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The Spookiest Places in the World

spook country

Some of the most popular tourist spots in the world are also the most haunted. Turns out, people just love a good spook. From the Door to Hell to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, these places are sure to make you uneasy with their creepy vibes. Banging noises, mysterious screams and apparitions are just a few of the scary possibilities at famous sites like the Amityville house and the Island of the Dolls.

When it comes to a list of the spookiest places in the world, you can count on these sites to keep you up at night.

Aokigahara Forest – Yamanashi, Japan

Known as the “Sea of Trees,” Aokigahara Forest looks charming in appearance with lush, green trees. Its beauty attracts tourists and hikers, but, unfortunately, many visitors get lost in the thick forest and can’t call for help because their cell phones don’t work in the forest. GPS systems and compasses also malfunction inside all the trees.

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Some locals think these devices stop working due to the magnetic iron in the forest’s soil. Others believe that it’s the work of demons, according to Japanese mythology. To make matters worse, the chilling forest is also famously called “Suicide Forest,” due to almost 100 people a year walking into the forest, never to return.

Island of the Dolls – Xochimilco, Mexico

Xochimilco is home to one of the creepiest islands in the world: Isla de las Munecas or Island of the Dolls. Hundreds of dolls are scattered across the island, hanging on trees and tied to the walls of buildings. The only way to access the island is by boat — if you can convince the captain to take you.

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According to visitors, the dolls wiggle their hands, whisper to one another and call rowers to the island. Does anyone actually live there? No one occupies the island today, but it was once home to a now-deceased man named Julian Santa Barrera. After finding a drowned girl in a nearby canal, Barrera began dangling dolls everywhere until his death. Some locals say Barrera did this to ward off evil spirits.

Hill of Crosses – Šiauliai, Lithuania

The haunting Hill of Crosses is actually a pilgrimage site that has existed since the 14th century. The hill’s exact origin remains a mystery, but throughout its history, the Hill of Crosses has created a lot of controversy. In the 1940s, locals kept adding crosses to the site to honor rebels who died for Lithuanian independence. The Soviet Union, who occupied Lithuania at the time, didn’t like that, so the Soviets destroyed the site three times.

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Despite the challenges, the locals continued to rebuild it. Today, the Hill of Crosses is a tourist hotspot for catching sight of roaming ghosts and hearing eerie noises.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Tuol Sleng has an extremely disturbing past. Once a high school, the site was transformed into a high-security prison by the Khmer Rouge. Almost 20,000 prisoners occupied Tuol Sleng, and it became a torture and execution center that claimed an estimated 18,133 lives.

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Today, it serves as a museum with thousands of photographs of the victims. Some torture rooms remained untouched after the Khmer Rouge were run out the city. Locals say the ghosts of those who didn’t make it out of the prison alive wander the halls and rooms.

Akodessawa Fetish Market – Togo, Africa

If you’re interested in practicing black magic, you can find everything you need at a street market in West Africa known as Akodessewa Fetish Market. It’s the world’s largest voodoo market that sells different types of animal remains. As a result, a foul stench lingers in the air, adding to the creepy atmosphere.

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The animal sacrifices are popular for local medical treatments. Patients who can’t afford care at a hospital or pharmacy visit the Akodessewa Fetish Market to buy medicine and speak to a local healer. Hoping to treat everything from the flu to curses, patients take home unique items like talismans, charms and elephant feet.

Miyake-jima, Japan

Imagine how difficult it would be if you had to wear a gas mask your entire life. That’s exactly what life is like for residents on the island of Miyake-jima. Their lives depend on frequently wearing gas masks because they occupy an active volcano.

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Over Miyake-jima’s history, the island evacuated several times when Mount Oyama erupted. Now, a constant flow of poisonous gas releases from the volcano, prompting officials to require locals to carry gas masks at all times. When the levels of toxic gases in the air jump up, alarms blare throughout Miyake-jima to warn residents to put on their masks. Daring visitors can access the island by ferry or plane.

Screaming Tunnel – Ontario, Canada

In the northwest corner of Niagara Falls lies a tunnel with a haunting legend. Locals say a young girl hid in the tunnel to escape a nearby fire but then perished within its walls. Other versions of the legend say she was trying to flee from her abusive father.

