Nigel's Reviews > Mona Lisa Overdrive

Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson
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Oct 31, 14

bookshelves: fiction
Read in July, 2012

And the last of the Sprawl trilogy. You can see Gibson growing as a writer and you can see him knocking up against the limitations of cyberpunk - once you've left the meat behind and taken up residence in the matrix what is there for you to do? Yeah, he gives us an answer, but it's an answer that takes him out of his sphere of interest, out of the human, or even the post-human. Post-humanity's always been Bruce Sterling's thing, anyway. Gibson's fascination is with the present, the now, the fulcrum where people and technology turn and change and the wonderful, unexpected strangeness that is often utterly unpredictable.

Mona Lisa Overdrive - the Sprawl books have the best titles - rounds up the dangling threads from the first two books and weaves them together. Heck, it even gives Case an offhand happy ending. We have the daughter of a Yakuza boss sent to London for her own safety, where she meets a formidable woman with mirrors over her eyes, but not, apparently, retractable claws in her nails, which signifies some sort of growth and maturity, if not any actual aversion to swiftly delivered violence. Sally, Molly as was, is not and never has been and never will be a nice person. There is Mona, a sweet, naive, teenage junkie prostitute sold by her pimp to men who are interested in her resemblance to sim star Angie Mitchell. There's Angie Mitchell herself, saved by Turner in Count Zero, now a famous star just out of rehab. She used to be able to talk to the voodoo gods of cyberspace thanks to the bio-chips in her head, but they haven't come to her for years, and her boyfriend is missing and someone left drugs in her coat pocket. And Slick Henry, way out in the toxic junkyard of Dog Solitude, building his kinetic sculptures to deal with the prison program that leaves him susceptible to short-term memory loss, is asked by Kid Africa to look after a body wrapped in bandages and hooked up to a mysterious machine called an LF.

What's interesting is all the POV characters are innocents, even super-celebrity Angie. They've all suffered, used and abused by life, by others, by the system, by circumstances, and now forces they do not understand or comprehend are moving around them and coming for them, and often what saves them is their own lack of malice or cynicism. Others are mad, obsessive, violent and duplicitous, but these four just want to be themselves, whatever that might be.

A great book, a satisfying ending to a great, groundbreaking, decade-defining trilogy. These books are still the best way to re-experience the eighties, to remember the energy and the attitude, and, whatever bits of it we brought with us to the now, be glad they're left safely in the past.
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