SF Reviews background image SF Reviews logo image
Contact SF Reviews   |   Get the Newsletter 

Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

Count Zero

Copyright 1986 by William Gibson

In Association with Amazon.com In Association with Amazon.co.uk
SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point    Superb (5/5)

I first read this in 1987 and most recently on the 24th June 2006

In a nightmare near-future world, the virtual reality of the Matrix, the consensual world the Internet will become, seems to be bleeding through to the real world. There are strange things afoot, strange beings prowling and the Voodoo lord Baron Samedi stands at the crossroads.

Turner is a mercenary. His current job is to safely deliver a defector from one of the major corporations to his new company. To do that he'll lead a team of soldiers and medics and some very sophisticated hardware.

Bobby and Angela are just two mixed-up kids, ill-used by their parents and ill-prepared for the world as it really is. Now they're finding out that it's shinier, harder and tougher than the world they've known.

They're are unlikely to last long without the heavyweight help of Turner and Molly.

Turner and Molly, however, have their own life-threatening concerns.

Meanwhile, Marly searches for the box-maker and her own redemption. On the way finds that the world can be what you make of it, and that the very rich can make the world exactly whatever they want it to be.

Amazing stuff, and how can this be twenty years old? It's not possible. If Cyberpunk is twenty years old then Punk music, for example, must be at least thirty. And that is beyond the bounds of reason.

I was in Bangkok when I first read this. I picked it the book from trusty Asia Books on Sukhumvit Road and walked (yes dear Reader, walked) the ten minutes to the Ambassador Hotel to get myself an afternoon coffee and to settle down for a little reading. Surprising though it may seem to you I almost always walked there in the heat of the afternoon because in those days, the traffic was appalling and effectively immobile. There were no double-decked highways, no LRT riding high along the length of Sukhumvit Road. There were only the ubiquitous Tuk-Tuks, taxis (no meters in those days, price to be carefully negotiated in advance), few private cars and fewer motorcycle taxis. There was simply no air-conditioned way to cover that short distance in less than two hours.

The Ambassador itself had slid seriously downmarket since those days but the hotel was still known for its several excellent restaurants. I had my first Japanese food there. I remember starting with a deeply reluctant bite of tuna sashimi and found it to be fabulously delicious, this new taste just saturating my mouth. I was amazed that such tastes existed.

And that's pretty much how I felt about reading Gibson - I was amazed at this new form of SF, cyberpunk and had no idea where it had come from. Yet it was so obvious in hindsight. And of course, Gibson seemed to know about about this mysterious country Japan and I still had no idea, but eating the food had shown me that there was something special just a few thousand miles further around the globe.

And reading Gibson's enthralling, inspiring novels started me on a greedy feast of Cyberpunk that lasted through to the end of the millennium.

Loaded on the 15th July 2006.
Cover of Count Zero
Cover art by Image Bank

Reviews of other works by William Gibson:
Mona Lisa Overdrive
Virtual Light
All Tomorrow's Parties
Spook Country
Zero History

Reviews of other works by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling:
The Difference Engine

Reviews of other works with covers by Steven Hunt and Image Bank: