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Literature / Bigend Books

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The Bigend Books are a series of novels (three, so far) by William Gibson. They each revolve around the efforts of a Magnificent Bastard with Money to Throw Away, Belgian advertising executive Hubertus Bigend, to learn the secrets behind strange and interesting things. He does so chiefly by scouting special talent and hiring people as "coolhunters" to investigate for him. Unlike other William Gibson books, the Bigend Trilogy takes place in the present day (relative to when they were written) and do not involve anything especially world-changing. Instead, they are basically mystery novels involving the fringes of the technology and culture of the Turn of the Millennium and The New '10s.

The books include:

  • Pattern Recognition (2003) — Bigend hires Cayce Pollard, a professional coolhunter with a brand-logo allergy whose father went missing on 9/11/2001, to investigate a series of art film clips anonymously posted to the Internet.

  • Spook Country (2007) — Under pretense of starting a magazine, Bigend hires musician-turned-journalist Hollis Henry to investigate "locative art", a new kind of GPS-locked virtual sculpture. He's actually looking for the guy who helped invent the technology that made it possible. Meanwhile, a Chinese-Cuban family are transporting secret information on iPods and being tracked by a spook named Brown and his drug-addicted translator Milgrim.

  • Zero History (2010) — Hollis Henry is again roped into working for Bigend, investigating a secret streetwear brand. This time, she's partnered with Milgrim, whom Bigend had put through rehab in exchange for working for him. During the search, however, Hollis discovers her daredevil ex-boyfriend was badly injured jumping off the world's tallest building. Meanwhile, Bigend must attempt to fend off a corporate coup aiming to steal Blue Ant's business from him.

Each one is explicitly set in the year prior to its publication.

These books provide examples of:

