Sunday, September 26, 2010

Zero History (Bigend, #3)Zero History by William Gibson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Following up on its immediate predecessors, Pattern Recognition and Spook Country, Zero History, once again revolving around the machinations of bleeding-edge marketing guru Hubertus Bigend as he manipulates a motley assortment of oddballs into tracking down what he perceives as the Next Big Thing -- in this case the designer of a line of clothing so exclusive no one knows their identity. Various characters from the previous books reappear, such as former rock singer-turned-journalist Hollis Henry, now ex-junkie translater Milgrim, and someone I can't name without ruining the surprise, but the book is less a sequel than a sort of remix or variation on a theme.

The book has the brisk pace and convoluted plot of a techno-thriller, which may seem like overkill given that it's basically about dungarees -- a decided come-down from the near-apocalyptic stakes of Gibson's earlier novels like Neuromancer, but damn if the guy doesn't pull it off. His gift for language is as strong as ever, with his patented mix of world-weary noirish romanticism and keen eye for the way technology informs and permeates contemporary life (this is a novel about people who interact via iPhones and Twitter as though there's no difference between that and "meatspace" contact") honed to an edge as sharp as one of Molly's razors.

[Note: I would be remiss in not pointing out that the novel's fictional clothing line, "Gabriel Hounds" is taken from the same piece of British folklore as my nom de blog.]

View all my reviews

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Man of MeansA Man of Means by P.G. Wodehouse

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An early (1916) effort from The Master; it's only barely a novel, being cobbled together from six related short stories about a hapless schmo who repeatedly lucks into money, is beset by parasites and con artists hoping to separate him from it and by sheer dumb luck emerges from each scrape richer than before. Entertaining in its own right, but worth reading because you can see him working out the plot mechanics that would drive his later works.

View all my reviews
Star IslandStar Island by Carl Hiaasen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've always thought of Carl Hiaasen as the Raymond Chandler to Elmore Leonard's Dashiell Hammett -- while Leonard may have set the template for the breezy Florida-set caper yarn, Hiaasen took it in a more baroque, overtly satirical direction. In addition, his genuine outrage over the various predators and parasites who he sees as destroying his native state's culture and natural beauty grounds his narratives and saves them from being simply exercises in outrageousness for its own sake.

Nevertheless, in this novel, which revolves around the kidnapping of the "undercover stunt double" (read: actress hired to impersonate her whenever she's too wasted to appear in public) of Cherry Pye, a Britney Spears-like trainwreck of a pop singer, one can't help thinking that Hiaasen -- whose novels have previously targeted corrupt politicians, venal developers, and rapacious businessmen -- has gone after some very low-hanging fruit. Especially when one considers that a fondness for classic rock is the one true constant in all of Hiaasen's work: if a guy (and it's almost always a guy) likes, say, Creedence or the Beatles, you know he's unquestionably one of the Good Guys; likewise if a woman too young to have known the glories of Boomer Rock first hand likes it upon being exposed to it, you can bet she's just passed the audition to be the current book's Designated Love Interest. There's much that's eminently mockable about today's tween-pop, but Hiaasen's dislike, which often curdles into sheer contempt, too often has a "get off my lawn" quality to it, which gives the satire a certain tone-deafness, right down the name "Cherry Pye" itself, which would be a tad over-obvious for a second-tier porn actress, let alone a supposed teen idol.

View all my reviews