Distrust That Particular Flavour by William Gibson (2012) 259 p.
Distrust That Particular Flavour is a collection of non-fiction pieces by William Gibson, published between the late 1980s and the modern day. I read them bit by bit while reading other books, because while Gibson’s a good writer, his style and choice of topics can easily be repetitive.
There are a number of excellent articles in here. “Disneyland With The Death Penalty” is easily the most famous, a scathing critique of Singapore he wrote for Wired in the early 1990s, which then got Wired banned in Singapore. “My Obsession” chronicles Gibson’s discovery of eBay in the 1990s, which he used to acquire antique watches. “The Road To Oceania” is a reflection on George Orwell’s 1984, and the very different road society took towards endless surveillance. And I particularly enjoyed “Modern Boys and Mobile Girls,” in which Gibson discusses the association between Japan and science fiction. There’s an assumption that Neuromancer (and much of his other early work) was set in Japan because Japan was the big rising star of the 1980s, and that if he were to write those books again today, wouldn’t he set them in China – probably Shanghai? The answer is no, because “Japan is the global imagination’s default setting for the future,” an assertion Gibson convincingly backs up.
There are also, however, a lot of articles I found less interesting – reflections on some 1970s band, a review of a book of photographs, and a number of pieces in which Gibson extrapolates on his thoughts about futurism and the convergence of technology, which, if I’m being honest, I found difficult to follow. That’s my problem, not Gibson’s, but I do feel that a lot of the pieces in this collection don’t sit well alongside each other.
Can I recommend this book? I don’t think so. Gibson is an excellent writer, but all of the really good articles I mentioned above can be read freely online – I’ve linked to them above. Distrust That Particular Flavour is only a necessary purchase for the Gibson completist.