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Now, the tube is called “The Screaming Tunnel.” Legend has it that when visitors walk into the tunnel with a match, the ghost of the girl comes out and fills the passageway with her screams. Would you dare to walk through the tunnel on a pitch black night?

Monte Cristo – New South Wales, Australia

Claimed to be “Australia’s most haunted house,” the Monte Cristo looks like a charming Victorian home on the outside. But on the inside, it’s a different story. Visitors have reported plenty of paranormal activity, including phantom noises, poltergeists and weird orbs. Even better, the Monte Cristo also comes with apparitions.

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It all started after Elizabeth Crawley’s husband passed away in 1910. She lived in isolation until her own death, and her ghost is said to haunt the grounds, creating cold spots. The Monte Cristo also has a history of mysterious, tragic accidents, which resulted in two other ghosts: a woman wearing a dress and a stable boy wandering the bedrooms.

Edinburgh Castle – Edinburgh, Scotland

Sudden drops in temperature and something unseen pulling on your clothes are common occurrences at Edinburgh Castle, which makes this destination a bone-chilling adventure. Edinburgh Castle has a dark and tragic past. Since the second century AD, it has been the site of 23 surprise attacks and numerous executions.

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Residents believe Edinburgh Castle is haunted by Duke Alexander Stewart of Albany, Lady Janet Douglas of Glamis and a piper. A faint echo of unexplained music travels through the halls and corridors, and a night visit will definitely give you goosebumps.

Tower of London – London, England

One of the must-visit attractions in London is the Tower of London, an impressive medieval structure built in 1078. Over its 1,000-year history, the Tower of London served as a site of executions, torture and murder. Consequently, many ghosts wander the attraction, and a few are really famous.

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Henry VIII sentenced his wife, Anne Boleyn, to death after she gave birth to a stillborn son. Her ghostly figure is known to haunt the Church of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower. Two young princes are also said to wander the site, giggling in their nightgowns. The pair mysteriously disappeared after their uncle, King Richard III, took the throne. Other reported spirits include Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey and Margaret Pole.

Stanley Hotel – Estes Park, CO

The Stanley Hotel is notorious for spooking Stephen King into writing The Shining . At the hotel, lights turn on and off, and doors open and close by themselves. The sounds of laughter and footsteps can be heard when no one else is around. Unexplained shadows, drafts and chills pop up out of nowhere.

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Some guests say the supernatural activities are caused by the eternal spirits of the Stanley Hotel. One notable ghost is Elizabeth Wilson, the former chief housekeeper and the presence in room 217. If visitors hear the tune of a piano coming from the empty ballroom, it’s the ghost of Flora Stanley, who passed away in 1939.

The Door to Hell – Derweze, Turkmenistan

In the middle of the Karakum Desert, sits a burning hole called the “Door to Hell.” The pit wasn’t always on fire. The area was a regular field until 1971, when Soviet engineers began drilling the site for oil. Shortly after, they accidentally ran into a natural gas pocket, and the field collapsed into an underground cavern.

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The engineers thought it was best to set the pit on fire to burn off the dangerous methane gas. They assumed the gas would burn out within a few weeks, but the crater has burned for more than 40 years.

Christ of the Abyss – San Fruttuoso, Italy

If you’re diving in the Mediterranean Sea, near Grenada or in the waters around Key Largo, Florida, you may get startled by an 8-foot statue of Jesus. Christ of the Abyss is an underwater statue collection of Jesus created by sculptor Guido Galletti. He spread his sculptures around different ocean floors.

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The giant deity with his hands and head raised in the depths of the ocean gives off a spooky vibe that is made even scarier with the growing algae and corrosion.

The Christ of the Abyss in Italy began disintegrating so badly that they had to remove and clean the statue multiple times. If you want a haunting dive, Christ of the Abyss is just what you need.

Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – Pripyat, Ukraine

The most devastating nuclear explosions in history took place in Pripyat. The 1986 Chernobyl disaster caused almost 200,000 casualties, and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is still radioactive today. However, that doesn’t stop photographers and tourists from wanting to see it.

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Everything remains in the same place from when residents fled during evacuation. Classrooms still hold crumbling books and decaying dolls, and abandoned gas masks are littered throughout the city. Pripyat’s amusement park is a famous spot that reminds people of the catastrophic nuclear accident.

