Book Review: Zero History

Zero History by William Gibson

Not recommended

I love William Gibson. I do. I’ve gobbled down his books and I pre-ordered Zero History without reading the synopsis. He’s one of the few authors I generally trust enough to do that. Thing is, I only managed to finish it because of the twin impulses of loyalty and stubbornness.

I cannot abide Hollis, the main character. In Pattern Recognition I had pity for her. In Spook Country I had the small hope that she was developing beyond her fears and might have a personality some day. In Zero History, I want to shove her into a traveling trunk and ship her to the Antarctic so that all of the interesting characters get more screen time.

After reading an interview with Mr. Gibson, I discovered that I’m not supposed to like Milgrim. He’s a recovering addict and I suppose I’m to find him annoying or pathetic. I don’t. I love his perspective and the way his plot barrels along in that strange pace and setting where he doesn’t know who or what to trust in this world that he now sees through untainted eyes. He’s a great character. His part of the plot moves. I don’t have the frequent wish that I could grab him by the shoulders and shake him until his teeth rattle, the way I do with the boring and willfully stupid Hollis.

The writing in Zero History is uneven. The plot sticks and the gears seem as if they’re misaligned. When compared to Count Zero or Mona Lisa Overdrive or even (Heaven help me) Pattern Recognition the story is soggy and limpid. Hollis is not compelling and Milgrim can’t maintain the story on his own.

Thankfully, this is the last book of the Hollis trilogy. Here’s hoping that his next book is more readable.

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