September 30, 2010

zero history touches the x axis

I just finished William Gibson’s Zero History, and while I’m a fan of his characters and his prose, something bothered me about the new book: it’s set now.

While I’m not a hard core fan or student of Gibson’s work, I’ve read most of his novels. Neuromancer and the sprawl trilogy? Felt way out in the future. Virtual Light and the bridge trilogy? A bit closer to the present, but still far enough out to feel distinctly different.

His latest trilogy is much more of the moment. According to Wikipedia Pattern Recognition was set a year before it was published (2003). That may be pedantically true, and the setting was recognizable, but the action in the book still felt like it was 5-10 years out. Spook Country got closer to “now,” it felt like it was maybe 2-3 years out. But Zero History? Very much today. Very now. Very much right now today this absolute moment kind of now.

If you plot the bibliographic timeline on the x axis and the delta between publication date and when the books “felt” like they were set, and you squint really hard, you get something that looks like this.

A Gibson graph

Zero History touches the X axis. And while I love the other two books in this trilogy, I couldn’t love this one. There’s too much Twitter. Too much iPhone. Too much MacBook Air. Too much selvedge denim. It’s too close to home, and I couldn’t help but start feeling a little Cayce Pollard-ish allergic reaction to all the brand names, and all that now-ness.