Gomantong Caves – Sabah, Malaysia

Malaysia’s Gomantong Caves are a complex cave system with limestone walls that stand as high as 300 feet in some sections. The caves are popular tourist attractions, although visitors get creeped out (and grossed out) by the wildlife living there.

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The Gomantong Caves are home to massive populations of bats and cockroaches. In fact, more than a million bats live in the cave. Can you even imagine how much bat poop accumulates? Guests slip on the bat waste while navigating through the millions of cockroaches crawling everywhere. Yikes!

Centralia, PA

Centralia, Pennsylvania, was the inspiration for Silent Hill , the horrifying video game and movie. Once a busy town with successful coal mines, Centralia slowly started to shrivel up and die after the mines mysteriously caught fire in 1962, and the town couldn’t put the fire out.

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Locals began to increasingly worry about the underground inferno when a gas station owner reported high gasoline temperatures in his tank. They also grew concerned when a child fell into a 150-foot-deep sinkhole that released a poisonous level of carbon monoxide. Now, Centralia is a ghost town , and experts estimate the fire could continue to burn for more than 250 years.

Bhangarh Fort – Rundh Bhangarh, India

Located 200 miles from Delhi, the abandoned Bhangarh Fort sits in the middle of a desert. The empty fortress looks like a normal ancient ruin, drawing many visitors to the site while the sun is out. However, at night, it’s a whole different story.

spook country

The spookiness of the place comes alive at night. No one is allowed to visit Bhangarh Fort after sunset, primarily because it’s reportedly one of the most haunted places on the planet. According to local legend, a sorcerer cursed the fortress after a princess rejected him.

The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA

The elegant Queen Mary served as a popular passenger ship, sailing on the North Atlantic Ocean between 1936 and 1967. However, after years of service, the Queen Mary was forced to retire in 1967 due to age and decreased profits. The ship docked permanently in Long Beach, California, and eventually converted into a hotel and tourist attraction.

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Staff and visitors claim the hauntings began during her stay in Long Beach. Mysterious knocks on the door when no one was around became common, and bathroom lights started turning on and off by themselves. Locals claim she is haunted by the ghosts of people who passed away on board.

Myrtles Plantation – St. Francisville, LA

Built in 1796, the Myrtles Plantation is one of America’s most haunted homes. First, the plantation is supposedly built over a Native American burial ground in St. Francisville, Louisiana. Second, other common tales label Myrtles Plantation as the site of abuse, revenge and tragic deaths.

spook country

Locals report seeing many apparitions in the historic home and on the grounds. More than 12 different ghosts allegedly call Myrtles Plantation home. One of the most famous spirits is a former slave named Chloe, who spent her last moments alive at the house. The ghost of a young Native American woman has also been reported.

Winchester Mystery House – San Jose, CA

The Winchester Mystery House may have the creepiest design on Earth. It includes staircases that lead to nowhere, windows overlooking other rooms and doors that open onto 10-foot drops or brick walls. Bizarre, right? Interestingly, the house wasn’t always this weird.

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It was a typical mansion until Sarah Winchester’s husband and son both died. Her husband was the treasurer of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. She believed the ghosts haunting the property were the victims of her husband’s guns. In response, Winchester created a dizzying labyrinth within the house to confuse the ghosts. Now, the giant mystery house is a famous tourist attraction.

Corvin Castle – Transylvania, Romania

As one of the largest castles in Europe and one of the Seven Wonders of Romania, Corvin Castle is a fairytale castle many tourists enjoy visiting. Legend claims the historic Transylvanian castle is also the site where the cruel and bloodthirsty ruler, Vlad the Impaler, was imprisoned.

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As most people know, Vlad was also known as Dracula and inspired the famous vampire legend. Many legends feature Corvin Castle, including a story of two prisoners getting stuck in a well, becoming eternally trapped on the property, even in the afterlife. As a result of these legends, countless paranormal sightings have occurred at Corvin Castle.

Hanging Coffins – Sagada, Philippines

Sagada, Philippines, is home to one of the most unique burial rituals in the world. Instead of putting coffins in the ground, the Sagada locals dangle hundreds of coffins in caves and along the rock faces of cliffs. It has been a common practice for more than 2,000 years.

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The placement of the coffins has to do with status and the belief that the spirits would achieve a higher nature in the afterlife. The Hanging Coffins of Sagada are difficult to reach, and many visitors say that others should respect the burial tradition and view the site from afar.

