Count Zero

In a quick genre change, I read Count Zero, by William Gibson.

After previously read the Neuromancer a few years back, I continued the Sprawl trilogy with Count Zero, which is not really a continuation of Neuromancer, but rather a different story set in the same scenery.

There are three separate threads that are intertwined in the book, and only at the end we find out the connection between them.

Turner, a hired mercenary, is hired by a big multinational, Hosaka, to assist in the defection of Maas biolabs’ (another company) head designer, Mitchell. They assemble a rescue team in the desert, but the operation is a failure, and the design center is destroyed. However Turner escapes with a young girl, Angela, Mitchell’s daughter.

They run away from their chasers to find out that Angela was in fact supposed to escape, having a biochip implanted in her head.

The second thread is about Marly, in Paris, a young girl employed by a very rich man, Josef Virek, to obtain specific art boxes. We find out about Marly’s life, her former lover who is killed meanwhile, and her way to find the source of the boxes.

The third thread is about a young boy, Bobby, nicknamed Count Zero, who experiments with different cyberspace software. He is hired by a group to experiment different software for them, one which nearly kills him.

In the end we find out that Virek wants to obtain the biochip inside Angela’s head, and so does Hosaka and Maas biolabs, and in fact everyone. The group who got Bobby start worshiping Angela as they start some kind of new religion about her attained powers to connect to cyberspace.

Count Zero is a difficult read, mainly because Gibson has a very strong language, with plenty of made up words and acronyms, which may be hard to grasp from the start. Some of them take longer time to understand. The powerful language makes an unique novel atmosphere, that creates it’s particular feeling.

The characters in the book are not very strong, the feeling is that it’s a bit written like a movie script, and easily adaptable to a motion picture. Turner is a hired mercenary, with little conscience problems, knowing exactly what he wants to do, and few scruples.

Angela is a young smart woman, caught in something beyond her grasp, and I have the feeling Gibson could have worked a bit more on her.

Marly is the most complex character, being caught up between a job, a bad relationship, a room mate and her utmost desire to evolve and to be something more than what she already is. Her ideals to be part of art, and to understand the world through art, are the reasons why she accepts Virek’s offer.

Bobby is a kid, who barely understands the world, and is struck from very young age with the problems of life, problems that he can not really handle by himself.

We see a lot of fiction, plenty of imagination, and for the lovers of the genre, Count Zero is an interesting work.

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