William Gibson is celebrated for prescience, starting with his 1984 debut novel, “Neuromancer,” where he imagined a virtual world that is strikingly similar to the Internet-centric one we inhabit today. In his latest novel, “Spook Country” (Berkley, 374 pp., $15), Gibson is also provocative.

The novel opens with a former rock star-turned-journalist, writing an article on an emerging form of street art that incorporates GPS to create installations that can be viewed only with a special helmet. A second story line follows a Cuban-Chinese criminal making deliveries for someone called only “the old man.” A third plot involves a junkie being held hostage by someone who might be a government agent.

These split narratives converge only in the book’s final chapters, trying a reader’s patience.

Throughout “Spook Country,” GPS units are everywhere, and everything seems documented, recorded or tracked in some way. Gibson perfectly captures the paranoia that lines the edges of what has developed into a surveillance society.

“Legacy of Ashes,” by Tim Weiner (Anchor, 848 pp.), $16.95

Weiner won a National Book Award for this history of the CIA, an agency he portrays as beset by incompetence and arrogance. The Boston Globe called the book “must-reading for every presidential candidate,” and said, “Weiner paints a frightening portrait of a hapless bureaucracy whose drastic miscalculations – from the Korean War through the Cold War to Vietnam and now Iraq – have cost the United States dearly in blood, treasure, and prestige.”

“The Great Man,” by Kate Christensen (Anchor, 320 pp.), $14.95

Christensen’s novel considers three older women who were central to the life of a recently deceased painter. As two rival biographers talk to the artist’s wife, sister and mistress, they find the facts hard to add up. The Chicago Tribune praised Christensen for “reinvigorating the comedy of manners” and called her “a writer of exceptional polish and keen intent.” “The Great Man” won the PEN/Faulkner Award.

“Five Skies,” by Ron Carlson (Penguin, 244 pp.), $14

Carlson’s first novel in more than 25 years revolves around two men and a teenage delinquent isolated in Idaho’s Rocky Mountains, all hired to build a motorcycle stunt ramp. Through their labor, each character confronts his past and works toward self-forgiveness. Esquire magazine said “Carlson’s focus is transporting, absorbing. It shakes you from stupor, strips you down,” reminding readers “of nothing less than what ultimately matters in this life.”

“… and His Lovely Wife,” by Connie Schultz (Random House, 280 pp.), $15

When Ohio Rep. Sherrod Brown declared his run for the U.S. Senate, he opened up his life and new marriage to the intense scrutiny of “millions of eyes.” Here, Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz documents her life on the campaign trial and the way “such constant, sometimes threatening, surveillance affects a marriage.” The Columbus Dispatch praised this “spunky tribute to the survival of one woman’s spirit under conditions in which it might have been squelched.”

“The Best Place to Be,” by Lesley Dormen (Simon and Schuster, 176 pp.), $14

Dormen offers a novel-in-stories. Dormen jumps back and forth through Grace Hanford’s fatherless childhood, college life, dating mishaps and a point she calls “the best place to be,” with “nothing in the immediate past to regret, nothing in the immediate future to fear.” The New York Times said the “intelligent collection” is “often delightfully, crushingly funny.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.