Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ghosts and gods

I haven't read Gibson's trilogies as trilogies. This is the first time I'm sitting down and reading all of the books in order and in their proper groupings.

That being said, Count Zero could almost be part of a different series: clearly it involves the Sprawl and the third book in the trilogy makes it clearer that Count Zero is strongly connected to Neuromancer, but you can't really tell that if you read it out of context. There are just a couple of points in common between the two books - a meeting with the Finn and the brief mention of a razorgirl in orbit.

I think Count Zero is sort of the inverse of Neuromancer: the plot is much clearer but it doesn't leave very strong impressions. I didn't inhabit the Sprawl and its periphery the same way that I inhabited Chiba and Straylight. I can probably tell you more about the individual characters in Count Zero than I can the ones in Neuromancer, but I don't care about them as much. Count Zero is also lacking the smoky noir feel that penetrates every page of Neuromancer.

That is not to say that Count Zero is a bad book, by any means. I don't think that most books look good when you hold them up next to Neuromancer and when looked at by its own light instead of the bright neon shine of its predecessor Count Zero is pretty damned good. It's full of jive and chatter and filth and action. It does a VERY good job of explaining the zaibatsu power structure that hums along in the background of the Sprawl Trilogy and sets the sage beautifully for Mona Lisa Overdrive.

In fact, I think it's a little unfair to think of Count Zero as a standalone book because (even though Gibson didn't plan on making a sequel to Neuromancer) it isn't. It's the middle book in a trilogy and even if that trilogy is rather informally defined it is all part of the same narrative. A lot of what's missing from Count Zero is found in the other books of the trilogy. The parts that aren't in the other books are, I believe, down to the fact that Count Zero was only Gibson's second full-length book and it happened to follow an exceptional but also very foreign first novel.

Either way, whatever's missing from Count Zero isn't enough to put me off reading it again. So it's not Neuromancer - guess what, nothing is. But it's a good story in its own right and it's interesting to have gentler perspectives of the Sprawl.

     - Alli

Gibson, William. Count Zero. Ace Books. New York: New York. 1986.

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