The work of William Gibson begun as what most readers would call pure science fiction: worlds far into the future that were worlds removed from what they were describing at the time. There were plenty of readers who thought what Gibson was describing could never happen, but look at the world we’re in now – effortless, instantaneous communication available almost anywhere at a very low price. Wireless transfer of what is essentially the sum of human knowledge to tiny devices that can be carried with you anywhere is something that most people take for granted – and, in fact, if people don’t have access to Wi-Fi wherever they’re going, they can get pretty tetchy. Even this is something William Gibson couldn’t predict.
In his latter works, Gibson began to describe the present day, as the world quickly caught up with those he was describing in almost every respect. Spook Country is a look at the present day with some very minor details changed, but nothing at all removed from the world that we live in – a world after the events of 9/11, a world where technology has reached a saturation point that we can’t imagine progressing any further but that continues unabated.
Spook Country concerns itself with Hollis Henry, who is investigating locative art in Los Angeles, Tito, a freelance thief and smuggler, and Milgrim, a translator. He manages to thread together all of these characters’ narratives easily throughout the book in a way that never becomes clumsy and that reveals the interactions between the characters and their worlds beautifully. Gibson reveals his knowledge of various aspects of our modern world quite adeptly – and shows that he really knows how to conduct research for a novel. It’s incredible how much of the world Gibson knows about, especially if you were originally in the mindset that a science fiction writer wouldn’t tend to have much general knowledge or write convincingly about the world that we live in.
The work is filled with detail that unveils the plotline beautifully, advances the story and gives a truly believable feel to how the novel plays out: it manages to touch upon some sci-fi plot points without feeling far removed from reality and the present, and truly creates a tense and thrilling atmosphere at points. As with many of Gibson’s pieces, the plot can be difficult to follow, but ends up giving some resolution.