August 2, 2007

Chapter 1. WHITE LEGO

Chapter 1. WHITE LOGO pages 1 - 8

'Rausch,' said the voice in Hollis Henry's cell. 'Node,' it said.

Chapter 1. WHITE LEGO
Shortly after 3AM on a Wednesday morning in the Mondrian in LA, Hollis Henry awakes to a call from Philip Rausch, editor of Wired-wannabe Node. 'They're ready to show you his best piece,' Rausch says."

Careful to not step on Odile Richard's white lego robot (apparently "collecting data with an onboard GPS unit"), Hollis ventures out to meet Odile ("the least chic Frenchwoman Hollis could recall having met") and Alberto Corrales (a "broad young Latino with shaven head and retro-ethnic burgundy Pendleton") at the Standard.

Presumably a "retro-ethnic burgundy Pendleton" is a plaid woollen shirt made by Pendleton Woolen Mills

Alberto, a historian of internalized space,” hands Hollis a VR visor tethered to a laptop with which she sees a memory from August 1993, released from time but frozen in space, of a dead celebrity outside the Viper Room.

Presumably this dead celebrity was not River Phoenix who died on 31st October 1993 outside of Johnny Depp's Viper Room.

“’Who?’ she asks, finding her breath.” [784 characters]


Chapter 2. ANTS IN THE WATER pages 9 - 14

"The old man reminded Tito of those ghost-signs, fading high on the windowless sides of blackened buildings, spelling out the names of products made meaningless by time."


In New York’s Washington Square, 22-year old Tito, a Havana-born immigrant fluent in Russian, secretly passes an iPod to an old man in "dead man's" clothing. Tito’s older cousin, Alejandro "has been chosen to apprentice under Juana, their aunt, the family’s master forger."

In a Chinese restaurant on Canal Street, Tito and Alejandro discuss their "invisible raft of tradecraft, the protocol," passed down from their grandfather, the craft of a crime family surviving in a dangerous world. [488 characters]

Chapter 3. VOLAPUK

Chapter 3. VOLAPUK pages 15 - 19

"Milgrim, wearing the Paul Stuart overcoat he’d stolen the month before from a Fifth Avenue deli, watched Brown unlock the oversized steel-sheathed door with a pair of keys taken from a small transparent Ziploc bag..."

Chapter 3. VOLAPUK
Brown (cop? FBI? DEA?) supplies his "hostage," East Village attic Milgrim, with just enough Ativan to keep him "not there," protected from Dennis Birdwell (Milgrim's former dealer)... and cooperative. Brown is tracking IFs (Illegal Facilitators) "whose crimes facilitated the crimes of others"

In the United Kingdom, there is now the Serious Crime Bill legislation being introduced which attempts to criminalise such illegal facilitator behaviour, even where there is no actual proof of conspiracy or involvement or prior knowledge of any actual crime.

and needs Milgrim's rare ability to translate Volapuk, an artificial Russian language using Roman letters to approximate Cyrillic ones.

Brown’s IF of focus is a Russian-speaking "ethnic (Cuban-Chinese? Filipino?) version of a younger Johnny Depp," Alejandro’s cousin Tito. [566 characters]


Chapter 4. INTO THE LOCATIVE pages 20 - 24

"The Standard had an all-night restaurant off its lobby--a long, glass-frosted operation with wide booths upholstered in matte-black tuck-and-roll punctuated by the gnarled phalli of half a dozen San Pedro cacti."

"See-bare-espace... it is everting." - Odile Richards

Over breakfast with Odile and Alberto, Hollis (former "singer in an early-nineties cult band" The Curfew) learns of other locative art installations, "spatially tagged hypermedia." "virtual shrines" to the past made possible by geohacking and "(v)isible to all" on special devices such as those designed by Alberto.

Are these the "head up display" devices the pre-cursors of the sunglasses in Virtual Light ?

Hollis realizes that she has something to write about for Node, "though she was still a long way from knowing what it was." [439 characters]


Chapter 5. TWO KINDS OF EMPTY pages 25 - 26

"Coming back from the Sunrise Market on Broome, just before they closed, Tito stopped to look in the windows of Yohji Yamamoto, on Grand Street."

Tito contemplates shades of austerity: Japanese, Cuban, other, before thoughts drift to Alejandro (dealing to curators below Times Square in "that reddish twilight, amid sleepy Puerto Rican transvestites and a few hustlers taking their breaks from Port Authority?"). [266 characters]

Are the "Port Authority hustlers" street criminals etc. who prey on the new arrivals in New York or is this also a reference to the property speculators, bureaucrats and office sararymen who work or live in the Port Authority owned/leased office blocks and residential complexes around Battery Park and the World Trade Center site ?

Chapter 6. RIZE

Chapter 6. RIZE pages 27 - 30

"Milgrim was enjoying the superior brightness of the nitrogen-filled optics in Brown's Austrian-made monocular well enough, but not the smell of Brown's chewing gum or his proximity in the back of the chilly surveillance van."

Chapter 6. RIZE
Milgrim fantasizes about hitting Brown over the head as they spy on Tito from a graffiti-tagged van. Behind locked doors and mysterious gray box alarms in a room at the New Yorker, Brown substitutes Rize for Ativan ("Same DEA Schedule fucking Four narcotic") prompting Milgrim to consider calling Birdwell, his former dealer to whom he owes money "under awkward circumstances." [378 characters]

The US Drug Enforcement Administration's Schedule IV of Controlled Substances, does not actually include any narcotics e.g. heroin, morphine etc. which are listed under Schedule I.


Chapter 7. BUENOS AIRES pages 31 - 35

"Hollis dreamed she was in London with Philip Rausch, walking fast down Monmouth Street, towards the needle of Seven Dials"

Rausch wakes Hollis (again) with news of a new lead: Bobby Chombo, the "kind of tech-assist (for) these locative artists" who may have special information re: "patterns of global shipping... or iPods... as a means of data transfer."

Hollis contacts her former Curfew bandmate Reg Inchmale re: potential information on Node and learns of its link to "advertising magnate" and Blue Ant owner Hubertus Bigend. [405 characters]


Chapter 8. CREEPING HER OUT pages 36 - 42

"She watched Alberto trying to explain the helmet and the laptop to Virgin Security."

After viewing a virtual monument to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s nonfatal heart attack on Sunset, Hollis watches former Curfew drummer Laura "Heed" Hyde pass by in a smallish SUV. Hollis uses her own Curfew legacy to convince him to introduce her to reclusive Bobby Chombo.

Alberto describes his artistic process for creating digital models that are unrealized without Bobby’s technical genius for facilitating the locative art projects (wiring routers, mapping GPS grids, etc.). Hollis learns that Bobby refuses to sleep on the same grid point twice.


Chapter 9. A COLD CIVIL WAR pages 43 - 46

"The message tone woke him."

Tito learns though Alejandro of his grandfather’s connection to Semenov, Castro's first KGB advisor, and "how (his) family came to be what it is." Tito also learns that old man helped his grandfather work the "big magic" that brought their family to America. A magic that carries with it an obligation for Tito to continue the legacy of his father and grandfather. [364 characters]

N.B. the picture entitled "Nikolai Nikolaevic Semenov (1986 - 1986)" of Nobel Prize winning Professor of Chemistry Nicolai Nicolaievic Semenov (1896 - 1986) is not that of "Castro’s first KGB advisor"

There are some web references to "Vassily Petrovich Semenov, a senior KGB agent in Montevideo in 1964."

According to the Wikipedia article on the Cuban spook agency the Dirección General de Inteligencia, (DGI):

"In 1970 a team of KGB advisors led by General Viktor Semyonov was sent to the DGI to purge it of officers and agents considered anti-Soviet by the KGB"

So even if "Semenov" was not actually Fidel Castro's "first KGB advisor", who may well have been "Nikolai Leninov, the KGB Chief in Mexico City, was one of the first Soviet officials to recognize Castro's potential as a revolutionary and urged the Soviet Union to strengthen ties with the new Cuban leader", the name sounds right for such a KGB Spook.

Chapter 10. NEW DEVONIAN

Chapter 10. NEW DEVONIAN pages 47 - 49

"Milgrim was dreaming of the Flagellant Messiah, of the Pseudo Baldwin and the Master of Hungary, when Brown reached down into the hot shallows of his sleep, dug his thumbs into his shoulders, and shook him, hard."

Chapter 10. NEW DEVONIAN
Green-gloved Brown demands Milgrim to translate a cryptic message intercepted by a surveillance bug. Penniless and ID-less Milgrim ponders the Flagellant Messiah and the possibilities hidden with the "warmly rippling amniotic soup" of Rize, his new drug of choice, including thoughts of freedom beyond the gray boxes of Brown’s captivity. [338 characters]

Who are Brown and Migrim snooping on ? If secret messages or data are being passed around using IPods, then where is the opportunity to use a "surveillance bug" ?

Will this be spelled out in more detail, or will we just have to imagine it from a typically sparse and oblique reference, loaded with so many potential meanings, so typical of WIliam Gibson's writing style ?

Chapter 11. BOBBYLAND

Chapter 11. BOBBYLAND pages 50 - 56

"East on La Brea, Alberto steered the Aztec-lacquered VW, Hollis beside him."

