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.