  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Hollis Henry's former band, The Curfew, and in Zero History, the Bollards, the band being produced by former Curfew guitarist Reg Inchmale.
    • Heidi (the drummer in The Curfew) is talking about about materials for making darts:
    "Dense," said Heidi, "but no match for wolfram. Old name for tungsten. Should've been a metal band: Wolfram."
    • Likewise discussed for The Gabriel Hounds (or Ratchets), the secret fashion label.
  • Alliterative Name: Hollis Henry and Heidi Hyde.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Cayce has a panic reaction to brand logos that's downright pathological, needs verbal stimming, and considers herself someone who doesn't have hobbies — she has "obsessions", worlds to retreat into.
    • Bobby Chombo's anxieties and habits also point towards him being neuroatypical, though he's also just a great big arsehole who likes being anxious — it makes things other people's fault, not his own.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted with Heidi's darts, something that Foley learns the hard way. After his incident with Heidi, Foley is debilitated for the rest of the book.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Ajay to Garreth in Zero History, who gushes over Garreth like he's a god.
  • Author Appeal: Reading the Bigend trilogy is like reading a history of 21st-century Apple products.
  • Badass Israeli: From Zero History we learn that even Israeli underwear is badass.
    Heidi shrugged out of her leather jacket, tossed it aside, and pulled her black T-shirt off, revealing an olive-drab bra that looked as combat-ready as any bra Hollis had ever seen.
    "Nice bra."
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Sorta. Many fun has already been made of the real robot "Breast Chaser Glavion". In the book a character speculates it might be Engrish for Beast Chaser. note 
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Blue Ant is what happens when everyone on staff is like this.
  • Cluster F-Bomb" Heidi Hyde, one of Hollis Henry's old bandmates, always speaks this way.
  • Cool Old Guy: The Old Man, who appears in Spook Country and is mentioned in Zero History. He acts very sage for a former CIA Spook. He also may or may not be Wingrove Pollard, Cayce's father.
  • Cool Plane: Bigend owns an Ekranoplan - specifically, an A-90 Orlyonok
  • Creepy Changing Painting: In the hotel Hollis stays at in London. Played with in that it's actually a series of slightly-different paintings the staff keeps swapping.
  • Driving Question: For Pattern Recognition, what is the pattern behind some mysterious Internet videos? For Spook Country, what are the spooks trying to find in the country and how do the characters' storylines relate? For Zero History, what is the secret behind Gabriel Hounds clothing?
  • Dumb and Drummer: Averted - Heidi Hyde is a former drummer, but it doesn't seem to have caused any lasting mental handicap.
  • Eccentric Millionaire: Bigend is a shining example.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Inchmale asks Hollis if Odile is a lesbian, since she appears to be very attracted to Heidi (an attraction which is reciprocated, if only briefly). Hollis says that Heidi occupies a sort of unique category where people's normal gender preferences don't apply, suggesting that straight women and possibly gay men are frequently into her without it affecting their overall sexual orientation.
  • Fiction 500: Bigend inherited a sizable chunk of cash and turned it into Blue Ant, one of the most profitable advertising agencies in the globe. He further increased Blue Ant's success by incorporating the techniques from the reclusive artist from Pattern Recognition, and at the end of Zero History, Bobby Chombo furnishes him with a program designed to predict market movements with up to seventeen minutes in the future. One can only wonder how deep his pockets are going to become given he believed seven seconds would have been more than enough.
  • Hollywood Spelling: Averted. Daniel Pease gives his name to the police with the air of someone who is very tired of questions.
    My name's Daniel Pease. P-e-a-s-e. As in "pudding hot".
    • Also with Boone Chu in "Pattern Recognition", whose name is often mistaken for Bunchoo.
  • Intrepid Reporter: The cool-hunters, Cayce Pollard and Hollis Henry.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Milgrim gives Foley his name based in the color of his pants, foliage green.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In Spook Country, Tito experiences his Santeria gods as genuinely supernatural. Since all of the scenes featuring them are seen only from Tito's perspective, they're written as actually having impact on the world around them.
    • Cayce Pollard's various communications from her father, in Pattern Recognition, are similarly left ambiguous.
  • McGuffin: While the footage from Pattern Recognition was used by Bigend in his marketing schemes and he uses Bobby Chombo from Spook Country to predict market order flow, he does virtually nothing with Gabriel Hounds secret brand and is not really disappointed that he doesn't learn about its origins before it goes public.
    • Additionally, Tito's mission in Spook Country involved delivering data the most secure way possible: by physically transporting the data. That he uses iPods for this makes Rule of Cool, given the recognition iPods weere getting when Spook Country was published, since very few security guards wonder why a kid has an iPod.
  • The Mole: Oliver Sleight in Zero History.
  • Mr. Smith: Milgrim's handler is known only as "Brown".
  • Mysterious Employer: Bigend starts out as this to Cayce and Hollis, before they know much about him aside from his reputation.
  • Mythology Gag: Cayce Pollard pronounces her first name as "Case".
    • In Zero History the relationship between Milgrim and Fiona is reminiscent of that between Case and Molly.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Tito, the trilingual, Santeria-practicing Chinese-Cuban courier mafia ninja (trained in Le Parkour and Russian systema martial arts) in Spook Country.
  • The '90s: Hollis Henry was the lead singer for a fictional punk/alternative rock band named "The Curfew"; their heydey is implied to have been the early-to-mid-90s. A portrait of Hollis, taken by real-life music photographer/video director Anton Corbijn, shows up in a few places in the books.
  • No Name Given: Tito's contact and Garreth's boss, who is only referred to as "the Old Man". Though he is implied to be Wingrove Pollard, Cayce's father.
    • The person behind Gabriel Hounds is all but said to be Cayce Pollard, right up to saying her husband was from Chicago, which means he's Parkaboy, an F:F:F poster and friend of Cayce in Pattern Recognition.
  • Non-Action Guy: Milgrim, despite having a bad past and being put in dangerous situations in Spook Country and Zero History, can't even hurt a fly.
  • Otaku: The pitiful Takei, who is emotionally manipulated by Parkaboy to help decode watermarking.
  • Plot Device: The Driving Question of each book centers on them: viral video clips in Pattern Recognition, a shipping container of unknown contents and reclusive locative-technology expert Bobby Chombo in Spook Country, and the Gabriel Hounds clothing in Zero History. Only the last really is a MacGuffin, though (see above).
  • Post Cyber Punk: On the bleaker end of the scale but a definite progression from his early Cyberpunk.
    • While it isn't Cyberpunk in aesthetic and technology (beyond dealing with emerging technologies), it features many themes and characters in Cyberpunk, many of which were created by the Gibson himself. These themes and characters are shown in a different light when put in the modern world.
  • Pretentious Pronunciation: Inverted by Bigend, as explained by Milgrim in Zero History:
    "The French pronunciation would be 'Bayh-jhan', I think. But he seems to favor the other."
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Blue Ant is a legitimate business of Misfits and, by the end of the trilogy, seems to have attracted every single Bunny-Ears Lawyer in the world, one way or another. In the first book, the two main characters are a coolhunter who is allergic to brands and a your archetypical Eccentric Millionaire. By the second book, a Singer-turned-Reporter joins Bigend. The third ramps it up even more, bringing a recovering addict who is a Cunning Linguist, Voytek from book one, a sassy motorcycle courier, and the utterly neurotic Bobby Chombo.
  • The Reveal: In Zero History, the Gabriel Hounds designer turns out to be Cayce Pollard from Pattern Recognition
  • Shown Their Work: The fandom parts of Pattern Recognition are eerily well-researched.
    • The Footage:Fetish:Forum scenes are very reminiscent of 4chan (beyond the presence use of usernames), showing how far people will go when they're obsessed with something. Also the oft-mentioned porn. Given the time period and the name structure, it was probably meant to resemble Usenet.
    • Zero History includes discussion of very specific fashion terminology, regarding cuts, colors, types of fabric, etc.
  • This Loser Is You: In Spook Country, Milgrim represents the average American when it comes to the stuff that the post-9/11 government did.
  • Throwing the Distraction: To throw off Foley, Milgrim tosses the tracking device he was saddled with into the stroller of a Mafiya member's baby.
  • Title Drop: In Zero History, Defence Criminal Investigative Service agent Winnie Tung Whittaker is telling Milgrim how little of a trail he has left over the years: "Zero history as far as Choice Point is concerned. Means you haven't even had a credit card for ten years."
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Cayce Pollard is allergic to strong brands, logos and distinctive styles of any kind, with Nazi imagery being the most deadly. And the Michelin Man.
    • Cursed with Awesome: She uses this to her advantage as a cool-hunter and advertising consultant.

Alternative Title(s): Spook Country, Pattern Recognition, Zero History