Count Zero is the sequel to Neuromancer, the holy text of cyberpunk, a juxtaposition of high tech and low life that’s turning out to be the most prescient of the sci-fi sub-genres, so it had a lot to live up to. But it wasn’t just the story that I liked, I remember being tuned to the rhythm of William Gibson’s writing. The plot was dense and the action unfolded right at the extreme where I could just keep up if I concentrated. It was challenging in a way that made me feel proud for getting it, like catching a ball in the tips of your fingertips or skiing a slope at the outside limit of your skill level. Of course the only danger here was losing the thread and having to re-read. If forced to choose, I always prefer writing that is too obscure over writing that is too obvious, and Neuromancer certainly errs on the side of what-just-happened? I had the same feeling reading Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, where I knew what was happening but had no idea how I knew. Then there’s Pynchon, of course, except he’s a few large leaps deeper into the whoosis.
It’s a real thing, this needing to be tuned to the author’s rhythm. Often when I’m reading new authors, it can take a few chapters to get used to his or her beat. I imagine it as trying to maintain a conversation through the open windows of two cars driving side by side down the highway. Of course, with reading, there’s a broader range within which you will be able to understand and even enjoy the story. But when it comes to our favourite authors, I sometimes think it’s not necessarily what they write, but how they write. Which also explains why we sometimes can’t for the life of us enjoy certain authors, even though we should.
-Reading the Why
[End of part five]