, a billionaire Belgian industrialist, and U.S.

government operatives, all of whom are searching for the same two things: Chombo and a shipping container only he knows about.

Gibson layers on the frenetic paranoia, crafting a half-spy, half sci-fi romp that is all fun, if not a bit confusing at points.

With rotating narrators, it’s hard to get a handle on who’s who in “Spook Country” or keep their threaded stories straight. Those willing to make a conscientious effort will be rewarded with a genuinely unique novel.

Although not the provocative soothsayer he was in “Neuromancer,” Gibson still makes some thinly-veiled assertions about art suppression, big money influence, the Cold War, and the accusatory ‘politics of fear.’

Throughout the story, we’re led on a goose chase for this shipping container that everyone wants for various reasons. The guessing is akin to whatever was inside Marcellus Wallace’s brief case in “Pulp Fiction.”

The chase is quite fun, and the mystery of what’s inside builds to the novel’s crescendo. Of course, all the parties searching for it are convinced they’re being followed, set-up or baited into a trap.

And those are fun things and fun people to read about, as long as you’re not one of them.

Stephen Bedford is the manager of the Bookworm of Edwards.


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