The term cyberspace was coined by the science-fiction writer William Gibson, who used it in his 1984 novel Neuromancer, a description of an exhausted, seedy, cyborganic future that remains one of the most important works of fiction written in the past 30 years. Since then, while the rest of us have moved forward in time, Gibson's books have moved backward, to the point where we meet in something closely resembling the present in his ninth novel, Spook Country.
Gibson's novels often read like an annotated index of his latest obsessions, or maybe his web bookmarks. Judging by Spook Country, that list currently includes shipping containers, GPS, $100 bills, high-end boutique hotels, wi-fi, conceptual art, homeland security, iPods, obscure Bulgarian firearms and 1980s' cult bands Gibson's heroine, the drolly winsome Hollis Henry, used to sing in one. (When Hollis turns up at a critical moment, somebody remarks dryly, "At least it's not Morrissey.")
The jittery plot which is hygienically disposable deals with the search for a shipping container with something yummy and expensive in it. But the point of the novel isn't so much storytelling; it's mapping the global flow of information and the ways it is distorted and inflected by the technologies that transmit it. In that respect, Spook Country is as absolutely contemporary as anything printed on paper can be.