Chapter 11. BOBBYLAND
Alberto reluctantly takes Hollis to visit the elusive Bobby Chombo at his nondescript studio in an industrial park off Romaine. Bobby is a "tech guy" and "mimetic literalist, without knowing it" with a "full-on Townsend-Moon hooter" who enables locative artists to get their work on the grid. Fortunately for Hollis, Bobby is also a fan of The Curfew.

Despite his initial coldness, Bobby shows Hollis a new advertising gimmick for a Tokyo department store, a holographic squid with wide anime eyes named Archie. [509 characters]

Eeek ! Perhaps "mimetic literalist" is close to the use of the term Memetic Engineer, which William Gibson had been thinking about at the time of Pattern Recognition

See London 2600 pictures from the Pattern Recognition book signing and reading, Thursday 24th April 2003, Trades Union Congress conference centre, 28 Great Russell Street, London

  • On accepting a London 2600 t-shirt and reading the A-Z list on the back:

    WG: "Memetic Engineer ? So soon ?"

    London 2600: "For several years now ..."

Chapter 12. THE SOURCE

Chapter 12. THE SOURCE pages 57 - 58

"Milgrim dreamed he was naked in Brown’s room, while Brown lay sleeping."

Chapter 12. THE SOURCE
Milgrim dreams of Brown sleeping childlike, surrounded by his pistol, flashlight and a large folding knife. Nearby in this vision is a crumpled paper bag full of a weeks worth of "unmistakable oblongs of pharmaceutical bubble-packs." [233 characters]

Chapter 13. BOXES

Chapter 13. BOXES pages 59 - 66

"She stood beneath Archie's tail, enjoying the flood of images rushing from the arrowhead fluke toward the tips of the two long hunting tentacles."

Chapter 13. BOXES
Accidentally hitting a button on the locative interface, Hollis sees what appears to be a huge shipping container, "translucent rectangular solid of silvery wireframe, crisp but insubstantial."

Bobby muses about his work with advanced GPS technologies ("the most interesting applications turn up on the battlefield, or in a gallery") while suggesting that his interests lie beyond war and art where one day we "internalize the interface" and walk around in a shifting reality of personalized channels.

Nearby are white legos and the "origami-beautiful packaging from someone's new iPod" while an e-mail from Inchmale suggests that there may be less than meets the eye re: Node which "no-shows where any mag should show, even if it were being kept under relative wraps." [767 characters]

The Node Magazine meme is already a bit stronger than that.

Chapter 14. JUANA

Chapter 14. JUANA pages 67 - 70

"He remembered her apartment in San Isidro, near the big train station."

Chapter 14. JUANA
While visiting his santero aunt Juana in Spanish Harlem, Tito learns that his grandfather was a Communist idealist who "put his family before his desire for a more perfect state." The death of Tito's father, a man of greater choices, was a catalyst for Tito's grandfather to seek the help of a CIA operative (the old man in the park) to move the firma (family) to the United States. [382 characters]

The idea of Spooks in Parks leads to a train of thought about "trade craft" - especially "dead letter drops" and "brush pass" meetings conducted under the Cold War "Moscow Rules".

There are quite a few examples of these, both fact e.g. the FBI double agent Robert Hanssen who used dead drops at locations including Nottoway Park, Foxstone Park, Cantabury Park etc in, Virginia .

In fiction, for example, Harry Palmer's bosses had a penchant for meeting with colleagues and opponents on park benches or at bandstands in St. James' Park etc. in London, in the film The Ipcress File

Chapter 15. SPIV

Chapter 15. SPIV pages

"Inchmale had always been balding and intense, and Inchmale had always been middle-aged-even when she first met him, when they were both nineteen."
    Chapter 15. SPIV
    After meeting with DJ-like Bobby Chombo, Hollis and Alberto talk about Bobby's tangential interests in digital music and podcasting. An "uncharacteristically philosophical" Reg Inchmale calls Hollis to re-reemphasize his wife's warning about Hubertus Bigend.

    Back at the Mondrian, Hollis reads Bigend's Wikipedia entry to learn his mother’s connections to Situationist International and of Hubertus' "gifts" including "the ability to find precisely the right person for a given project" and is interrupted by a call from Bigend himself who is waiting in the hotel lobby. [569 characters]

    The actual Wikipedia entry for Hubertus Bigend does not really exist, at the present time, although the search engine pulls up a reference to the Pattern Recognition

    UPDATE: - there is of course, now a self referential real Wikipedia entry for Hubertus Bigend, containing the fictional one and a note on the pronunciation of "Bigend" ,which I created initially on 9th August 2007

Chapter 16. KNOWN EXITS

Chapter 16. KNOWN EXITS pages 77 - 79

"Milgrim was reading the New York Times, finishing his breakfast coffee in a bakery on Bleecker, while Brown conducted a series of quiet, tense and extremely pissed-off conversations with whomever was supposed to be in charge of watching the IF’s known exits, when the IF was home sleeping - or whatever the IF did, when he as home."


"If Brown had declared that the Queen of England to be a shape-shifting alien reptile, craving the warm flesh of human infants, Milgrim would not have argued."

Chapter 16. KNOWN EXITS
As Brown is reading one of his flunkies the riot act over the phone, Milgrim reads an article in the New York Times about NSA wiretapping. Milgrim wonders aloud to Brown why the NSA couldn't spy on the IF’s operations and translate the Volapuk instead of him. Despite Brown's assertion that NSA wiretaps are only approved for international calls, Milgrim begins to wonder if Brown is a government agent or "just an asshole with a gun." [434 characters]

Good question about the NSA, if this were actually an official US Government surveillance operation.

The National Security Agency (NSA), of course, has for years got around this by getting the equivalent United Kingdom Government Communications HeadQuarters (GCHQ) or other Australian, Canadian , New Zealand etc. intelligence sharing treaty signatories, to do this sort of thing on their behalf, and vice versa. - see Cryptome on the Echelon system.


Chapter 17. PIRATES AND TEAMS pages 80 - 89

"The front of her Mondrian haircut had started to remind her of Bobby Chombo's elephantiasis-of-the-forelock, the result of an ongoing interaction of product with particulates."


"She ran her thumbs along a lambskin seat seam [in the Phaeton]. Like touching the butt of a supermodel, probably"

Bigend tells Hollis about a covert operation where the CIA, disguised as pirates, were working with real pirates (the best "were out of Aceh, in northern Sumatra") to stop "suspect cargo vessels to search for weapons of mass destruction."

In August 2003, one of these teams discovered a shipping container aboard a Panamanian freighter and was ordered to leave the container and not look inside. Since then, the container has been constantly on the move and Bigend believes that Bobby Chombo "periodically knows where that container is." [538 characters]

If a Container is buried under a pile of others, in the hold of a Container Ship (rather than being one of the few actually on deck) it must be difficult to check it properly when at sea, rather than when it is unloaded at a Container Terminal Port.

Piracy on the high seas, is still a major violent crime, and , despite the hype,should not to be confused with so called "piracy" when what is really meant is non-criminal civil tort copyright infringement of music and films etc.

The maritime Automatic Identification System broadcasts by modern seagoing ships over gross 300 tonnes and all passenger ships. AIS gives details of their position (obtained from GPS and other radio beacon navigation systems), name, type of vessel etc., which feeds into various Geographical Information Systems, and is,unencrypted, and vulnerable to interception by people like Bobby Chombo or other military, criminal, terrorist or pirate interested third parties.

House of Commons Hansard 18 July 2006 : Column 264W

  • Automatic Identification System

    Mr. Brazier: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to tackle the vulnerability of automatic identification systems to pirates. [86263]

    Dr. Ladyman: The Department has already advised Masters of UK and Red Ensign Group registered shipping that they may temporarily cease broadcasting automatic identification system signals when in open waters, if they judge that the security of the vessel is being compromised by them. More detailed advice to Masters on this issue is contained in the Department’s counter piracy note issued to mariners, published in November 2005, as Marine Guidance Note 298.

    The Department has also reached an agreement with an internet provider of AIS information to introduce a package of risk mitigation measures including a time delay and a reduction in the quantity of information accessible from the site.

See:Marine Guidance Note MGN 298 (M) - Measures to Counter Piracy, Armed Robbery and other Acts of Violence against Merchant Shipping

Chapter 18. Eleggua's Windo

Chapter 18. Eleggua's Window pages 90 - 93

"Tia Juana sent him walking, crosstown along the 110th, to Amsterdam and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the better to consult Eleggua."

Also see the "Communications Bay" extract (which may or may not be quite what will be published) in this William Gibson Blog entry of Friday, March 10, 2006

Chapter 18. Eleggua's Window
As instructed by his aunt Juana, Tito visits Cathedral of St. John the Divine to consult the Santiera Orisha (deity) Eleggua, "owner of the roads and doors of this world. Lord of the crossroads, intersections of the human and the divine" whose stained glass window shows "a man climbing a pole to install a wiretap; another man studying the monitor of a computer."

