Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Generic William Gibson Plot

A Representative of Commerce hires a Specialist to track down a piece of Authenticity. The Representative wants to Commodify the Relic, the Specialist is Sceptical. The Specialist discovers that the Authentic Relic is protected and surrounded by a chaotic and confused Network of possibly unaware Agents. The Specialist's Scepticism deepens, and it is this that eventually earns the trust of the Network surrounding the Relic. The Specialist discovers the Relic and finds that it is both more, and less, than she had imagined. The Relic is produced by blind forces without Agency or Autonomy, and will not easily be represented (or commodified) by the Representative of Commerce, who nonetheless takes possession of it, anyway.

Link

10 comments:

Alex said...

Ahh, I wish this wasn't true, but 100 pages into Spook Country, it really looks like it might be... You really nailed it :)

sevensixfive said...

Thanks, yeah, that's about how deep I was into the book when I wrote that. Still a great ride though, and excellent writing.

Gibson is also highly rereadable, I'm going to dig back into Patter Recognition soon.

Memetic Engineer said...

"A Representative of Commerce hires a Specialist..."

Surely you mean "hires a particular Non Specialist" - out of their depth when it comes to professionally tracking down something or someone, but who acts as a catalyst.

sevensixfive said...

Maybe better to say '... a damaged or disgraced Specialist ...' the discovery of the Artifact is partly about the redemption of this figure, who usually at the end lands a book deal, or a consulting contract, or a huge funds transfer, etc ...

Case and Molly are damaged and disgraced, Bobby Newmark's a wannabe Specialist (a new mark), there's also Marly, the art dealer who fell for a forger in Count Zero, and of course Turner, who's literally been put back together again, with some missing pieces ... Mona Lisa Overdrive doesn't really fit the pattern, being more atmospheric than the other Sprawl books, Rydell and Chevette bring it back, though - a perennial loser and an alley rat, redeemed by performing their jobs really, really well: security and delivery of the Artifact ... Laney the node-spotter from Idoru would be the ideal Damaged Specialist, if he weren't made obsolete by Cayce, the Cool Hunter with a logo allergy ... that's deliberately leaving out All Tomorrow's Parties, of course, it being another abstract trilogy-ender.

enrique said...

Wait, that's not a generic William Gibson plot ... it's the plot to Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle. Check it Out.

jimmy said...

I went in to buy Spook Country this week when I realized I haven't yet read All Tomorrow's Parties. Living in San Francisco, I had to pick it up.

I'm halfway through it now and Spook Country is next. I'm intrigued by your post and it's very difficult to not read these comments...what with potential spoilers and all. I'll have to revisit when i make some headway!

Abe said...

ha, I was pretty much thinking the same thing as I've been reading Spook. My version went something like "Everybody is looking for the thing, not necessarily by choice. No one really knows what it is. In the end the thing is found and we still don't quite know what it is...."

sevensixfive said...

High Castle is one of the weirdest of Dick's novels because it doesn't fit his patterns. It's quiet and spooky and sad.

But yeah, I like the idea that the I Ching in Castle is the chaotic networked intelligence behind the only bits of authenticity in a fake world.

enrique said...

This thread prompted me to reread Pattern Recognition, and I am having a harder time getting into it the second time around. I am not the hugest Gibson fan. The only books I've read by him are Neuromancer. which I do like, and his collaboration with Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine, which I do not like. I guess I grow weary of novels that contain a heady mix of style and technophilia. PR seems a little to self-aware.

In addition, Pattern Recognition lacks a certain type of atmosphere that I want from a book. My current genre faves are Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir trilogy or Alan Furst's pre-WWII novels -- and I love these precisely because of their meticulous attention to shadowy figures and the penumbras they inhabit. Perhaps my research into the Second World War pollutes my judgment here, but I love the rich, nefarious world of technology-mediated espionage that not only informs Kerr's and Furst's novels, but also the work of John LeCarre, Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, and Alfred Bester. I also think that PR also lacks a certain visual richness. It "looks" like a Mark Romanek or Chris Cunningham video (which is totally necessaty for PR).

Your comment, Fred, about networked intelligence leaves me with the idea that the ultimate statement of networked objects caught up in a skein of historical forces in Gravity's Rainbow. In fact, the German media theorist Friedrich Kittler often states that Pynchon's book is not a novel, but rather a document about technological exchange during World War II.

But, I will plug through the rest of Pattern Recognition, and I will buy Spook Country as well. I must play to my own vices and keep devouring books.

sevensixfive said...

I'll have to look up some of those other noir genre writers you mention, I've got a huge appetite for that stuff as well.

Other reading this summer has included almost all of Ian fleming's James Bond novels, which were extremely satisfying. And I've only just now (about an hour ago) finished The Looking Glass War, which is the fifth or sixth book by LeCarre I've read.

George has a rap (well, really a thesis) about tracing a line from the cowboy novels of the 19th and early 20th centuries to the figure of the private eye in Hammett and Chandler, and then to the spy in LeCarre and others ... you could almost push that further and say that these hacker/media specialist types in post cyberpunk Gibson, etc. are the latest manifestation: Those Who Search for Authenticity.

Pynchon makes me think of Oedipa Maas (from The Crying of Lot 49) as a kind of model for Gibson's female protagonists. (I've tried and failed 3 times to get into Gravity's Rainbow ...)