|COUNT ZERO By William Gibson
I allready had the pleasure to read one of W. Gibbson‘s books named ‚Virtual Light‘ and really enjoyed it. That was basically why I bought this book; that and the fact that nearly everyone I asked about Science Fiction told me that Gibson would be the ‚Big Boss‘ in this genre.
The story is told in the view of 3 (!) narrators:
TURNER (first name not mentioned): He is a mercenary who makes the dirty jobs for big companies. He’s a specialist for extractions (kidnapping important persons or those who are bound by contracts and bring them to another company).
MARLY KRUSHKOWA: Worked in an galery untill it went bancrupt and now tries herself as a Art-specialist seeking rare art for rich persons.
BOBBY (last name not mentioned): A kid from the slums of Barrytown / Los Angeles. He earns his money stealing data from the so-called MATRIX (Something like a really, really huge Internet).
TO EXPLAIN THE TIME:
The story takes place in the near future, where life got far more technical then nowadays: Science has made huge advancements, but not all were good. The rapid increase in the possibilities to cure humans has lead to an overpopulation of earth and so space-stations have been build to hold the huge amound of people excisting. Another side-effect was that only large, rich companies could afford to buy the latest technology and by this have built up huge monopoles. The Internet has widened over the whole planet and the use of biochips (transplants in the head of person) make it possible to directly connect oneself to the now-called ‚Matrix‘ seeing the data in virtual reality (like in real life) via a small computers also called cyberdecks.
The story begins with Turner beeing blown up during a mission in Marakech. He is healed again, but remains under a strange amnesia which lasts for three months. He spends traveling around the globe without even knowing his identity. As he recovers his memories, he is confronted with Conroy (later on very important!), a head of HOSAKA- A company which is interested in the extraction of a wellknown researcher called Mitchell, who is working for MAAS Biolabs. Something with the mission goes wrong and his team is killed, but Turner can escape with the aeroplane in which Mitchell was supposed to wait for him. But instead of the scientist Mitchell he finds his daughter Tina on the backseat of the aeroplane. Dr. Mitchell prefered to give his daughter the chance to escape and then commited suicide.
Meanwhile Marly Krushkowa is drowning in bonds and unpayed bills. She had to sell her home and move to a friend. She’s near desperation, when she receives a letter from Joseph Virek, one of the richest people in the world (imagine Bill Gates x20!). He wants her to find a strange black box which seems to be built out of crap, but still somehow makes one dizy if you would stare at it for too long. He tells her in a Virtual conference (The persons can talk to each other like in one room though beeing in different parts of the world) that he would need the more boxes for ‚A special project‘. He gives her access to his resources and the assistance of his servant Paco to find the maker of the boxes. When Marly makes herself on the way to Paris, she meets her old boyfriend Alain. He says he knows of the box-maker’s whereabout and would tell her what he knows for 6 Million Dollars. With money beeing no problem for her, Marley accepts and makes herself on the way to Alain’s apartment to make the deal...
Now, the story jumps to the third main actor in this book: Bobby. While breaking into a data bank he is caught and heavily injured. But that’s not all yet: On the way to his contact adress Two-a-Day, he is robbed by a gang and the cyberdeck he made his run with is stolen. Somehow depressed and still loosing blood, he returns home, only to be blown up by a rocket launcher. He’s safed from death by two women, Jessica and Lona- both working for Two-a-Day. As he reawakes, he comes to meet Two-a-Day’s bosses: Beauvoir and Lucas. They tell him that the cyberdecks he always received from Two-a-Day were actually stolen and that he was just used to testdrive them, so that they could check out wheather they work or not. Now that his deck is stolen (it contained one of the boxes Marly is looking for), they are in trouble, because they have to fulfill a contract with another company. A security video shows that a combat squad from Hosaka was responsible for the run on Bobby’s apartment and it soon becomes clear that they were actually looking for the cyberdeck. Suddenly a metallic voice comes from Lucas mouth talking Vodoo. It tells that they should go to a man called the Finn, who had sold the deck to them. Lucas explains that the voice came from his ‚legba‘, one of his gods. Still not understanding, but somehow enlighted to know the truth, Bobby acompanies Beavoir to the Finn...