The old man from the park approaches Tito (who reminds the old man of Tito’s father and grandfather) and tells him that he must make another delivery where he will be followed and must lose the delivery to the "them." The old man tells Tito that he will then need to leave the country when the purposely-botched delivery is completed. [698 characters]

This huge unfinished Episcopalian Cathedral of St. John the Divine has a "Communications Bay" stained glass window which depicts printing presses, telegraph, Linotype, broadcasting etc.


Is this the image which William Gibson is re-interpreting through his cyberpunk mirrorshades for his "Eleggua’s Window" ?



N.B. the first two images are adapted from this high resolution image from this web browser crashing webpage from Museum Planet

Chapter 19. FISH

Chapter 19. FISH pages 94 - 99

"Brown took Milgrim back to the Korean-owned laundry on Lafayette Street, for parking."

Chapter 19. FISH
Brown and his hostage Milgrim wait at a Korean laundromat where Brown seems to have "some arrangement" and Milgrim palms the cell phone of a "Real Spanish-speaking beauty." Milgrim uses the phone to call Fish (Fisher), a fellow benzo user also connected to the increasingly paranoid and violent Dennis Birdwell. [311 characters]

Does Milgrim make this phone call with, or without, the knowledge of Brown ?

Chapter 20. TULPA

Chapter 20. TULPA pages 100 - 106

"Had that woman in the wheelchair had an IV drip-stand in tow, one-handing her way across the intersection, the other hand keeping the chrome-plated upright of the stand erect?"


"The celebrity self is a sort of tulpa ("projected thought-form"). The celebrity self has a life of its own. It can, under the right circumstances, indefinitely survive the death of its subject."


"I've learned to value anomalous phenomenon... From them, sometimes, emerge Blue Ant's most successful efforts. Trope Slope, for instance, our viral pitchman platform, was based on pieces of anonymous footage being posted on the Net"

Chapter 20. TULPA

Hollis rides with Bigend to Blue Ant's hidden LA HQ where a Anton Corbjin portrait of Hollis rises above the conference table. Bigend tells Hollis that Bobby Chombo is "being paid handsomely to keep (the location of the shipping container) a secret, and his personality is such, as you’ve noted, that he likes having a secret."

Bigend believes that Hollis’ celebrity makes her "the person... whom Bobby is most likely to talk to." Bobby also appears to be periodically smuggling data hidden on iPods to San Jose, Costa Rica where there is "quite a community of retired CIA people there. DEA as well." [599 characters]

Will there be any clues as to where Blue Ant's hidden HQ might be in LA ?

Chapter 21. SALT OF SOPHIA

Chapter 21. SALT OF SOPHIA pages 107 - 109

"Tito crossed Amsterdam passing the gray, snow-dusted stalks of a makeshift public garden, then walked quickly along 111th, towards Broadway."

Chapter 21. SALT OF SOPHIA
Following the protocol, Tito’s uncle Carlito gives him a Bulgaro (Bulgarian handgun) filled with salt aboard the number 1 train leaving from Columbus Circle. Carlito ensures that Tito understands that neither he nor the old man must not be captured but his delivery must be. [274 characters]

Is that a Double Negative in the original text or just a Transcription Error ?

Chapter 22. DRUM AND BASS

Chapter 22. DRUM AND BASS pages 110 - 115

"Pamela Mainwaring, English, with blond bangs entirely concealing her forehead, drove Hollis back to the Mondrian in one of the big silver Volkswagen sedans."

Chapter 22. DRUM AND BASS
On way back to the Mondrian, Pamela Mainwaring explains some of the rationale for the secrecy around Blue Ant which is "often described as the first viral agency... Foregrounding the agency or its founder is counterproductive" and that pet projects like Hollis' are "the company's equivalent of REM sleep."

Back at the hotel bar, Hollis finds former Curfew drummer Heidi Hyde waiting for her with an envelope containing five thousand dollars, money owed to Hollis by Jimmy (Curfew’s bass player) that he promised to repay before he died of an overdose. [552 characters]

Now patternboy is more than a quarter of the way through publishing his Quotations and short Chapter summaries, from this apparently, 84 chapter Spook Country novel.

Chapter 23. TWO MOORS

Chapter 23. TWO MOORS pages 116 - 118

"Brown left Milgrim in the Korean's laundry for a very long time."

Chapter 23. TWO MOORS
Back at the Korean Laundromat, Brown eats while Milgrim contemplates the "twelfth-century heresy of the Free Spirit" when even Charles Manson would be disgusted by a culture where murder and rape were justified as "directly manifesting the Holy Spirit." As they leave the cleaners, Milgrim has "a nagging sensation of having failed to pay adequate attention to something." [372 characters]

The allusion to the Heresy of the Free Spirit as well as the references to the KGB and to the Voodoo / Santeria "deities" are potentially bleak and scary ideas.

It will be interesting to see if they cast a dismal gloom over the novel, or are just oblique references.

Chapter 24. POPPIES

Chapter 24. POPPIES pages 119 - 121

"Votive candles had been lit in her darkened room."

Chapter 24. POPPIES
In a box of bubble wrap that includes a Blue Ant vinyl figurine, Hollis discovers a black and silver "aggressively stylized version of the wireless helmet she’d used to view the squid at Bobby Chombo's." After turning it on, she views an in-room installation, an equiluminant background of Monet's Poppies [part of a series by the artist Afgenteuil] with a voiceover by Odile telling Hollis telling her "We must talk... about Chombo." [433 characters]

Chapter 25. SUNSET PARK

Chapter 25. SUNSET PARK pages 122 - 125

"Vianca sat cross-legged on Tito's floor with his Sony plasma screen across her knees."

Chapter 25. SUNSET PARK
As he prepares to leave for Mexico City, Tito and his cousin Vianca scrub his room of any traces of his presence, all as dictated by systema / protocol. Tito thinks of his Aunt Juana and Ochun, the Great Queen, ruler of the world's sweet waters and youngest of the female orishas [Santieran gods]. [296 characters]

systema could be a reference to the the set of drills and practices in the adaptation of martial arts used by some Russian Spetsnaz military special forces, but it also hints at the professional paranoia of "Moscow Rules" practised by secret agents and couriers.

Chapter 26. GRAY'S PAPAYA

Chapter 26. GRAY'S PAPAYA pages 126 - 127

"Sometimes, if Brown were hungry at the end of the day, and is in a certain mood, they’d go to Gray Papaya for the Recession Special."

Chapter 26. GRAY'S PAPAYA
Over non-alchoholic pina coladas at the Gray's Papaya, Brown explains the history of Marxism in America to Milgrim. Milgrim enjoys the "sci-fi campiness" of imagining "Euro-commie star-spawn in tweed jackets and knit ties, breeding like Starbucks" Afterwards, Milgrim sees Gilbert and George, the "two Moorish Knights of the laundry" speed by in a yellow Hummer. [361 characters]

Gilbert and George are a pair of London based artists who often make pseudo stained glass window digital photo-montage paintings.



"Held physically together by the thick white Mondrian robe, her sunglasses, and a room-service breakfast of granola, yogurt, and a watermelon liquada, Hollis sat back in one wide white armchair, put her feel up on the shorter of the two marble-topped coffee tables, and regarded the vinyl Blue Ant figurine on the chair arm."

After making plans to see Inchmale (who can ensure the 50 $100 bills - the international currency of bad shit - aren’t counterfeit), she passes on Odile's offer to Beth Barker’s hyperspatially tagged apartment where even "one simple water glass has twenty tags." [262 characters]

500 Euro banknotes are becoming the currency of illegal deals - they are much harder to counterfeit than US currency and are worth (today's price) nearly $688 (or £339 British Pounds) each.

In Spain 500 Euro notes are known as "bin-Ladens", because "the Government knows that they are out there somewhere, but they never get their hands on them", as they are hidden from view by the black market economy.

Chapter 28. BROTHERMAN

Chapter 28. BROTHERMAN pages 133 - 135

"Tito and Vianca packaged the contents of his room as ten parcels of varying sizes, each one double-wrapped in contractor-grade black trash bags and sealed with heavy black tape."

Chapter 28. BROTHERMAN
While Tito and Vianca finish packing Tito's room, "Brotherman", a racially ambivalent chameleon of a man with dark orange hair, delivers a pair of GSG9 Adidas shoes and helps move the meticulously packed items as Tito prepares for another new identity. [252 characters]

GSG9 was the abbreviated designation of Grenzschutzgruppe 9 the (West) German elite Border Police unit specially trained for counter-terrorism hostage situations and hijackings, notably the Lufthansa Boeing 737 which they stormed in Mogadishu Somalia in October 1977.

It is doubtful that GSG9 actually wear the Adidas luxury footwear which bears the same designation, in combat.
The experts in British Army Rumour Service forum seem to favour Alt-Berg boots.

Chapter 29. INSULATION

Chapter 29. INSULATION pages 136 - 137

"There was something about Rize, Milgrim decided, reclining fully dressed across his New Yorker bedspread, that reminded him of one of the more esoteric efforts of eating exceptionally hot Szechuan."


"Are you really so scared of terrorists that you'll dismantle the structures that made America what it is?"

Chapter 29. INSULATION
Feeling the unique state of mind that is Rize, Milgrim surprises himself and Brown with a non-conscious, lucid commentary integrating nationalism, laws, terrorism and gambling that ends in him firing a shot from an imaginary gun and "having no idea at all what to make of whatever it was that had just happened."" [311 characters]

Are drugs really needed to make such a commentary ?

