Zero History is the third member of a trilogy that includes both Pattern Recognition and Spook Country. Like the previous two books, this is not so much space-opera science-fiction than it is a modern-day thriller with speculative technological aspects. Sort of like CSI.
I’m glad that I had already read Spook Country, as the author brings Hollis Henry, Milgrim, and Hubertus Bigend back for another adventure, without supplying much description or backstory for any of them. The story is written from a limited-omniscient point of view that switches between Hollis and Milgrim, and these characters don’t actually encounter each other for a while. When they do, one is described as “nondescript, but unshaven” and the other, eventually, as “a weaponized version of Françoise Hardy.”
This is, oddly enough, pretty much how I envisioned Hollis to look throughout the book.
That Milgrim’s appearance is vague (he also has messy brown hair and is “weedy”) actually works with the character’s arc. He has been through a very thorough detox program and psychological therapy and is only beginning to regain his personality.
The characters’ dialogue seems peculiar sometimes, with people speaking in incomplete sentences. Fragments. Like they’re in a hurry. Do people talk like that? Really? Dunno, maybe. Sometimes.
On the other hand, the characters’ speech patterns are nicely consistent. Sometimes a book’s characters will tend to sound just like each other (and just like the author) and that isn’t the case here.
As for the story, it begins with a pair of pants in Florida. Hubertus Bigend has decided that he is now interested in fashion, and has sent Milgrim on a mission to photograph a pair of pants. He also provides Hollis with a denim jacket, and asks that she find the designer behind it. The problem is that the jacket’s brand, Gabriel Hounds, is a mystery even to those who have heard of it.
The first half, or so, of the book is a bit slow as the framework is laid down. After the first half, things begin to accelerate exponentially. Indeed, once I reached that point, I was unable to put the book down until I finished it… at 3:30 am. And I’m now quite tempted to go back and re-read Pattern Recognition.