Catacombs of Priscilla – Rome, Italy

In the 19th century, archaeologists hoped to find hidden treasures like beautiful monuments and frescoes in Rome’s Santa Priscilla Catacombs. Unfortunately, they discovered the catacombs were destroyed, and legend claims the tombs were devastated because ghosts haunted the cursed cemetery. According to the archaeologists, some of their crew encountered angry spirits, who pushed their carriage into a nearby river.

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Santa Priscilla Catacombs also stirred up controversy when experts realized the frescoes showed what may have been female priests leading a mass, an occurrence that would scandalize and alter Catholic history. As a result, it’s believed that the Catholic Church vandalized the catacombs to cover up the shocking event in the 17th century.

Nagoro, Japan

Nagoro, Japan, has a shrinking aging and young population, causing the village to dwindle over time. Former resident and artist Ayano Tsukimi took matters into her own hands by returning to Nagoro and bringing the town back to life in the most unexpected way.

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Tsukimi created 350-life size dolls and placed them all around town, including schools, gyms, benches and outside shops. Some visitors find the dolls unsettling and creepy, but the toys are there to stay and are the new unofficial citizens of the village. Only 30 real humans live in Nagoro.

North Yungas Road – La Paz, Bolivia

A 2,000-foot drop could certainly take a fear of heights to a new extreme. That’s exactly what happens when visitors fall down the cliffs at North Yungas Road in La Paz, Bolivia. Nicknamed “Death Road,” this destination claims 200 to 300 lives a year.

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Driving on North Yungas Road is particularly dangerous because the narrow path is only 10 feet wide, which makes it difficult for two cars going opposite directions to share the road. The lack of guardrails and limited visibility in rain and fog also add to the road’s dangerous reputation. Currently, it has become a hotspot for wild mountain bikers instead of drivers.

Alcatraz – San Francisco, CA

Off the shore of San Francisco, California, sits the former military and federal prison called Alcatraz. From 1934 to 1963, the notorious facility was home to many infamous prisoners, including mobster Al Capone, Bumpy Johnson and George “Machine Gun” Kelly.

spook country

Former prisoners, guards and visitors have reported paranormal activity at Alcatraz. Large, mysterious shadows appear out of nowhere. Figures of past inmates wander the cells and halls. Clinking metal sounds, screams and cries are heard when no one else is around. If haunted prisons are your thing, then Alcatraz is definitely a must-visit destination.

The Amityville House – Long Island, NY

Located in Long Island, New York, the Amityville house is where Ronald DeFeo, Jr., took the lives of his family members in 1974. About a year after the tragic incident, the Lutz family moved into the home and enjoyed a great beginning — for a few days.

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Things quickly took a dramatic turn for the worst. The Lutz family reported banging noises, unexplained footsteps, foul odors, green goo oozing from the walls and eyes looking in from outside the windows. It was so bad that the family left the house after only 28 days of living there. Many people didn’t believe their story, but when they took lie detector tests, they all passed.

Gettysburg Battlefield – Gettysburg, PA

Gettysburg Battlefield is known as the most haunted place in the world. During the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg went on for three days and became the bloodiest battle in U.S. history. More than 50,000 Americans lost their lives, and thousands of other soldiers were wounded or went missing.

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Many lives ended violently on the Gettysburg Battlefield, so it’s no surprise that it’s now a paranormal hotspot. Angry, dark spirits wander the fields and nearby homes. Some locals say the restless spirits are searching for their weapons and comrades. Do these ghosts know the battle is over?

Lawang Sewu – Semarang, Indonesia

During World War II, Japan invaded Semarang, Indonesia, and took over a building owned by the first railway company in the Dutch East Indies, calling it Lawang Sewu. In Japanese, Lawang Sewu means “thousand doors.” They turned the building into a prison, and the basement was used for executions.

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As a result, many ghost stories involve Lawang Sewu. Tourists have reported seeing ghosts and ghouls. The most famous is a Dutch woman who died in the building. Another reported entity at Lawang Sewu is the kuntilanak, a vampiric ghost in Indonesian and Malay mythology.

Manchac Swamp – Laplace, LA

Most bayous are infested with snakes and gators swimming in murky waters, but one swamp in Louisiana has a unique aspect that makes it unsettling. Located near New Orleans, Manchac Swamp is the spookiest swamp thanks to a curse and a strange, lurking beast.