Chapter 30. FOOTPRINT

Chapter 30. FOOTPRINT pages 138 - 142

"She drove to Malibu with the Blue Ant helmet in the carton beside her"

Chapter 30. FOOTPRINT
Hollis takes her new locative headgear to the beach where she sees a cartoonish, beige Statue of Liberty emerge from the Malibu sand.

Hollis then finds her way back to Bobby Chombo's to discover the warehouse empty suggesting that "Bobby did a runner." Putting the locative helmet on, she discovers Archie gone but the wireframe storage container is still there, "something glowing at its center." [397 characters]

"locative helmet" sounds more advanced than today's Augmented Reality devices, such as the LifeClipper, which usually consist of a head mounted visor and a backpack, containing the computer, battery, GPS, video etc. equipment.

Chapter 31. PURO

Chapter 31. PURO pages 143 - 146

"Brotherman took the black packages down and loaded them into his truck, then the chair and ironing board, to be delivered to Vianca"


"Sometimes the closer to a truth one gets, the more complicated things become. The men in bars who explain every dark secret of this world [believe that] no secret requires more than three drinks to explain... The three-drink answers never contain the truth."

Chapter 31. PURO
Alejandro shows Tito the cellular traffic bug planted by the old man’s enemies [or, more likely, contractors "working for someone in the government, perhaps, but not on government business"] to intercept Volapuk messages sent to and from Tito’s soon-to-be-former room. Tito learns that the old man was once a counterintelligence officer and is now a "rogue player" to whose operation Tito's uncles have committed the family (specifically, Tito).

The old man’s operation is likely an attempt to exact revenge on government figures guilty of crimes. Tito's role in the operation is to meet the old man once again, receive an iPod containing "puro" ["the most perfectly groundless lies"], and "lose" the device to the pursuing enemies. [731 characters]

The "cellular traffic bug" intercepting sounds in Tito's room and transmitting them via mobile cellular phone, rather than intercepting actual mobile phone calls.

"Puro" sounds like the classical spook world technique of Disinformation

Chapter 32. MR. SIPPEE

Chapter 32. MR. SIPPEE pages 147 - 150

" She ate a dollar-fifty-nine barbecue beef rib with broasted potatoes off a paper plate on the trunk of the Passat, waiting for Alberto to turn up at Mr. Sippee, a blended oasis of peace and mutual respect situated in a twenty-four hour convenience store at the Arco gas station at Blaine and Eleventh."

Chapter 32. MR. SIPPEE
Outside Mr. Sippee, Alberto tells Hollis that Bobby Chombo is gone, emails bouncing, locative art pieces offline (including a Sharon Tate work-in-progress). Alberto is suspicious given that he "can't imagine [Bobby] getting it together to move out. Not that efficiently." [270 characters]


Chapter 33. COUNTERPANE pages 151 - 155

" Brown, in cloak and tight-fitting cowl fashioned from one of the New Yorker's foam-core blankets, gestured across the rolling beige plain with a sturdy wood-look staff, its length decorated in a traditional pattern of cigarette burns."


"The sky had turned a Turner-on-crack intensity."

Brown shakes a dreaming Milgrim awake to translate a newly intercepted message: ONE TODAY IN UNION SQUARE FARMER’S MARKET, 17TH STREET DELIVERY TO USUAL CLIENT. Milgrim suspects that the "usual client" is who Brown is really after rather than the IF or his delivery. After dry-swallowing "the morning’s Rize," Milgrim leaves with Brown to potentially do some live translation. [377 characters]


Chapter 34. SPOOK COUNTRY pages 156 - 158

"'Ezeiza,' he said."

In Starbucks, Hollis talks with Inchmale about Bigend [a "monstrously intelligent giant baby... utterly amoral in the service of his own curiosity"] and feels a sudden sense of terror wondering if he [Bigend] is potentially dangerous. [234 characters]

Is "Ezeiza" in the quotation a reference to the Ezeiza massacre which took place on June 20, 1973 near the Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina. ?

Chapter 35. GUERREROS

Chapter 35. GUERREROS pages 159 - 162

" He left the black-wrapped mattress on the floor, with his keys at its exact center, the toothbrush and toothpaste on the edge of the sink, the wire hangers on the old rack that concealed the bug"


"(T)he holding of knowledge in dignified privacy helps insure desired results."

Chapter 35. GUERREROS
Tito walks down Broadway "letting the rhythm of his stride find his systema" while thinking of the Vietnamese soldier from Paris who taught his uncles. Tito leaned the systema in turn from his uncles and learned to internalize the Guerreros (Elluggua, Ogun, Oshosi, and Osun) from his aunt Juana, "at first, as a means of more deeply embracing the systema." Tito learned to treat the Guerreros as an "invisible procession" of amplified intuition. Tito meets the stranger who gives him his mission instructions to attract the attention of those pursuing the old man, then "(g)et way, but lose this [a white iPod] in the process." [628 characters]

The Santería religion which is strong in Cuba, is subtly different from Haitian Voodoo (which William Gibson featured in Neuromancer and Count Zero) or Brasilian Macumba.

All of these syncretic religions incorporate elements of Catholic faith and iconography, partly as a disguise under the ruling Spanish and Portuguese empires, and partly as Orwellian doublethink - "the act of holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, fervently believing both."


Chapter 36. SPECTACLES, TESTICLES, WALLET, AND WATCH pages 163 - 166

"By the time Milgrim had finished shaving and gotten dressed, Brown was holding a meeting in the adjoining room."

After packing all of his worldly possessions [the coat and clothing he wore, grooming aids, his book and two 5mg tabs of Rize], Milgrim feels the benzo-boost and "not unpleasurable excitement" kick in as he and Brown leave the New Yorker in a "recently washed silver Corolla." Brown tells Milgrim he will let him wait in the car using the threat of no more Rize to keep Milgrim from leaving. [391 characters]

Is it only that Milgrim has no other source of money, in order to feed his drug addiction, that he is so subservient to Brown ?


Chapter 37. FREERUNNERS pages 167 - 169

"The orishas spread through a seemingly ordinary awareness, invisible drops of ink in a volume of water [creating] a still higher state of readiness"

Walking to Union Station, Tito passes two of his former freerunner ["practitioners of what they called tricking"] friends from the past in Washington Square "wishing he could go with them, while around him the orishas briefly and very faintly rippled through the air." [269 characters]

Parkour, from which "free running" developed aesthetically, might be of more use to someone in Tito's line of business, with its emphasis on efficient flight from pursuers.

Chapter 38. TUBAL

Chapter 38. TUBAL pages 170 - 174

"She lay very still, on her back, the sheet forming a cool dark tunnel, and gave her body explicit permission to relax."

Chapter 38. TUBAL
After shaking off the sudden terror that Bigend was using her for an undisclosed end, Hollis thinks of alternative second careers, failed startups and the virtual monument to Helmut Newton.

With the fear receding "sufficient enough to have restored her curiosity" re: Bobby Chombo and the mysterious shipping container, Hollis admits that "one of the scary things about Bigend, she supposed, was that with him you stood an actual chance of finding some things out." She then discovers that Bigend is waiting for her in the lobby as she looks at a photograph of the white truck she saw outside of Bobby's factory. [611 characters]

Chapter 39. TOOLMAKER

Chapter 39. TOOLMAKER pages 175 - 179

"Milgrim remembered Union Square from twenty years before, when it had been a place of broken benches and litter, where a corpse may go unnoticed amid the huddled and unmoving bodies of the homeless."


"The core anxiety as he knew it today was in part an artifact of the substance [to which he is addicted "countering a tension at the core of his being"]"

Chapter 39. TOOLMAKER
Brown straps Milgrim's wrist to the armrest of the bench nearest Union Square West near the statue of Lincoln. After Brown departs, Milgrim finds a broken pen clip, a "Houdini shiv" nearly perfect in size, and goes to work on the the plastic handcuff. [249 characters]


Lincoln statue - Milgrim wonders what is in his left hand (a newspaper?)

Brown seems to be rather short of staff, as he cannot seem to spare an accomplice to keep Milgrim under guard.

Chapter 40: DANCING

Chapter 40: DANCING pages 180 - 183

"Tito knelt and tightened the laces of his Adidas GSG9s, respectfully reminding the Guerreros that it was time."

Chapter 40: DANCING
Aided by the spirit of Oshosi ["sliding into Tito like a wind, dry and unexpectantly warm"] his cousin Marcos and other family members, Tito "eludes" the men trying to capture him and the old man. Feinting panic, Tito "drops" the iPod [having to pretend to lunge for it to draw attention] before one of the inept pursuers dove to secure it. Tito escapes as around him "ran the orishas, panting like vast dogs; scout and opener, opener and clearer. And Osun, whose role was mystery." [484 characters]

Who are these inept pursuers ? Are they controlled by Brown or by someone else ?

How is the data on the iPod encrypted or steganographically hidden, which surely must be what the pursuers expect ?

How has the old man who set up this sting ensured that they can read his "puro" disinformation from the planted iPod ?

