book review: zero history

Last night I finished William Gibson’s latest book, Zero History. I’ve read some reviews saying it is his best book, but I’m not sure (I’m partial to the old cyberpunk novels, what can I say?). But I did really like this one, much better than Spook Country. Which is interesting because Zero History is a sequel, the third in the Bigend trilogy. Hollis Henry, the protagonist from Spook Country and Milgrim, a character from Pattern Recognition (which I really love) are both hired by extravagantly wealthy and curious businessman Hubertus Bigend (he’s Belgian originally, so you can pronounce his name the way it looks or kind of frenchified) to investigate some jeans.

What’s cool about the book is how it deals wish fashion and military contracting. The plot itself is pretty simple, but the worlds that Hollis and Milgrim are moving through are strange but entirely in our branded present. The book’s filled with iPhones and Macs to such a degree that when a character uses a no-name computer it’s really notable. There’s discussion of the recursion of military influenced clothing on fashion and how boys wear clothes to try and have themselves mistaken for people with skills they don’t have, like they’re special forces or something.

The plot, well, it pushes the characters along. I don’t read Gibson novels for the plot. This one was especially odd because the protagonists are both working for someone they don’t really like and don’t really care about, so there’s a distance between them and needing to reach their goals. As it goes on they do have more of a stake in the resolution but the value here is seeing this military-fashion complex kind of world.

It made me want to care about my clothes more than I do.

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