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Legend says a voodoo priestess cursed the swamp and her neighbors. Then, she died and took the entire village with her in the deadly 1915 New Orleans hurricane. Now, her ghostly voice haunts the swamp. Another entity at Manchac Swamp is the rougarou, a bloodthirsty, werewolf-like creature. Are you afraid of the swamp yet?


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Spook Country (Blue Ant) Paperback – March 3, 2009

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  • Book 2 of 3 Blue Ant
  • Print length 512 pages
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  • Publisher Berkley
  • Publication date March 3, 2009
  • Dimensions 4.3 x 1.07 x 7.47 inches
  • ISBN-10 0425226719
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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Berkley; Reprint edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 512 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0425226719
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0425226711
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 10.4 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 4.3 x 1.07 x 7.47 inches
  • #2,736 in Technothrillers (Books)
  • #4,192 in Hard Science Fiction (Books)
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About the author

William gibson.

William Gibson is the award-winning author of Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive, The Difference Engine, with Bruce Sterling, Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow's Parties and Pattern Recognition. William Gibson lives in Vancouver, Canada. His latest novel, published by Penguin, is Spook Country (2007).

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Spirits in the Material World

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By Dave Itzkoff

  • Aug. 26, 2007

If recent history has revealed an appalling tolerance for prognosticators who are invariably, fatally wrong, it has also been unjust to the farsighted augurs who somehow always manage to get it right. When an author has correctly anticipated the extent to which people’s identities would someday be defined by their presence on the Internet, foreseen how the medium would generate its own pantheon of heroes and villains with nicknames like Essjay and lonelygirl15, and even name-checked the Japanese Harajuku scene before it could be hijacked by Gwen Stefani, he tends to have certain labels attached to him, like an old beater priced to sell at a used car lot: prophet, visionary, futurist. But what if he just wants to be a writer?

In his 2003 novel, “Pattern Recognition,” William Gibson took a startling, and startlingly satisfying, step away from the technologically overwhelming fantasy worlds he had dreamed up in decades past — of steampunk and cyberpunk and all points in between — and began writing about a world we could recognize as our own, where technology is not the only quality that makes it overwhelming. Its inhabitants suffer allergic reactions to trendy couture, fetishize mechanical calculators designed by prisoners of Buchenwald and wonder if airplane flights might cause their bodies to travel faster than their souls. With the sepulchral shadow of 9/11 still obscuring their vision, they are unable to imagine what the future might look like for subsequent generations. “In that sense,” one character mordantly observes, “we have no future.”

Four years later, “Spook Country,” Gibson’s first novel since “Pattern Recognition,” moves farther from science-fiction speculation and immerses itself fully in modernist realism. More than a post-9/11 novel, it is arguably the first example of the post-post-9/11 novel, whose characters are tired of being pushed around by forces larger than they are — bureaucracy, history and, always, technology — and are at long last ready to start pushing back.

Structurally, “Spook Country” rotates among the perspectives of three characters. The first is Hollis Henry, a member of a defunct rock band that enjoyed modest cult success. Now a writer for a magazine no one seems to have heard of, she’s investigating a high-tech art subculture for an enigmatic employer whose interests in the movement may transcend objective journalism.

The second is Tito, a Cuban-Chinese immigrant who’s recruited into a series of espionage missions by an old man who Tito hopes can shed light on his father, who died under mysterious circumstances.

Finally, there is Milgrim, an amphetamine addict and an expert of sorts in obscure details of communication and cryptography. He’s in thrall to a government stooge named Brown, who forces Milgrim to accompany him on his own surreptitious spying assignments by threatening to cut off his drug supply, and whom Milgrim occasionally suspects might not really be a government agent at all, and might just be a jerk with a gun. (Only he doesn’t use a word as nice as “jerk.”)

What initially unites these seemingly unrelated narratives is a theme familiar to Gibson’s work: the novice initiated into an alternative reality he or she never knew existed. But in each of these strands, Gibson is also playing on the word “spook,” not just in the slang sense of a spy, but also in the more traditional sense of a ghost — of figures who pass through the world unnoticed and unrecognized, and who are about to find out how empowering anonymity can be.

