Zero History by William Gibson

Zero-History-coverZero History follows on from Spook Country, but does not contain the character of Tito, whose storyline was concluded fairly satisfactorily. The location of the book has been changed to London, but the characters of Henry and Milgrim have kept on – and developed fairly well. It’s fascinating to see these characters again, and follow their interactions and adventures in a totally different setting.

This work mainly concerns itself with fashion and the stock market – not the most initially fascinating of subjects, but some ones that Gibson describes very well and expounds on at length. As with Spook Country, Gibson shows himself to have a masterful knowledge of his subject matter and approaches the subject of fashion from an angle few would expect of a science fiction writer. It’s a fairly stereotypical but somewhat accurate assumption that most any science fiction writers would look at fashion, clothing and garment industries with some disdain and a lack of understanding: they are sectors of the world that are fairly often derided, despite their importance. However, Gibson shows himself to know a thing or two about clothes: and he puts this knowledge to good use in integrating fashion and the nature of garments into the plot excellently.

Essentially, Henry and Milgrim are now working for the same company, investigating a very specific and secretive brand of clothing to determine what makes it so cool. This plotline works its way throughout the entire novel, and is handled very well – and provides an interesting counterpoint to the rest of the plot, which is mainly concerned with corporate espionage and continues the locative and geographic-based themes of Gibson’s previous work, Spook Country.

In this novel, Gibson fleshes his characters out more and provides more depth – his previous works were a little distant and contained characters that were a little more aloof, but Zero History is approachable and easy to read. It feels a lot less of a struggle to keep up with the plot, as well – generally, there is more of a sense that you want to continue reading, rather than backtrack and make sense of what has been happening. From a purely selfish point of view, the inclusion of some Melbourne-based plot points made it very easy to continue to read, even just to see what Gibson had to say about the Melbourne locations he was talking about.

 

Generation Z: The Bookless Generation

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Generation Z (those born post-2005) are going to read fewer books than any generation before them. Generation Y were probably bad enough – but at least we read some.

In the modern era, reading books is no longer a common pastime. Older folk still love a good book to pass the time, but the new generation have other forms of entertainment

So what will be the consequences of a virtually bookless generation? We can only guess, but some side effects might be:on tap: computers, iPads, the internet, their phones, televisions…the list goes on. With this being the case, they are unlikely to read all that many books (and ones that they do read are likely to be on their eReader). Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule – but there probably won’t be all that many exceptions. While kids will be ‘forced’ to read some books at school, they are quite likely to grab the movie version to catch up on the plot, or simply Google synopsis of the story. Many won’t actually read the book.

Poor spelling and grammar: We learn to spell and write property by reading – at least partially. If kids are no longer reading regularly, they are not gaining that exposure to proper grammar and ‘good’ writing. Instead, they are submerging themselves in text talk, internet articles (where mistakes are a-plenty) and other forms of writing. What this means is that they will pick up habits from these places, rather than from well-written books. This is always going to end badly.

This doesn’t just mean they can’t write a book themselves. It means they will struggle with basic things in life, such as writing a resume and cover letter, or sending client emails at work. Writing well is an important life skill.

Inability to read complex things: When your entire library consists of internet bullshit and texts, you become used to reading very simply-worded content. This means that those big words are sure to go over your head, reducing and simplifying your vocabulary. When it comes to things like job interviews, you want to sound like you are relatively intelligent – not some simpleton.

So, if you are the parents of Generation Z, give them a book. Encourage them to read some proper literature and get off the computer. Their writing, reading and overall language will benefit – and they will thank you for it in the long run.

Little Girls & Pony Stories

While it is certainly a generalisation to say that little girls love to read pony books, it certainly is true to some extent. You only need to take a look at the number of pony stories available in libraries, bookstores and online to understand that there must be some demand!

Pony stories play on a fantasy – the dream of owning a pony. This a dream that most little girls never realise, either due to cost or waning interest as they grow up. However, these stories go some way towards satisfying these fantasies, as they allow to children to submerge themselves in Ponyland, spending hours in the stables, at gymkhanas and galloping through the bush with their favourite characters.

Typical pony stories include series such as The Saddle Club, Thoroughbred, Pony Pals, The Pony Detectives, Horse Crazy – the list goes on. These stories tend to involves young girls and their horses, typically catering to the fantasy of owning a pony.

9780545213219There are some notable pony stories that go beyond merely entertaining children – and many of these stories are certified literary classics. These include The Silver Brumby series (Elaine Mitchell), Black Beauty (Anna Sewell) and The Black Stallion series (Walter Farley). The Silver Brumby is an Australian classic, with a TV series and movie to boot. While the series is essentially a horse story, Mitchell’s uncanny ability to capture the essence of the Australian high country has cemented these books as true classics.

The Black Stallion is a pony story with a difference, as the audience for this series extended far beyond little girls – teenage boys joined in on the action here. The series was a pony story combined with an action plot, complete with sinking boats, deserts islands, bad guys and heart-stopping races. This book was also made into a brilliant movie.

Lastly, Black Beauty can be considered a true literary classic. This book, initially written to raise attention in regards to the plight of carriage horses in the 17th century, details the life of a horse on the streets of London – and is an all-time best-selling book. Stories such as National Velvet and My Friend Flicka also have these place in literary history, as both have proven to be very popular with children of all ages.

There are many pony stories out there for the horse-mad youngster. However, there are many that go beyond simply being ‘stories for little girls’ – many horses stories have earned their place on the list of all time classics.