Both of these were titles I really looked forward to reading. And, while I was reading them, I certainly enjoyed them. When I finished each, I was left slightly disappointed.
Before I launch into my paltry discussion of these novels, I should also mention that both books are gone from my life— Veronica back to Amy Ambulette and Spook Country who knows where.
Spook Country by William Gibson
As readers of this blog know, William Gibson’s first three novels, as well as Burning Chrome, were big influences on me. When Pattern Recognition came out a few years ago, I was delighted and very pleased with the way Gibson managed a present-day setting, as well as how he handled a female lead character. Spook Country also has a lady in the lead and Big Ant again plays a role in the plot. Instead of playing with ideas like his best books do, Spook Country feels a lot like a straightforward mystery, bumping from plot point to plot point, with a little techno-weirdness thrown in to satisfy Gibsonheads. There were many characters in this book that had significant back story brewing right under the surface, including the former rock star main character, the ethnic-mashup crime family woven throughout the LES and the pill freak mysteriously held captive by someone who seems to be a grownup playing a war game. I really wish Gibson had focused more on one set of characters, or left out some of the detail. My attention felt pulled in too many directions which overloaded me and distracted me from the main question of the book “where is the box?” Of course, that might have been by design as all the plots don’t come together satisfactorily and end up feeling like a poorly conceived fusion restaurant.
Veronica By Mary Gaitskill
Gaitskill makes stories that are so woman-centric, yet so sharp and oozing, afterwards you wonder why this is a rarity. Veronica sets out to be such a tale what with the 80s, the modeling, the AIDS and the escaping that never quite removes the main character from her lack of self. I guess that’s the thing; the person telling the story comes through only hazily, I couldn’t see her at all. I know, I know, but this book is about the friend, Veronica; it is even named after her. Except, except that how can I care about Veronica, Gaitskill’s perfect, heartbreaking creation, if I don’t really care how she affects the main character? How?
Still I loved this book’s description of various locales (Gaitskill is great with smells and colors) and attention to how people with unpopular diseases live, today and yesterday.