Turner uses the plane to fly to his brother in Mexico to escape from Maas Biolabs and the police. There, he lets his brother check Tina to find out wheather she has got a datastore or something like it in her head, but the only thing they discover is a net of wires. Then suddenly a metallic voice comes from Tina’s mouth . It tells him to go to Los Angeles to meet ‚the count‘ (Bobby). With nothing more than this trace of what actually happened to him, Turner takes Tina with him and together, they make their way to Los Angeles. But it should not be this easy: As they want to ask for the way a helicopter from Hosaka appears and tries to kidnapp Tina, but it gets caught in a telephone wire and crashes. Turner is now left alone; with his own company under the control of Conroy chasing him he continues to L.A.
Meanwhile Mary discovers that her exfriend was murdered, but knowing that he always wrote down everything, she finds some coordinates lieing in space. Shocked by the death of her former lover, she wants to quit the job, but she is stopped by Paco. He threatens to kill her if she would not finish her job. With no other choices left, Marly has to continue the job. She hires a freighter and makes herself on the way to these coordinates, who belong to a left research lab in the orbit of earth
Bobby arrives at Finn’s and discovers 3 dead Killers who were sent by Hosaka. They had tried to kill Finn, but he could defend himself. He, an old, crazy man, tells them that he received the cyberdeck from a man called ‚the Wig‘. He tells that the Wig turned up a few months ago and talked of strange boxes and that they would have the voice of god in them, then he would have disappeared and was not seen since then. He also tells them that he would have talked of space and some kind of station, but that is all they are able to find out about him. Lucas brings Bobby to Jammer’s a nightclub which lies high above the sprawl, where Bobby should hide untill the situation is cleared . But as usual all turns for the bad: Maas has somehow found out about the hideout and has hired the local gangs to surround the club. Meanwhile Beauvoir is killed by the same rocket launcher which was shot at Bobby before. In an attempt to call help, Bobby connects himself to the Matrix together with Jessica (Two-a-day’s first assistant), but they are stopped by a hacker calling himself ‚Neon‘. The hacker explains that she was a member of the operation Turner was in and that she is now looking for him to seek revenge. She also says that he was on the way to Bobby’s current position. The communication is suddenly interrupted by two figures in the shape of Voodoo masks. With the metallic voice which was heard before they tell him that the whole thing was actually planned by a man called Conroy who wanted to get the cyberdeck and Mitchell who had discovered the secret of the boxes. Just as Bobby and Jessica want to disconnect, Jessica is killed by an electric shock sent from one of Maas‘ hackers. Virek himself sudenly appears and tells Bobby to bring him ‚the Legba’s Horse‘ ,but Bobby does not understand who or what this should be.
Mary arrives at the space-station and meets The Wig and his friend Jones, who fled to this left station in order to escape the police. He leads her to the place where the boxes are made. The maker of the boxes is a strange machine calling himself ‚count zero interrupt‘. It builds the boxes from crap and machine-parts. Another metallic voice is heard out of the nothing and explains that the boxes are actually nothing more than bio-chips with a huge power if used correctly. Seperated, the boxes have only a limited effect, but if connected, the person controlling them would be capable of influencing the Matrix and thereby the world. It also reveals that there was an accident on this station which sucked the spirits of the station-members into the Matrix where they now float around a bunch of alive data. The voice tells that there were 5 people on the station, one of them beeing Virek. He hopes to gain the power of a god by controlling all the boxes and so return to life again. The leader of the team of scientists had tried to stop him, but was downloaded into the head of the ‚Legba’s Horse‘, Tina Mitchell. Further talking is interrupted by a message from Paco, Virek’s servant, threatening to suck the air out of the station if he would not get the robot.
Meanwhile, the tension in the club is at it’s peak: The gangs are near storming the club and Bobby is still trapped in the Matrix by Virek. The situation seems hopeless as Turner arrives together with Tina, now fully posessed by the metallic voice. She connects herself to the Matrix and frees Bobby. Then she commits suicide by deleting herself and all the other spirits in the matrix with a code stopping the programm. Virek and the other spirits excist no more. Free again, Bobby and Turner explain Neon what really happened on the mission: Conroy had tried to kidnapp Mitchell thinking that he would gain all the power if he knew the secret of the boxes. To erase all evidence, Conroy sold his own team to Maas. The Hacker swears to kill Conroy and disappears.
Beeing without a boss Paco retreats from the station and Mary, Jones and the Wig are safed.
The next day, a bomb explodes killing Conroy. The Legba are finally dead.