Distrust That Particular Flavor: Gibson’s “Best of” non-fiction album

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDistrust That Particular Flavor by William GibsonDistrust That Particular Flavor by William Gibson

Distrust That Particular Flavor is William Gibson’s non-fiction compilation album. These entries, which are arranged neither chronologically nor thematically, touch on a variety of subjects, ranging from Japanese culture to Steely Dan to how recent technologies will evolve.

Gibson begins the work explaining how he learned to write fiction. He further admits that many of his non-fiction works were done primarily because Wired and other publications offered to fly him abroad if he’d comment on his experiences. Given the introduction, readers might not expect much from Distrust That Particular Flavor, but I often enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it more than I do most compilations of non-fiction written by novelists, perhaps in part because it’s not a comprehensive collection of Gibson’s non-fiction works — these are (mostly) the ones that made the cut.

The most famous entry here may be Gibson’s commentary on Singapore — “Disneyland with the Death Penalty.” Upon learning that novels are heavily censored in Singapore, Gibson is pleased to find none of his novels for sale there. However, among other things, he worries that Singapore’s censorship may prove that information does not yearn to be freely shared. It’s a great article.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsNot all of the entries are as great, sadly. What I find comical is that at the end of each entry, Gibson comments on his writing. Sometimes, he is pleased to have correctly predicted how a certain technology would evolve, but he is often dismissive of his work, commenting that his article on e-Bay (one of my favorite entries) could “use a haircut.” At another point, he admits that he phoned in one of his travelogues about Japan.

My favorite thing about Distrust That Particular Flavor is not the arguments and insights that Gibson shares but rather the way that, upon finishing the book, I wanted to re-read Gibson’s books, especially Pattern Recognition. (Which I’m sure his publisher will be happy to see.) Actually, Pattern Recognition is probably my favorite of Gibson’s novels, so I’d probably want to re-read it anyway, but I did enjoy many of the essays he was invited to write after that novel was published.

All in all, it’s hard not to recommend Distrust That Particular Flavor. To some extent, the work is self-selecting — Gibson’s fans are already likely to be interested in his topics (excepting Steely Dan, in my case) and they’re likely to already enjoy his often dry voice. As skeptical as I was when I began this compilation album, I finished it wishing there was still more to come.

I listened to Tantor Media’s audio production of Distrust That Particular Flavor, which was skillfully read by Robertson Dean. Dean has a deep, sonorous voice, and he never rushes the reading. Still, his reading always felt like a natural fit for the text, and I felt he was a particularly good fit for Gibson’s commentaries.

Published in 2012. Though best known for his fiction, William Gibson is as much in demand for his cutting-edge observations on the world we live in now. Originally printed in publications as varied as Wired, the New York Times, and the Observer, these articles and essays cover thirty years of thoughtful, observant life, and are reported in the wry, humane voice that lovers of Gibson have come to crave.

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RYAN SKARDAL, on our staff from September 2010 to November 2018, is an English teacher who reads widely but always makes time for SFF.

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  1. I liked most of the these essays. And I really like Pattern Recognition too. I know the fans and critics complained that it wasn’t “real science fiction” (meaning cyberpunk) but I loved the strangeness in it.

    Basically, I just love Gibson’s writing voice.

  2. I’m not really crazy about Gibson’s fiction, but I wonder if I’d like his essays more…something to consider, at any rate.

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