Zero History is an ideal book If you enjoyed William Gibson’s previous two works Pattern Recognition and Spook Country. Like the previous two books it dwells in the now, which is appropriate given Gibson’s oft quoted koan:
‘The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed’.
I have written the review in terms of general themes so that I don’t put in any plot spoilers.
It brings many of the major protagonists from the previous books in the Pattern Recognition series back and ties the plot together quite neatly. There are two ways to look at Zero History, in terms of chronology it arrives at the end of a logical order of Pattern Recognition and Spook Country; but in terms of its themes Zero History sits between Pattern Recognition and Spook Country. Like Pattern Recognition it questions the nature of brands, design and art. It borrows elements of locative art from Spook Country and throws private military companies and the military industrial complex into the mix.
Marketing is portrayed as amoral, understanding the price of everything, yet having the value of nothing outside its grasp. The discussion of brands in Zero History is less about a well-designed logo and more about the brand authenticity – the way it matches the product – how much truth from it is designed into the product.
There is also a sense that the quality of manufactured goods is in decline and creatives are trying to recapture this quality by going vintage and re-manufacturing old products. This creative effort is then concealed from marketers who would despoil it. Gibson forces the reader to think about how they relate to the brands they like and the marketing that they see around them, he also uses the story to address the rise of the corporation as a military entity a la AEGIS, Xe or Halliburton.