Krom's Reviews > All Tomorrow's Parties

All Tomorrow's Parties by William Gibson
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's review
Nov 23, 2008

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Recommended for: People who enjoy cyberpunk novels.
Read in November, 2008 , read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** This review contains spoilers.

The conclusion of "The Bridge Trilogy" was bittersweet for me. I very much enjoyed watching Rydell, the down-on-his-luck failed cop cum security guard, stumble his way through Gibson's world and continue to land on his feet while playing pivotal roles in events too large for him to really comprehend. That ability to land on his feet is what prevents Rydell from attaining his goal of being on the reality-show "Cops in Trouble". I also enjoyed Chevette, the street-wise bike courier originating from the Bridge whose street smarts let her see what Rydell consistently misses. Some of the most piercing insights of the book are delivered through her. I'm sad to be leaving this character and others. I enjoyed the ride, yet found the climax missed the mark.

In this final installment, Rydell finds himself the custodian of Rei Torei, the Japanese media icon who has never been anything but an media construct, self aware and emergent, and also iconic. Perhaps this character was meant to represent how our own perceptions of celebrity are unattainable even for celebrities. Both Rydell and Rei are guided from cyberspace by Laney, the lens through which Gibson focuses his critical eye on the media and our mass-produced culture. Laney is cursed by the ability to aggregate data on the Net and perceive inflection points both in people's personal lives and in the course of society. Laney calls them nodal points, and he perceives a nodal point only once equaled in history is in the process of forming, the epicenter of which is on perhaps the most intriguing character of the trilogy, The Bridge.

The Bridge is what we know as the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and in the novel it was condemned after earth-quake damage rendered it unsafe for vehicular traffic. Eventually it was settled by squatters, becoming a fairly autonomous subculture, and a refuge from the corporatized monoculture of the rest of the city. Gibson did a nice job painting this environment with rich textures. So much so that the discovery of a Lucky Dragon convenience store (think 7-11) at the entrance to the bridge in this third novel jarred me as much as it did the characters.

Guiding events, even shaping them and causing the nodal point to come to fruition, is the villain of the series, Cody Hargrove. Unfortunately, the climax loses some of its punch due to the fact that the outcome Hargrove seeks to manifest is ambiguous even by his own admission. Hargrove seeks not to eliminate an enemy, or reap a fortune. Rather, he is attempting to manifest pivotal change while maintaining his position on the other side of that change. In that way, Hargrove's intentions aren't personal, they are corporate, and perhaps he is simply meant to be a human face for the ambitions of corporate greed. The desire for corporations to suppress threats (change) yet survive and profit from the change that does happen fits perfectly.

The paradigm shifting change in this book is a disruptive technology - nanoreplicators that are installed into every Lucky Dragon to enable a new service - the nanofax. Buy an object, fax a copy to a Lucky Dragon near you. In the world of overnight delivery that struck me as a bit odd, though Hargrove's assertion "it's too stupid to fail" rings true too. During an interview between Hargrove and a reporter the issue of copyright is touched upon indirectly, and in my mind would have been the perfect motive for yet another corporate alliance to oppose Hargrove, not to mention a fine soap box for yet more social commentary. Yet Hargrove (and Gibson) dismiss this issue immediately as not important.

Those who who read Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy may recall how many of those characters were humans obsessed with "crossing over" into immortality, into cyberspace, into emergent systems? In light of that observation, what the nanofaxes at the lucky dragons portend for Rei Torei hint at one of the outcomes of the novel, and given Rei Torei was created by corporations as a media construct, it manifests the issue of copyright on a completely different level. Yet the significance of this moment is hard to grasp within the story that is told. Hargrove is defeated, but it doesn't seem to matter. Circumstances force Rydell and Chevette to cross paths and come together again, yet it's not clear why their future as a couple, or the world they live in, is brighter. Rei Torei is made manifest a thousand times over, yet Hargrove doesn't seem to have ever been trying to thwart that outcome - probably because Rei Torei never indicated she was trying to achieve that outcome.

Many more colorful characters decorate the pages as dazzling gems, and for those characters and how their observations about the world they live in relate to ours, the book is worth reading. Just don't be surprised if you're scratching your head a little. If you're not, call me and tell me what I missed.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Bobbie Your review causes me to resolve to read more Gibson.

Krom Thanks, Bobbie! Enjoy the trip! :)

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