I have read this novel four or five times now, and even taught it a few times. Each time I read it the scope of it dramatically shrinks for me. It happened this time as well. I first learned about this novel right when it came out and it was nominated for the Virginia Book Prize. And one of my professors, who is otherwise really buttoned-down and prim, knowing that Edward P Jones’s The Known World was going to win, decided she would champion this one. It was so unlike her to read this, and more so to enjoy it. I also am pretty certain this was my first William Gibson book as well.
In the novel, we meet Cayce Pollard, a brand consultant working in London. She has recently become obsessed with an internet phenomenon of a series of professionally created video clips that are being circulated (the book is pre-Youtube and discussions of memes — though virality was a thing) and a small cult following revolving around them. We also learn through exposition that she’s in active pursuit of the truth of her father’s disappearance on 9/11 (though it’s not for certain he died in the Twin Towers or was even near them) and the search for one easily becomes the proxy for the other. The novel also circulates around the enigmatic Blue Ant company, who has hired Cayce, along with its also enigmatic owner.
The book is both about a lot of things and not about a lot of things. I want to say that for me the novel is a kind of simulacrum of thriller in this way.