Chapter 41. HOUDINI

Chapter 41. HOUDINI pages 184 - 186

"With a click that he felt, rather than heard, the tiny ratchet at the heart of the cable-tie moved aside for Milgrim's modified ballpoint clip."

Chapter 41. HOUDINI
After escaping Brown's plastic handcuff while still sitting on the bench, the two "Moors" [see chapter 23] confront Milgrim re: the money owed to Dennis Birdwell [Milgrim's dealer] when Tito and the old man execute their plan just a few feet away. [248 characters]

The action seems to be gaining in tempo. Where is Brown ?

Chapter 42. GOING AWAY

Chapter 42. GOING AWAY pages 187 - 189

"Systema avoids pursuit, whenever possible, the uncles taught."

Chapter 42. GOING AWAY
After narrowly escaping his pursuers with the help of the orishas, his systema, freerunning skills, Brotherman, and the Bulgarian gun filled with salt, Tito jumps into the back of a large green van where the old man is waiting.

"I trust they took it from you?" the old man asked in Russian.
"Yes, they did," Tito replied in English.
"Very good," said the old man, in Russian. "Very good."
[388 characters]

What is on the deliberately lost iPod ? It will be interesting to see how this plot thread is works out.

Halfway through the publication of 84 Chapter summaries promised by patternboy.

Chapter 43. PONG

Chapter 43. PONG pages 190 - 195

"The lobby bar was full again."


"This is a matter in which possession of information accounts to involvement. Do you understand?" Hubertus Bigend

Chapter 43. PONG
Bigend tells Hollis that Bobby’s employers have given him two tasks: one, to track the "Flying Dutchman of shipping containers" where Bobby fishes out an intermittent, encrypted signal among many others, and two, to "fake evidence that he still hasn’t found the signal" which he encrypts and stenographically steganographically embeds into music on the drives of iPods that he ships to Costa Rica.

Bigend has learned that the iPods are reshipped from Costa Rica to New York, probably to unknown "retired U.S. intelligence officers." He has also learned that the intermediary in Costa Rica has not received the packages, instead giving instructions to the post office box to forward the packages directly, probably out of fear of the "whoever owns the contents of that container." [761 characters]

I am still intrigued about how the false information planted on the iPod is meant to be read by those who think that they have intercepted it, if strong encryption is used and it is hidden using steganography.


Chapter 44. EXIT STRATEGY pages 196 - 199

"Milgrim found himself heading for Brown's parked Corolla, or rather he found his body, cramping and gasping from its unaccustomed gallop, weaving unevenly in what he supposed to be that general direction."

In the immediate, siren-filled aftermath of the "bust" involving Brown’s Red Team, the old man and Tito, Milgrim makes his way back to the Corolla and sees some "9/11 superpolice" [Hercules team] exit three black SUVs. Brown makes Milgrim lie down on the floor of the car before the former-Blackwater stooge gives Brown the iPod he "captured" from Tito. Brown and Milgrim drop off the car and head to Washington via the Metroliner. [431 characters]

Blackwater are a US based Private Military Contractor i.e. a mercenary company, who are very active in Iraq.

The para-military "9/11 superpolice" [Hercules team] seem to have been predicted by Neal Stephenson in SnowCrash:

  • "MetaCops aren't allowed to lean against their Unit - makes them look lazy and weak. They can almost lean, look like they're leaning, they can even brandish a big leaning-against-the-car 'tude like this particular individual, but they can't lean. Besides, with the complete, glinting majesty of their Personal Portable Equipment Suite hanging on their Personal Modular Equipment Harness, they would scratch the finish of the Unit."

Chapter 45. BREAKBULK

Chapter 45. BREAKBULK pages 200 - 203

"'‘Where do you think the truck's headed?' Hollis asked, poolside, from her cozy depression in the edge of the giant Stark futon."

Chapter 45. BREAKBULK
After discussing with Hollis the likely next location of the mysterious shipping container and the whereabouts of Bobby Chombo, Bigend likens "traditional human intelligence [someone knowing something]" to "breakbulk, noncontainerized freight [old-fashioned shipping]." Bigend prefers the breakbulk intelligence to that gained through data-mining, but not enough to ignore his interest in Onyx, a Swiss-based version of Echelon for searching data harvested by spy satellites around the world. Bigend then tells Hollis to continue working with Philip and Odile re: the locative art installations and suggests, "It’s no accident that Bobby Chombo overlaps two such apparently different spheres." [692 characters]

How does Bigend get access to a Swiss military electronic communications interception system ?

via Blue Ant's Swiss bankers, apparently

Chapter 46. VIP

Chapter 46. VIP pages 204 - 207

"'You aren’t carrying identification,' the old man said, in English, turning off the small camera on which he’d been repeatedly observing a piece of video.

Chapter 46. VIP
The old man gives Tito a new identity [Ramone Alcin], sunglasses and a jacket with "JOHNSON BROS. TURF AND LAWN" on the back as the van heads for the heliport. [159 characters]

Chapter 47. N Street

Chapter 47. N Street pages 208 - 212

"There were ghosts in the Civil War trees, past Philadelphia."

Chapter 47. N Street
On the Metroliner with Brown typing his report on an armored laptop, Milgrim takes another tab and see "spectral others, ghosts perhaps" on the way to an empty house in Georgetown. [180 characters]

Georgetown, a posh suburb of Washington DC is classic "spook country".

Chapter 48. MONTAUK

Chapter 48. MONTAUK pages 213 - 218

"Tito sat, eyes resolutely closed, within his music."

Chapter 48. MONTAUK
Landing near East Hampton with the old man and Garreth, "Prada Man" [an accomplice of the old man], Tito trades in the lawn care jackets and sunglasses for his APC jacket as they drive to board a Cessna Golden Eagle to their next destination. [242 characters]

Which tight fitting, black or blue, French designer jacket from A.P.C (Atelier de Production et de Création) ? (needs Flash)

Chapter 49. ROTCH

Chapter 49. ROTCH pages 219 - 222

"Odile sat in the white armchair, with the white robot on its back in her lap, poking a white Mondrian pencil into its mechanism of plastic gears and black rubber bands."

Chapter 49. ROTCH
Odile tells Hollis that Bobby Chombo is actually a Canadian artist and geohacker named Bobby Ferguson ["Chombo" is his stage name] and an acquaintance of her ex-boyfriend. After Pamela Mainwaring calls to help book their flight to Vancouver, Odile tells Hollis that she too is working on Node’s dime. [300 characters]


Chapter 50. WHISPERING GALLERY pages 223 - 229

"Milgrim woke in a narrow bed, beneath a single flannel sheet printed with trout flies, partial riverscapes, and the repeated image of an angler, casting."

Waking in what used to be a boy's room in the Georgetown house, Milgrim overhears Brown expressing his disappointment to one of the goons who failed to apprehend the old man. Milgrim realizes that Brown knows nearly nothing: not who the old man is, not the contents or location of the shipping container. Brown has learned that the IF is part of "one of the smallest organized crime families in the United States. Maybe literally a family" with intelligence training in Cuba that allows them to operate "like ghosts." [517 characters]

Chapter 51. CESSNA

Chapter 51. CESSNA pages 230 - 231

"Tito discovered that he could sleep on an airplane."

Chapter 51. CESSNA
While the old man and Garreth work with a laptop and map on the way to an undisclosed location, Tito leaps and tries to imagine the old man with his "grandfather in Havana, a long time ago, when both the revolution and the whalelike cars had been new, but no images came." [273 characters]


Chapter 52. SCHOOL CLOTHES pages 232 - 235

"Milgrim found the housekeeper in the kitchen, where Brown has said he would be, rinsing breakfast dishes before putting them in the water."

After getting a haircut from the housekeeper, Milgrim finishes packing his meagre belongings when Brown arrives with breakfast and the housekeeper returns with a suit, some shirts, underwear and "visibly cheap" shoes that make him feel "less like he was heading back to boarding school, or joining the FBI." Milgrim retrieves his overcoat after Brown tells him that he will need a raincoat where they are going. [411 characters]

Vancouver has one of the highest annual rainfall's in North America, if that is where they are heading.


Chapter 53. TO GIVE THEM THE PLEASURE pages 236 - 240

Preparing for the trip to Vancouver with Odile, Hollis calls her mother vacationing in Puerto Vallarta. Hollis's mother never approved of her singing career and "seemed to regard any income from singing as a kind of disability pay." Her father is now a political news internet junkie who constantly rails against the President. Odile tells Hollis that if the United States were her country, she wouldn't be angry, she would just "drink all the time. Take pill. Anything." [471 characters]

How do Hollis and Odile know that they need to head off towards Vancouver ?

UPDATE: see chapter 49 ROTCH

Chapter 54. ICE

Chapter 54. ICE pages 241 - 243

"Tito woke as the Cessna's wheels touched down."

Chapter 54. ICE
Stopping to refuel, the old man asks Tito why he lifted the ICE [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] badge from his pursuer in New York. Afraid to admit that Eleggua had made him do it, Tito tells the old man he thought it might be a weapon. The old man tells Tito that he probably saved his pursuer from having to explaining to DHS what he was doing with a badge unlikely to be his. [385 characters]

In Burning Chrome, Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive William Gibson used the acronym ICE to stand for "Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics", an idea credited to Tom Maddox.


