Zero History by William Gibson

Why I Read It: Really enjoyed the first 2 in this series.

Where I Got It: paperbackswap.com

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy modern fiction/mystery with a fashionable twist.

Narrator: Robertson Dean

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2010)

Length: 11 CDs

Series: Bigend (or Blue Ant) Book 3

William Gibson continues the odd, twisty, fashion-saturated world of Hubertes Bigend in this third book of the Bigend series. Henry Hollis finds herself in need of employment, and Bigend has a proposition for her. He is in search of a specific and elusive fashion designer, the maker of Gabriel Hounds garments. They are rare, extremely well-made, and very expensive. In this endeavor, Bigend puts Hollis together with Milgrim, who is now clean, having spent some very lengthy, intense time in an institute that specializes in getting patients off drugs.

I do believe this was my favorite book of the trilogy. Milgrim’s new body and clear mind allows his character to grow and respond in new ways to the various situations he finds himself in. Put him together with Hollis and her band member/friend Heidi and we have a very interesting trio. Heidi’s chaotic militant character got a lot more page time in this installment, and I truly enjoyed her straight forward approach to life and the sparring mat.

As with the rest of the series, this mystery centers around fashion. Not only is Bigend trying to track the Gabriel Hounds designer, Milgrim brings to him the concern that Hollis and himself are being followed by at least one party. If you haven’t read this series, I don’t want to give away too much; yet I will say that Book 1 (Pattern Recognition) did not have the same characters as Book 2 (Spook Country). Book 3 has several of the same characters from Book 2 and the ending pulls the trilogy together quite well.

Robertson Dean gave a wonderfully clipped, English, at times quasi-European performance. Hi voices from Book 2 remain true in Book 3, yet allowing for growth in character (i. e. Milgrim). I truly loved his loud, direct voice for Heidi.

What I Liked: Heidi’s various uses for the word ‘fuck’; Israeli army bra; Fiona’s courier body armor; the Blue Ant; Hollis’s boyfriend; the espionage aspects; penguin and manta ray.

What I Disliked: This book started off a little slow, but I knew it would be good, so I stuck with it.

Spook Country by William Gibson

Tanuki with Spook Country

Why I Read It: Pattern Recognition (Book 1 in The Blue Ant Trilogy) was highly entertaining.

Where I Got It: Paperbackswap.com

Who I Recommend This To: Folks who enjoy modern-day cutting edge technology mixed with an intricate plot and detailed, quirky characters.

Narrator: Robertson Dean

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2007)

Length: 9 CDs

I didn’t realize this going into the series, but The Blue Ant Trilogy is a composite trilogy – meaning that each of the books takes place in the same world, with some of the same characters, but is not directly associated with the lead character in the other books in the series. Other examples of composite trilogies that I greatly enjoyed are the Warchild series by Karin Lowachee, The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin, and Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler.

I think most folks come to know William Gibson’s works through his cyberpunk books like Neuromancer. The Blue Ant Trilogy is some of his latest work and this is my second Gibson book. I have been mightily impressed and entertained by his writing so far that I have added all his works to my TBR mountain range. I keep it in the backyard, on the horizon, where the neighbors won’t complain too much.

Bigend, found of Blue Ant corporation, has another interesting pet project that calls for people with special talents. This book jumps right into the middle of things; the characters and situations have backgrounds that we are not immediately privy to. So you have to pay attention to the first bits in order to enjoy the rest of the book, which is well worth the initial concentration outlay. Hollis Henry once was in a rock band, so folks recognize her face here and there. She is a journalist now, that having been a long-time interest. Bigend hires her to track down some unusual info; in fact, at first, we and Hollis are not sure what info we are hunting.

The second strand of this braid is The Old Man and Tito. I could not get a read on The Old Man until the end of the book; is he a good guy, bad guy, indifferent and chaotic? I loved how he was a mystery until the finale. Tito is a young man of Cuban-Chinese decent. He worships some ancient gods, speaks at least 3 languages including Russian, and has been thoroughly trained in systema, the KGB modern-day martial art that is highly effective in urban settings against people with guns, knives, and body armor.

Milgrim and Brown make up the third strand. Milgrim is a Russian translator and a drug addict. Brown is…..well, you’ll have to read the book to find out who he works for. Brown has kidnapped and held Milgrim captive because he needs a Russian translator. For about half the book, we have guesses about who Brown is following and once it becomes clear, I wasn’t sure who to root for. Milgrim added some much needed comedy with his drug-addled take on life and his out-of-place comments.

All these characters are interested in Bobby Chombo, a paranoid technical whiz with a new form or art. Place this bulky helmet on your head and look at a certain sidewalk or coffee shop and see a reenactment of some famous event, like River Phoenix collapsing from a drug overdose. I was captivated by this idea and Gibson does a good job of showing the possibilities of this tech through Hollis’s eyes. Bobby is not only an artist, he is also capable of tracking a moving shipping container, which contains a mystery.

Robertson Dean did a great job with the dry wit that threads it’s way throughout this entire book. I loved his baffled, slightly distracted, voice for Milgrim and his soft voice for The Old Man was absolutely chilling at times.

What I Liked: Never heard of the KGB systema before this book and I find it fascinating; every character has their quirks which makes them all real people; the fast pace of the book kept me thinking about the plot even when I wasn’t reading it.

What I Disliked: If you are distracted during that first audio CD, you are probably going to have to relisten to it since this book plops you right down into the middle of it.