William Gibson is famous for a lot of reasons. His debut novel, “Neuromancer,” was the first book to the “triple crown” of science fiction awards – the Nebula, the Hugo, and Philip K. Dick Award. He arguably launched two entire genres of sci fi – cyberpunk and steampunk. And he coined the term cyberspace – about a decade before it actually existed.

Author William Gibson (photo: Michael O'Shea)

In fact, many now believe that Gibson’s sci-fi work in the 1980s actually determined the eventual trajectory of the World Wide Web. All those engineers and designers in the 1990s, after all, had grown up with Gibson’s books. When it came time to actually invent cyberspace, Gibson had already provided the conceptual blueprints.

But for science fiction fans of a certain intensity, Gibson is probably most famous for his utterly distinctive prose style. Dense, multivalent and hyper-specific, Gibson’s writing requires a lot of attention from the reader. His books have the effect of slowing the reader down, even as they depict a world where everything is moving impossibly fast.

This Tuesday at 7 pm, Gibson will be reading from his latest novel, “Zero History,” at the Reynolds Theater in the Bryan University Center at Duke. Gibson will also be signing books afterward, and the event is free and open to the public.

The third book to take place in Gibson’s contemporary setting, “Zero History” follows the fates of three characters – morally ambiguous marketing mogul Hubertus Bigend, musician and journalist Hollis Henry, and the chameleon-like recovering addict known as Milgrim – as they work to uncover a government conspiracy.

The new book shares many of the same characters and concerns as Gibson’s previous two novels, “Pattern Recognition” and “Spook Country. The setting? “About five minutes into the future.”

Speaking in his friendly, laconic drawl from a hotel room in Denver, the previous stop on his 20-city book store, Gibson spoke about 9/11 attacks, optimism for the future and the power of Googling.

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DVD Picks
Raleigh News & Observer
Glenn McDonald

Pick of the Week

Drama; rated PG for brief mild language; also available on Blu-ray

The Gist: The genuinely amazing and mostly true story of Secretariat, considered the greatest race horse to ever live.

The Lowdown: Starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich, “Secretariat” is a straight-up Hollywood fastball, thrown right down the middle. You know exactly what’s coming, and it still blows you away.

Highly shellacked and polished in the usual Disney fashion, the movie relates the saga of Secretariat, the race horse who, in 1973, won the Triple Crown and broke a few dozen records that still stand today. Lane is great in the role of Penny Chenery, the feisty owner who stands her ground in the old boys’ club of horse racing, and Malkovich lets some genuine warmth shine through as the eccentric trainer Lucien Laurin.

Director Randall Wallace finds interesting ways to switch up the texture on what is essentially a series of horse races, and skillfully parallels the human drama concerning Penny and her family. It’s all surprisingly dramatic and inspirational, considering that everyone knows the ending.

The Extras: The DVD/Blu-ray combo pack has director’s commentary track, deleted scenes, two short production docs and some archival race footage.

The Bottom Line: “Secretariat” can really mess with a guy’s film snob credentials. This was one of my favorite movies of 2010.

Double Secret Bonus Tip: When Secretariat died in 1989, it was discovered that his heart was two-and-a-half times the size of the average horse.

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