Chapter 55. PHANTOM GUN SYNDROME pages 244 - 246

"'Miller,' said Brown, from his enormous white leather recliner, across ten feet of off-white shag carpet."

After receiving a new identity and boarding a private plane [sound familiar?] to Vancouver, Milgrim accompanies a nervous, gunless Brown. [136 characters]


Chapter 56. HENRY AND RICHARD pages 247 - 252

"A pale boy with a very thin beard was holding a rectangle of white cardboard inscribed with Henry and Richard in green marker, as the left the customers hall."

After receiving a new identity and boarding a private plane [sound familiar?] to Vancouver, Milgrim accompanies a nervous, gunless Brown. [136 characters]

After being greeting at the airport by Ollie Sleight [Blue Ant, Vancouver], Hollis receives a call from Inchmale on the way to Bigend’s flat. Back in LA, Inchmale has seen his first example of locative art, albeit from a non-virtual vantage point ["types with Star Wars helmet, staring at the foot of the Marmont's driveway"].

Next, Bigend calls telling Hollis that Bobby appears to be in Washington State on his way to Canada [oh, and to be careful with any metal-piercing, pacemakers, watches-under the magnetic, levitating bed in the flat]. [542 characters]

Chateau Marmont is a luxury hotel on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.

There are several magnetic levitation mattress and bed designs, but the artie fartiest / coolest design, which is what would presumably appeal to Hubertus Bigend is this one by Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars

Chapter 57. POPCORN

Chapter 57. POPCORN pages 253 - 255

"Commercial airlines were like buses, Milgrim decided, staring at the textured ceiling in his room in this Best Western."

Chapter 57. POPCORN
Milgrim and Brown land in Vancouver and get into a parked car left for them. Milgrim wonders how Brown has access to such things including the Gulfstream, the Georgetown house, etc. thinking that Brown may really have DEA connections.

Brown explains the reason people think that Americans are materialistic is "because they have stuff... no other reason." [354 characters]


Chapter 58. ALPHABET TALK pages 256 - 258

"The pilot followed the highways."

Somewhere over a Nebraska highway, Tito overhears the old man and Garreth discussing FastC2AP [a DARPA R&D program designed for IXO: the Information Exchange Office] and PANDA [Predictive Analysis for Naval Deployment Activities], both technologies that help make "locating some ships as easy as checking an online stock price."

Bobby seems to have accessed a beta version of PANDA and the old man wonders if they are "facilitating" a genius or "really, at the end of the day, just a talented and audacious burglar" [the difference tied to predictability]. [556 characters]

One could make the same comment about "genius" or "burglar" regarding the old man's profession of being a spook or intelligence agent.

FastC2AP stands for Fast Connectivity for Coalitions and Agents Project, and involves, God help us, "autonomous software agents".

These could be as simple as macro routines to run database queries at regular intervals, but since they are intended to be distributed throughout a network, and to run without human intervention, they represent a big potential security threat to any computer system, especially military ones. This project, as with so many others, relegates "hardening" i.e. security and scalability, to the later, as yet unimplemented phases of the project.

Bobby Chombo's access to a "beta version of PANDA", is probably more important for the hard coded back end database access codes embedded within the software, which would allow him, perhaps, to access the US Navy shipping target databases with his own software , than any use he might make of it directly yo highlight "anomalous" shipping movement behaviour.

Tracking the location of a ship, is not quite the same as tracking a particular shipping container directly, especially if the shipping documentation is being changed or forged.

Chapter 59. BLACK ZODIAC

Chapter 59. BLACK ZODIAC pages 259 - 263

"Brown rented a remarkably ugly and uncomfortable black boat called a Zodiac".


"Cities, in Milgrim's experience, had a way of revealing themselves in the faces of their inhabitants, and particularly on their way to work in the morning. There was a sort of basic fuckedness index to be read, then, in faces that hadn't yet encountered the reality of whatever they were on their way to do."

Chapter 59. BLACK ZODIAC
Milgrim notices that Brown, back in his nylon vest, is uncharacteristically chipper [whistling?] as they undock the Black Zodiac [that "reminded him of a creepy folding rubber bathtub"] from the marina and head towards "some kind of floating Cubist sculpture in muted Kandinsky tones." After killing the engine near the M/V Jamaica Star, Brown lights a cigar and remarks, "Look at that son of a bitch," as Milgrim looks on amazed at Brown's "immense and inexplicable satisfaction." [481 characters]

The "M/V Jamaica Star" container ship, is described in one of the extracts which William Gibson published on his blog on 9th September 2006.


Chapter 60. ROLLING THE CODES pages 264 - 267

"Hollis woke on Bigend’s mag-level bed, feeling as though it was the altar atop some Aztec pyramid."

Hollis wakes on the "Aztec altar" and walks downstairs where Ollie is waiting with a phone scrambler [Bigend is "increasingly concerned with privacy"]

Privacy and Security are closely related.

and keys to a Phaeton. After Ollie leaves, Bigend calls to tell Hollis that the they had tracked white truck transporting Bobby to where its GPS coordinates stopped in Burnaby near the Canadian border. [351 characters]


Chapter 61. THE PELICAN CASE pages 268 - 269

"They took the black plastic Pelican case on in Montana."

Landing on a rural road in Montana, Garreth receives a heavy black Pelican case like the one Alejandro "sometimes used to bury documents and supplies" from someone driving a battered old station wagon before taking off again. Later, Tito overhears Garreth talking to the old man about the "radioactive" contents of the case. [325 characters]

Radioactive ? The plot thickens.

Chapter 62. SISTER

Chapter 62. SISTER pages 270 - 274

"'This is Sarah,' said Odile, when Hollis found her, on the crowded cafe patio of a municipal gallery."


"[Chombo] implements finite differential methods for the solutions of partial differential equations, on block-structured, adaptively refined rectangular grids".

Chapter 62. SISTER
Hollis and Odile meet Sarah Ferguson, Bobby "Chombo" Ferguson’s sister, look like Bobby "but it looks better on a girl." Odile and Sarah share an ex in common who gives Odile information to contact Sarah. Sarah tells them that she knows Bobby [who Sarah describes as an irresponsible, self-centered, yet mathematically gifted "fuck up"] is in town; a mutual friend saw him earlier and called Sarah. Sarah tells Hollis that Bobby was a fan of The Curfew and volunteers the address where Bobby is most likely hiding. [514 characters]

The name "Sarah Ferguson", to a British readership, will conjure up images of "Fergie", the Duchess of York and tabloid celebrity.



"Tito watched the old man fold the copy of the New York Times he’d been reading."


"Gradually, in the crisis of self that your captivity becomes, [the captor] guides you in your discovery of who you are becoming."

Waiting on the Pacific coast for the boat that would take them to Canada, the old man tells Tito and Garreth that the CIA [defining interrogation protocols that "turned the SERE lessons inside out"] discourages torture, not for ethical reasons, but because how it degrades the "quality of the product... squandering potential assets." [334 characters]

The ineffectiveness of torture for the extraction of secrets or of intelligence which is of any practical use, has long been recognised by the professionals, if not by political and religious fanatics, or by politicians and bureaucrats who seek to cover their own backsides through "plausible deniability" e.g. see the then head of the British Security Service MI5 Dame Eliza Mannigham-Buller on the
"don't ask where the intelligence came from" policy regarding terrorist suspects who have been "questioned" by brutal foreign secret police.

    "We treat such intelligence with great care for two main reasons: detainees can seek to mislead their questioners, and, where the agencies are not aware of the circumstances in which the intelligence was obtained, it is likely to be more difficult to assess its reliability."

Chapter 64. GLOCKING

Chapter 64. GLOCKING

pages 277 - 280

"'Score some shit,' said Brown, sounding like he'd rehearsed the line, as he handed Milgrim a fold of colorful foreign bills."

Chapter 64. GLOCKING
With $300 in hand an instructions from Brown to lure "someone in the business" [of drugs] into a deal, preferably in a parking garage, Milgrim scores $150 worth of Valium from Skink, an "asymmetrical individual." When Skink throws Milgrim into a dark entryway, Brown bursts in to relieve Skink of his consciousness and his Glock. [329 characters]

Chapter 65. EAST VAN HALEN

Chapter 65. EAST VAN HALEN pages 281 - 285

"She opened her PowerBook on the counter of Bigend's crypto-kitchen, taking wifi for granted."

Chapter 65. EAST VAN HALEN
Bigend calls Hollis to tell her that he believes Bobby is in Vancouver to "monitor the off-loading, though not for the shippers" and that Hollis and Odile have the best chance of finding him. Hollis then takes the Phaeton to the address given to her by Bobby's sister. Uncomfortable about lying to Bigend about meeting Sarah, Hollis calls him back to tell him that she is standing near where she might find Bobby [near Clark Street as Bigend tells her from monitoring the GPS signal in the "crypto-luxurious" car]. [515 characters]

eCall combined GPS and mobile phone devices are meant to be fitted to all new motor vehicles in the European Union from 2009, supposedly for "emergency services" use in case of a road accident. The downside is that the system will effectively track your vehicle's location for the vast majority of the time which does not involve an accident where you are unconscious.

