three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
57-Mar-Apr-2012
user_rating: 
0

A-Distrust-That-Particular-FlavorOne of the most influential science fiction writers of his generation, William Gibson's fiction includes 10 novels (Neuromancer [1984], Pattern Recognition (2003), The Difference Engine (1990), Zero History [4 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2010]) and a book of short fiction, Burning Chrome (1986). Distrust That Particular Flavor is Gibson's first collection of nonfiction.

The Topic: Early in his career, William Gibson refused to write anything but fiction. He eventually softened his stance, however, especially when an assignment involved free plane travel. Distrust That Particular Flavor is the result. In the book, which covers more than 20 years, contains 25 pieces, and spans the globe (Tokyo, Singapore, London, his adoptive Canada), Gibson collects his eclectic nonfiction for the first time--examining "Martian jet lag" in people paid to keep an eye on the red planet, observing the pristine creepiness of Singapore ("Disneyland with the Death Penalty"), describing the wardrobe of rock band Moby Grape's guitarist and the filming of his short story Johnny Mnemonic, and reminiscing on his early life and his influences.
Putnam. 272 pages. $26.95. ISBN: 9780399158438

NY Times Book Review 4.5 of 5 Stars"In Distrust That Particular Flavor, Gibson pulls off a dazzling trick. ... Gibson's writing enters the bloodstream like a drug, producing a mild hallucinogenic effect that lasts for hours." Pagan Kennedy

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars"William Gibson has collected more than 20 years of nonfiction writing in Distrust That Particular Flavor, an act worth celebrating and one that makes this a good time for a summing up. ... Gibson always has been offhand about his work, aware of its quality and influence but never self-important, and among the charming features of Distrust That Particular Flavor are the notes after each piece." Jeff Baker

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars"Straightforwardly addressing the concepts that lie below his stories' surfaces, Distrust may disprove the anthropological dictum its author introduces via another transcribed speech, this one from 2010: that ‘one cannot know ones' own culture.' If one can't know it, one can at least enjoy examining it through the diamond lens of Gibson's always elegant prose." Nisi Shawl

Cleveland Plain Dealer 3.5 of 5 Stars"Distrust That Particular Flavor is heady stuff. Gibson is a thinker first." Bill Eichenberger

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel HHH

"While he doesn't always spew forth wisdom, Gibson is usually interesting. ... Distrust might be better for readers already plugged into Gibson's evolving fictional worlds." Chris Foran

New York Times 2.5 of 5 Stars"It's tempting to say that Mr. Gibson's prose is like a lumbering airplane that simply needs more room for takeoff than small spaces can provide. ... To call a book sloppy is not necessarily to call it boring." Dwight Garner

Critical Summary

American-Canadian author William Gibson is a force in science fiction, and not just because he famously coined the term "cyberspace" in the early 1980s. Better than his contemporaries at placing the rapid change that we see around us in context ("All cultural change is essentially technology-driven," he writes, and his work bears out that dictum), Gibson seamlessly transforms that vision into fiction. By his own admission, he would rather write fiction than essays, but in the pieces collected in Distrust That Particular Flavor, he shows great range--and, occasionally, the limits of his nonfictional chops (which he freely admits to in the notes to those pieces). Readers of the author's fiction will likely appreciate these essays and reviews more than those coming to Gibson for the first time. The collection might not cut with the surgical precision of the author's best fiction, but "in this beguiling collection, we have the chance to travel with him as he rockets around in that [time] machine, visiting a future that already exists" (New York Times Book Review).