William Gibson made his name writing science fiction that foresaw our dependence on electronics; the term ‘cyberspace’ is generally agreed to have appeared first in a story he published in 1982. He now deals in jaunty modern-day thrillers whose frames of reference include pop music, couture and site-specific art, in addition to more traditional concerns like global finance and the military-industrial complex. Zero History, his tenth novel, revisits Hubertus Bigend, the louche Belgian advertising guru we met in Pattern Recognition (2003) and Spook Country (2007). With help from Hollis Henry, a retired rock star, and Milgrim, a languages graduate who has spent the past decade hooked on prescription drugs, he’s trying to get his hands on the secret blueprint for a rare brand of Japanese denim.
Little is obvious here – Gibson uses the adverb ‘complexly’ a lot – but the gist is that Hollis needs work because she lost cash when the money markets sank, while Milgrim owes Bigend for having bankrolled his rehabilitation at an exclusive Swiss clinic (the book’s title is