"taking wifi for granted" is easy to do in, say, London or New York, or presumably Vancouver, but it is still nowhere near as ubiquitous as mobile phone coverage.

Chapter 66. PING

Chapter 66. PING page 286 - 290

"Tito sat on a paint-spattered steel stool, looking up at a dirty skylight of wire-embedded glass."

Chapter 66. PING
Unloading the Pelican Case onto an island off the coast, Tito, Garreth and the old man wait for a seaplane "built for work" to take them and the case to a river near an airport before driving a van to a building in a city where they meet Bobby Chombo.

Bobby is visibly nervous about being in his hometown with the "box a few blocks away" and "them" nearby "pinging it as they drive around, trying for a visual." Bobby says that he doesn't want to know who "they" are or what they have in the box. The old man thanks Bobby for his extremely talented work on a "long and very demanding job," promised advanced payment oh his final instalment and assures him that he will soon be able to relax. Then Hollis arrives. [713 characters]

Chapter 67. WARDRIVING

Chapter 67. WARDRIVING pages 291 - 293

"Milgrim sat beside Brown on one of the two benches in a very small park, under the bare branches of a row of young maples."

Chapter 67. WARDRIVING
After three, tedious hours wardriving the port city with unreal looking mountains, Milgrim sits on a bench "glancing at Brown's busily shifting laptop screen satellite images of this port area zoomed in and out; were replaced, were overlaid with yellow grids." With Brown immersed in the screen of his armored laptop, Milgrim realizes that he could probably run away. [367 characters]

Hackers and IT security consultants have been
wardriving since early 2001, both in the USA and in the UK.

Chapter 68. SNAP

Chapter 68. SNAP pages 294 - 298

"Hollis thought that he looked a little like William Burroughs, minus the bohemian substrate (or perhaps the methadone)."

Chapter 68. SNAP
The old man tells Hollis that she has arrived at "a most inopportune time" as they prepare to commit "a number of criminal offenses, under both Canadian and American law." The old man assures Hollis that their "motivation is decidedly nonstandard" and they have no intention to harm anyone nor to let Hollis leave until their work is completed.

The old man, "trained by the government agency of which I was a member," quickly assesses Hollis character [and googles her Wikipedia entry] offers to make her a witness to a secret history where she can use her celebrity status to act "as a sort of time capsule" for the legacy the old man intends to leave behind. [660 characters]


Chapter 69. MAGNETS

Chapter 69. MAGNETS pages 299 - 301

"Garreth took Tito to the far end of the second table, where ten disks, each no thicker than a small coin, and about three inches in diameter, were arranged on a half-sheet of fresh plywood."

Chapter 69. MAGNETS
Garreth walks Tito through the plan for sealing the bullet holes he intends to create in the shipping container with nine small (about 3 inch diameter) magnetic discs painted dark turquoise to match the color of the container. Tito will need to climb to the container and use the magnets to hide the holes while wearing a black face mask, careful to not inhale anything. Tito is distracted by Hollis’s presence but prepares for the mission ahead. [446 characters]

First a magnetic bed, now magnetic discs. Powerful rare earth magnets are everywhere, particularly the Neodymium magnets in the computer hard disk which you are likely to be very close to whilst reading this.

Chapter 70. PHO

Chapter 70. PHO pages 302 - 305

"Brown took Milgrim to a dim, steamy Vietnamese restaurant, one with no English signage whatever."

Chapter 70. PHO
Surprised to see the turquoise shipping container from street level, Brown tells Milgrim that the IF’s family hasn’t been communicating in any way making Brown wonder if his earlier musings about using the NSA or ECHELON (instead of a Russian-speaking junkie from the East Village) wasn’t already being done. [308 characters]

Turquoise keeps reminding me of the US edition cover art colour scheme.


Brown's surveillance operation may have started originally before he or his superiors had arranged access to what would woulld be illegal NSA mobile phone telecommunications interception, but which have now come on stream. The National Security Agency (NSA) cliams not to do anything illegal in the USA.

  • 10 Couldn't the Agency simply ask its allies to provide them with information about U.S. persons?

    We have been prohibited by executive order since 1978 from having any person or government agency, whether foreign or U.S. conduct any activity on our behalf that we are prohibited from conducting ourselves. Therefore, NSA/CSS does not ask its allies to conduct such activities on its behalf nor does NSA/CSS do so on behalf of its allies.

However this would appear to still allow the NSA to share intelligence from allies like the UK's GCHQ, who are routinely intercepting communications anyway, for their own purposes, not specifically at the behest of the NSA.

This is something, of which ECHELON is only a part and which has been going on since the1948 UK-USA agreement, which also includes ties with the equivalent spook agencies in Canada (Communications Security Establishment), Australia (Defence Signals Directorate) and New Zealand (Government Communications Security Bureau).

Chapter 71. HARD TO BE ONE

Chapter 71. HARD TO BE ONE pages 306 - 311

"'What do you know about money laundering, Hollis?' the old man asked, passing her a round foil dish of peas and paneer."

Chapter 71. HARD TO BE ONE
The old man ["as American as it go"”] explains to Hollis that the United States "sent nearly twelve billion dollars in cash to Iraq, between March 2003 and June 2004... intended to cover the transition of power from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the interim Iraqi government. The largest one-time transfer in the history of the New York Fed."

After sharing some food with Garreth [a BASE jumper and fan of the Curfew, among other things], the old man asks Hollis how she would feel about being exposed to an "uncertain amount" of radiation as Hollis wonders if she is experiencing a bit of Stockholm Syndrome herself when she agrees to go with Garreth to observe his mission. [683 characters]

So where did the rest of the money disappear to ? How much more purely electronic money was also stolen ?

What about the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) snooping scandal ?


Chapter 72. EVENT HORIZON pages

"'That jacket we put you in, in New York, for the helicopter,' the old man said, walking around Tito, who had just put on a new black hooded sweatshirt that Garreth had given him.

After giving Tito his final instructions for entering the shipping yard, the old man tells Tito that his father ["a man who valued truth"] was shot by "an agent of Castro’s DGI... [a] delusional, paranoid" who later died in a bar fight, likely at the hands of the DGI.

Preparing to leave and wrapped in sixty-feet of black nylon climbing rope under his green jacket, Tito then helps Garreth move the Pelican case, heavy given it is mostly lined with lead before briefly talking to Hollis and understanding "why they would make posters of her." [541 characters]

Black and Green again.


Chapter 73. SPECIAL FORCES pages 316 - 319

"Going somewhere she’d never seen, at night, in a van with two men, with equipment, reminded her of the beginning of the Curfew, minus Heidi Hyde."

Riding in the van with Garreth driving, Hollis admires fifteen-year-old Tito's presence ["pretty enough, at rest, almost feminine, but when he moved with purpose, he became beautiful"]. Garreth tells Hollis how he came to meet the old man who he learned was a career national security agent, pissed off about 9/11, who lives to harass "people profiting from the war in Iraq." [375 characters]

Is Tito really only 15 ? Or did he just appear that way to Hollis ?

In chapter 2 Ants in the water, page 11, "At thirty, eight years older than Tito,..." makes Tito at least 22 years old.

Chapter 74. AS DIRECTED

Chapter 74. AS DIRECTED pages 320 - 324

"Milgrim had been thinking about offering Brown a Rize, when he spotted the IF walking along the sidewalk."

Chapter 74. AS DIRECTED
Watching Brown mutter and act intensely nervous as they get closer to the turquoise shipping container, Milgrim thinks back on meeting Brown when the he sees the IF ["like a younger Johnny Depp, but ethnic"] walking by in his bright-green jacket. As Brown wildly swerves the Taurus in his direction, Tito jumps over the car before it crashing into a "large nursery toy, full of concrete."

With sirens approaching, an injured Brown ditches the Glock into a nearby trashcan and gives Milgrim the pack of bubble-wrapped Rize. When Brown tells Milgrim to come help him, Milgrim says "No, sorry" and walks away from the scene and Brown as quickly as he can. [651 characters]

In this novel American and Japanese car brands are outnumbered by German ones (Volkswagen Phaeton and Jetta or the Mercedes Maybach Brabus).

Chapter 75. HEY, BUDDY

Chapter 75. HEY, BUDDY pages 325 - 327

"Oshosi, scout and hunter, had entered Tito in mid-backtuck. "

Chapter 75. HEY, BUDDY
Recovering from Brown’s near-fatal attack and with the spirit of Oshosi "huge in his head," Tito jumps into the back of an enormous pickup truck on its way to the shipyard. In the back, Tito calls the old man to tell him that Brown tried to kill him. [250 characters]

Oshosi is the Santeria orisha deity of hunting and tracking.


Chapter 76. LOCATION SHOOT pages 328 - 335

Having dropped Tito and driven on, not far at all along the strip of low-lying auto-body repairs and marine supplies, Garreth turned right, into the parking lot of what seemed to be a much taller building, one built on an entirely different scale.

