Weaving together storylines

Alexander Rosenthal '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Spring 2005)

In Count Zero , William Gibson weaves together three entirely separate storylines to have them all come together in the story's climax. The novel progresses in three-chapter segments, cycling from Turner's mission to Marly's art hunt to Count Zero's journey and back again to Turner. In the beginning of the book this gives the reader the impression of three disjointed stories, but as the narrative progresses connections between the characters become increasingly apparent, until they all finally meet. Before the common threads reveal themselves, however, Gibson employs a few devices to tie the stories together, such as the following sequence of news stories Marly sees in Paris.

When she punched for the time service, an automatic recap of satellite news strobed across the screen: a JAL shuttle had disintegrated during reentry over the Indian Ocean, investigators from the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis had been called in to examine the site of a brutal and apparently pointless bombing in a drab New Jersey residential suburb, militiamen were supervising the evacuation of the southern quadrant of New Bonn following the discovery, by construction workers, of two undetonated wartime rockets believed to be armed with biological weapons, and official sources in Arizona were denying Mexico's accusation of the detonation of a small-scale atomic or nuclear device near the Sonora border. [p. 102]

This passage functions as perhaps the most blatant connection between the three storylines, referencing both the explosion Turner narrowly escaped in flying Angie out from Arizona and the apartment bombing intended to kill Count Zero. However, subtler ties show up throughout the narrative, such as references to Maas in Count Zero and Marly's storylines.


1. Does Mitchell employ successful techniques to tie the storylines together, or does it feel forced or awkward? In what other ways besides those mentioned above does he connect the characters and their stories?

2. What benefits do parallel stories told simultaneously have to storytelling? What disadvantages or difficulties does this pose?

3. Neuromancer has one continuous storyline, Count Zero contains three storylines, and Mona Lisa Overdrive has four. Which works the best? Why?

4. Besides references which connect different stories within each novel, each successive novel connects to those which came before it, making allusions to events and characters within those novels. How well does Gibson tie the three together? How do his techniques for connecting the novels compare and contrast to techniques for connecting the stories within each novel?


Gibson, William. Count Zero. New York: Ace Books, 1986.

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Last modified 23 February 2005