At first, Hollis, the musician-turned-journalist, emerges as the novel’s most intriguing character. (Surely Gibson didn’t need the experience of interviewing U2 for Wired magazine to learn how it feels to be a rock star.) Her investigations introduce her to a form of expression called locative art, in which “spatially tagged hypermedia” and a sophisticated visor allow an observer to view images in the real world that are otherwise invisible to passersby: don the glasses in front of the Viper Room in West Hollywood and see an artist’s virtual recreation of the moment when River Phoenix died; stand in the world music section of the Virgin Megastore while wearing them and see F. Scott Fitzgerald suffer a heart attack.

It’s a setup that lets Gibson riff on the immortality of celebrity, and reveal a side of himself that, though it may not be optimistic about the future, is at least willing to concede that the past is still up for grabs. (“The past isn’t dead,” Hollis muses aloud, in a nod to Faulkner. “It’s not even past.”) More important, locative art becomes a potent metaphor for a disjointed world where anyone can experience reality as he chooses to see it, and no two people’s observations of the same place or event need coincide in any way. If locative art went mainstream, one character predicts, “The world we walk around in would be channels.”

But in later chapters, I found myself more fascinated with Milgrim, who sees his relationship to Brown as a twisted, 21st-century upgrade of Tom and Huck, and who wonders just how involuntary his servitude really is. And when Milgrim glances at a beat-up copy of a book on Europe’s history of revolutionary messianism that he just happens to keep in his coat pocket, he provides Gibson with another laboratory to synthesize his limitless curiosity about technology with his deep misgivings about the modern world.

Under the dominance of Catholicism, Milgrim thinks, medieval Europe was a “one-channel universe ... broadcasting from Rome,” a province with “a hierarchy in place and a highly organized methodology of top-down signal dissemination, but the time lag enforced by tech-lack imposed a near-disastrous ratio, the noise of heresy constantly threatening to overwhelm the signal.”

Of course, Gibson doesn’t have to reach as far back as medieval Europe to find a realm plagued by a unitary broadcast in dire need of being drowned out, and it is not only Milgrim who lives his life alternately in obedience and resistance to his autocratic masters. And as “Spook Country” refers to the spectacle of George W. Bush’s jet-fighter landing aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, examines the true function of terrorism (“to frighten you into surrendering the rule of law”) and explains how torture fundamentally undermines the process of intelligence gathering, it is not only the novel’s central characters who are left to wonder what has become of, as one character puts it, “the country he hoped was still America.”

When the three narrative strands of “Spook Country” at last converge, almost 300 pages into the novel and just in the nick of time, they culminate in a climactic prank meant to deliver an accountability moment to some shadowy off-screen figures who have so far avoided blame for the world’s ills. And you may wonder, as I did, briefly, if this slick, “Seinfeld”-ian resolution was really worth all the events that preceded it.

But I don’t think that’s the lesson of “Spook Country.” The point is that its protagonists are ultimately able to channel their feelings of detachment and insignificance into something meaningful and pleasantly destructive — and it is precisely because of their apparent insignificance that they are able to do so. When they breathe a sigh of relief for the invitingly uncertain world that awaits them, Gibson can, too: the future is a clean slate for all of them, and whether his characters realize it or not, the author surely understands that this is a symbol of ultimate freedom.


By William Gibson.

371 pp. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. $25.95.

Dave Itzkoff writes the Across the Universe column for the Book Review.

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Spook Country

by William Gibson

Spook Country by William Gibson

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Published Aug 2007 384 pages Genre: Thrillers Publication Information

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Tito is in his early twenties. Born in Cuba, he speaks fluent Russian, lives in one room in a NoLita warehouse, and does delicate jobs involving information transfer. Hollis Henry is an investigative journalist, on assignment from a magazine called Node. Node doesn't exist yet, which is fine; she's used to that. But it seems to be actively blocking the kind of buzz that magazines normally cultivate before they start up. Really actively blocking it. It's odd, even a little scary, if Hollis lets herself think about it much. Which she doesn't; she can't afford to. Milgrim is a junkie. A high-end junkie, hooked on prescription antianxiety drugs. Milgrim figures he wouldn't survive twenty-four hours if Brown, the mystery man who saved him from a misunderstanding with his dealer, ever stopped supplying those little bubble packs. What exactly Brown is up to Milgrim can't say, but it seems to be military in nature. At least, Milgrim's very nuanced Russian would seem to be a big part of it, as would breaking into locked rooms. Bobby Chombo is a "producer," and an enigma. In his day job, Bobby is a troubleshooter for manufacturers of military navigation equipment. He refuses to sleep in the same place twice. He meets no one. Hollis Henry has been told to find him.

