Friday, February 18, 2011

Zero History

Zero History follows in the footsteps of William Gibson's previous 2 books, "Pattern Recognition" and Spook Country", with the atmosphere in the novel remaining much the same as before.

Bruce Sterling provided a cool idea ("the ugliest t-shirt in the world") for the finale which brought together the full gamut of characters and macguffins in a satisfying way.

Boing Boing has a good micro-review of the book and Wired has an interview with Gibson about it.

William Gibson's latest novel, Zero History, is his best yet, a triumph of science fiction as social criticism and adventure. Continuing on from 2007's Spook Country, Zero History features a reformed, dried out version of Milgrim, the junkie anti-hero from Spook Country. He's been rehabilitated at the expense of Hubertus Bigend, the shadowy power-broker whom we first met in Pattern Recognition. Bigend has got Milgrim hunting for the designer behind a mysterious line of fetish-denim, in the hopes of remaking it as the basis for a lucrative US military contract; this being Bigend's idea of novelty-seeking good times.

Joining Milgrim is Hollis Henry, the former pop star from Spook Country, still reluctantly in Bigend's employ, but even more conflicted, and missing her ex-boyfriend, a thrill-seeking nutjob whose idea of a good time in jumping off tall buildings in a glidersuit. Milgrim -- and later, Hollis -- track the secret denim from South Carolina to London to Paris and back to London again, and very quickly find themselves embroiled in an intrigue involving US spooks, experimental UAVs, rogue infosec specialists, and a palace coup at Blue Ant, Bigend's legendary design and branding firm.

What makes Zero History into Gibson's best so far is how absolutely perfectly he captures the futuristic nature of the present day. Milgrim -- a junkie dried out after a ten year fugue of living rough and stealing to buy pills -- is well-suited to this task, emerging as if from a time-machine into the 21st century in full swing, able to narrate its essential strangeness without seeming contrived. But all of Gibson's characters are in the business of understanding how we got to this futuristic present, and on every page, there is a jolt of pleasant dissonance as Gibson does the conjurer's trick of making you look at your surroundings with fresh eyes.

Here is a book that is both contemporary, and futuristic -- and anachronistic, filled as it is with characters who long for simpler times, who fetishize antique computers and vintage memorabilia. It's a book that doesn't so much feel written as designed, cunningly filled with trompe d'esprit effects that fool your brain into staring at your own life from the objective distance of a Martian.


Moon is an entertaining psychological thriller with a slightly Gattaca'esque feel to it.

The movie is, unsurprisingly, set on the moon, and features Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell. Sam has two weeks left of a three-year stint overseeing the mining of Helium 3 from the far side of the Moon.

Sam longs to see his wife and daughter again, but in the meantime is cared for by an over-protective computer named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Before his stint ends, there is an accident, and when Sam re-awakes he is startled to encounter another Sam…

The movie got great reviews from At The Movies and an impressively high 90% rating at RottenTomatoes - and I've got to say I rate it highly as well, both for the acting and for some of the ideas explored (although I thought the ending was a little weak).

127 Hours

127 Hours was inspired by the true story of Aaron Ralstron, an adventurous young man in his 20's who went on a solo trip through Canyonlands National Park in Utah and, low on water and food, got his arm caught between a boulder and a wall of rock.

Ralstron wrote a book about his experiences (entitled Between a Rock and a Hard Place) and received considerable publicity at the time, so the story wasn't a mystery to me, however given that it was showing at the Open Air Cinema I thought I'd check it out.

While the venue was (as always) awe inspiring, the film itself felt flat - Crikey sums it up:

While 127 Hours impresses on a technical level the film’s bouncy aesthetics and restless energy don’t do its psychological depth any favours. The film lacks the emotional core it desperately needed for the story to resonate. It should have felt inspiring as a triumph over adversity human interest story but, sadly, it doesn’t.