Garreth and Hollis, pretending to be location scouts for an untitled movie, enter an eight-story building ["built on an entirely different scale"] with the Pelican case, a tripod and leather apron. After verifying a direct line of site to the shipping container and checking the radiation level of the case, Garreth assembles a rifle ["biomorphic, counterintuitive, like something from a Max Ernst landscape"] and prepares to shoot nine Remington silvertips full of radioactive material into "evenly spaced along forty feet of Cor-ten steel" along the bottom of the shipping container filled with super spoiler. [635 characters]

The apron seems to be a radiographer's lead lined protective apron, rather than a leather one.

Cor-Ten steel contains sulphur and is designed to weather and rust only on the surface i.e. not to require to be painted "turquoise" like the shipping container.

Chapter 77. SLACK ROPE

Chapter 77. SLACK ROPE pages 336 - 340

"The Guerreros were not waiting for him, when he left the dark bed of the truck, blinking under artificial sunlight."

Chapter 77. SLACK ROPE
Guided by the spirit of Ochun, Tito climbs the nylon rope and secures the magnets to cover the nine bullet holes from Garreth's gun. On his way out of the shipyard, a helicopter comes out of nowhere, shining an "insanely bright light" as Tito catches his jeans on the top of a fence "like a child, no systema at all." Climbing down, Tito meets Igor and two other young men moving a piano to their new practice space. [416 characters]

This reminds me of J.R.R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings second volume The Two Towers in Chapter 1 The Taming of Sméagol, where the hobbits Frodo and Sam climb down a cliff with the help of an elvish rope, which magically unties itself when they have got to the bottom, so that it does not get left behind to betray their presence.


Chapter 78. THEIR DIFFERENT DRUMMER pages 341 - 346

"My purse,’ she said, as they drove back to Bobby’s."

Leaving the building in the hands of the "dustmen" and her purse behind, Hollis tells Garreth to stop the car when she sees emerge from a small car parked by the Phaeton, Inchmale and Heidi Hyde carrying a three-foot, gift-wrapped ax handle.

At a bar near the flat, Bigend tells Hollis that her purse is near Hastings and Main, "on foot, apparently" before getting on a bus as Hollis imagines him "watching this on that huge screen in his office. The world as video game."

Inchmale tells Hollis that Bigend wants The Curfew to record a $15M-budget video of "Hard To Be One" for a Chinese car commercial before telling him that he thought it would be good for him and Heidi to check on Hollis, who might be in trouble. [715 characters]

Remotely tracking Hollis's purse like this via the electronic gadgets inside it, is just about possible with mobile phone Location Based Services technology.

However any GPS devices, which can provide a more accurate position fix, and which are reasonably ok for tracking vehicles or containers with external antennas, require a clear line of sight to at least 2 GPS satellites in the sky. Technically 4 satellites are needed to provide data to solve the spherical geometry equations including elevation or altitude above sea level and to decide which of the two valid solutions to the equations (on opposite sides of the globe) applies. The standard GPS software waits until the device has acquired timing signals from 4 satellites, a process which usually takes several minutes from when it is powered on.

Unless Hollis's purse is completely transparent to very weak radio signals, and is never taken into a vehicle or building, this is unlikely.

Even then the GPS device still needs to transmit its position, that it has fixed from the satellites probably via the mobile phone network. Such real time tracking devices do not communicate back up to the orbiting satellites, unlike the many mainstream media false depictions of the technology.

William Gibson is aware of the limitations of GPS tracking, as he earlier had Alberto explain to Hollis how he needs Bobby Chombo's skills to allow his Locative Art installations to work indoors.

William Gibson has admitted that he had to revise his text at a late stage, just before the galley proofs stage (according to his appearance at the TUC conference centre in London) , when science fiction author and internet copyright and privacy activist Cory Doctorow pointed out that GPS does not work indoors, but that he might be able to triangulate off the three nearest cell phone base station masts.


Chapter 79. ARTIST AND REPERTOIRE page 347

"'Where’d you say you’re from?' asked the man from Igor’s label, offering Tito an open bottle of beer."
After phoning Garreth to tell him the job is done, Tito takes a beer from the A&R man, deciding to stay off the streets for a while. [132 characters]

Is there a connection between the character named Igor and Tito's knowledge of Russian ?


Chapter 80. MONGOLIAN DEATH WORM pages 348 - 352

"'Business-class lounge for Air Asshole,' declared Inchmale, enthusiastically taking in the central area of the first floor of Bigend’s flat."

Thinking back to "the single strangest thing I imagine I’ll ever see," Hollis wonders aloud to Inchmale about the Mongolian Death Worm ["a mascot for my anxiety" directing focus to "what I’m supposed to be most afraid of, now"] [227 characters]

Wikipedia article on the mythical Mongolian Death Worm

SInce Mongolia includes a large area of the Gobi desert, this seems more likely to be the source of William Gibson's inspiration (given his lack of television viewing) than the theory that this is an allusion to the sandworms in Frank Herbert's Dune proposed by Ed Park in his review of Spook Countryfor the LA Times.

William Gibson has also said on this book tour that he does not read much fiction, so it is unclear if he has read Dune or not. He has also said in London, that he got the inspiration for the Pattern Recognition's Cayce Pollard character trait of a pathological aversion to logos and labels, simply by reading the titleof the book No Logo by Naomi Klein, and not by actually reading it.


Chapter 81. IN BETWEEN EVERYTHING pages 353 - 355

'You can’t give me a number?'

After Garreth pick him up from sitting in with Igor and the band, Tito tells Garreth about the man who tried to kill him and his passenger who walked away concerned that his systema was sloppy. Garreth tells him that he was “fucking genius” and that Alejandro is waiting for him. After getting in the black Mercedes, Alejandro tells Tito that Carlito has plans for him to stay in Vancouver with an eye towards China which is "very close." [438 characters]

If Tito's "systema" skills are linked (psychologically at least) to he is faith in the Santeria deities, why did they seem to abandon him just after the crucial deed was done ?

Another black Mercedes - it will be worth counting up the number of German marque vehicles.

Chapter 82. BEENIE’S

Chapter 82. BEENIE’S pages 356 - 364

"The unfamiliar ring tone of Garreth’s cell woke her."

Chapter 82. BEENIE’S Awakening to a call from Garreth, Hollis leaves the flat for Beenie’s where she meets Garreth, Tito and the old man.

The old man explains that the contents of the shipping container were never intended to arrive in a First World country, rather for an economy "in which that sort of money can be traded for one thing or another, without too punishing a discount." As the profiteers were consistently unable to launder the cash, they became progressively nervous until cutting a deal with a church in Porthill, Idaho, "the kind with its own television station [where] hundred dollar bills in the collection plate are the norm."

Hollis and company watch the container roll by on a flatbed truck, on its way towards the US border and “a world of trouble.” [752 characters]

William Gibson's early story Burning Chrome (1982) also mentions large scale (electronic) money laundering:

    "Most of it was phone calls. My fifteen initial and very oblique inquiries each seemed to breed fifteen more. I was looking for a certain service Bobby and I both imagined as a requisite part of the world's clandestine economy, but which probably never had more than five customers at a time. It would be one that never advertised.

    We were looking for the world's heaviest fence, for a non-aligned money laundry capable of dry-cleaning a megabuck online cash transfer and then forgetting
    about it."

Chapter 83. STRATHCONA

Chapter 83. STRATHCONA pages 365 - 367

"And you’re writing your thesis on Baptists, Mr. Milgrim?"

Chapter 83. STRATHCONA
In a bed-and-breakfast near a deserted Vancouver Chinatown, Milgrim - passing himself off as a travelling scholar writing about "revolutionary messianism" and carrying the cash and phone from Hollis’s purse - takes a Rize, settles back on the pillows, and begins reading his book while thinking of a vaguely familiar-looking woman [Hollis] he’d seen outside a used-record store by St. Mark's Place. [395 characters]"

It is unclear from the text exactly when or where Milgrim got hold of Hollis's purse. He did come across "a film set" but that seemed to be outside in the street, rather inside the building where Hollis and Garreth carried the tripod and the gun etc.


Chapter 84. THE MAN WHO SHOT WALT DISNEY pages 368 - 371

'It's not bad,' said Bobby, spilling a little of his second piso mojado as he leaned back in his chair to see the top of Bigend's building through Hollis's helmet.


She put the helmet on, turned it on, and looked up to where Alberto’s giant cartoon rendition of the Mongolian Death Worm, its tail wound through the various windows of Bigend's pyramidal aerie like an eel through the skull of a cow, waved imperially, tall and scarlet, in the night.

Bobby, now also free of his anxiety [and] in the presence of Inchmale, explores a potential location for a music video of the Bollards "I'm The Man Who Shot Walk Disney" that will "introduce locative art to a wider audience while helmets like Hollis's were still in the beta stage" if Bobby agrees to "get everybody else’s work back up on new servers, which he’d already done."

Earlier, Hollis had glimpsed Tito with his brother Alejandro in a mall beneath the Four Seasons before they disappeared "down the concourse of heavily trademarked commerce."

Hollis, with unfocused material for her unwritten article for the unlaunched Node, keeps her secret from Bigend and the others, knowing that "the whole business had to play out initially in spook country, and it might well remain there for a very long time." [807 characters]

A happy ending for all the protagonists, except the villain Brown and, presumably, his spooky masters.