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"Compelling characters and crisp action sequences, plus the author's trademark metaphoric language, help make this one of Gibson's best." - PW. "Gibson takes another large step forward and reaffirms his position as one of the most astute and entertaining commentators on our astonishing, chaotic present." - The Washington Post. "Part thriller, part spy novel, part speculative fiction, Gibson's provocative work is like nothing you have ever read before. Highly recommended for public libraries." - Library Journal.

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Author Information

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William Gibson Author Biography

spook country

William Gibson was born in South Carolina in 1948. He coined the term "cyberspace" in the early 1980s and was one of the founding authors of the cyberpunk movement in science-fiction writing with his ground-breaking first novel Neuromancer , which in 1984 predicted the birth of the internet. The film "Johnny Mneumonic" was based on his short story, and he also wrote the screenplay. He's since written several more critically-acclaimed novels – most recently Zero History , and The Peripheral (2014) – and more than 20 short stories. Gibson also contributes an occasional op-ed and long-form piece to the New York Times, Wired, Rolling Stone and other outlets. He moved to Canada in the late 1960s and lives today in Vancouver, B.C with his wife.

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Spook Country

I ndie singer-turned-hack Hollis Henry is in LA to find out about "locative art": installations where you wear a virtual-reality headset and watch celebrity deaths pasted into your real physical environment. But her assignment is just a gateway to a larger and more criminal mystery. The images of River Phoenix et al are only one kind of spook in a novel which is suggestively full of shadowy old-school spies, new-school masters of the "darknets" (a criminal worldwide web), and paranoid semiotic interpretations of weird clues and signs which make you fear for the present. Cyberpunk is getting on a bit, but Gibson (who coined the term "cyberspace") still writes scarily palpable cyber-prose - reading it is like wearing a virtual reality headset: every image is pixelated, every metaphor mechanises nature, and every event may be a sign pointing to the next level. It's hard to care about characters in a world of ciphers: they're as depthless as avatars. But his is an intelligent hybrid, which mixes post-9/11 political concerns into a fairly traditional thriller plot without missing a beat.

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by William Gibson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 7, 2007

Readable and mildly engaging, but not the kind of cutting-edge work we expect from Gibson.

The SF innovator follows up his mainstream success ( Pattern Recognition , 2003) with another novel set in the near-present, as three separate groups chase after a mysterious freight container.

Hollis Henry, erstwhile singer for a disbanded rock group, the Curfew, is now a freelance journalist with a baffling assignment from Node, a startup magazine that is remarkably averse to publicity. She’s researching “locative” art in Los Angeles, though her employer seems mostly to be interested in the GPS expertise of a guy who facilitates this high-tech virtual- reality genre. Tito belongs to a family of Chinese-Cuban immigrants involved in criminal enterprises in New York, aided by knowledge of Russian gained from a grandfather who worked with Soviet emissaries (and the CIA) in Havana. Milgrim is a drug addict who had the misfortune to be plucked from the streets by Brown, a creepy government operative who keeps him prisoner to take advantage of Milgrim’s linguistic skills, needed to decode text messages in a Russian-based artificial language sent among Tito’s family members. Gibson excels as usual in creating an off-kilter atmosphere of vague menace: Hollis’s wealthy employer and the old man to whom Tito is passing iPods initially seem as sinister as Brown. And the narrative features the author’s characteristically shrewd observations about everything from global piracy to conspiracy junkies to cultish rock fans. But the characters are vivid two-dimensional sketches rather than human beings, and the plot turns out to be a wish-fulfillment fantasy about getting back at the idiots and corporate crooks currently raking in the boodle in Iraq. There are some lovely metaphors and sharp insights as everyone converges on a Canadian port where Tito and his cohorts will do something to the container before Brown and his cohorts can get hold of it. But when the mists of mystification clear, what’s revealed isn’t very interesting.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2007

ISBN: 1858788900

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2007


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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara ( The People in the Trees , 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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The Year in Fiction


by Harper Lee ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 11, 1960

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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by Harper Lee

The Snowy Day Is NYC Library’s Most Popular Book


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spook country


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