Johnny's Reviews > All Tomorrow's Parties

All Tomorrow's Parties by William Gibson
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Feb 25, 09

bookshelves: science-fiction
Read in December, 2008

Ah, cyberpunk! Norman Spinrad declared the genre to be dead in one of his Isaac Asimov’s Magazine of Science Fiction rants of the early 90s. To be sure, other authors have tried to go different directions as with the retro-subgenres known as “steampunk” and “dieselpunk.” Neither has reached any critical mass of acceptance, though both are still interesting to me as an individual reader. Indeed, even though the “noble Norman” hath said that cyberpunk is dead, one can still savor the Neal Stephenson sagas since Snow Crash , Spinrad’s own Deus X story of a pope’s soul stored in a mainframe, Bruce Sterling’s Holy Fire, and the conclusions of George Alec Effinger’s and Rudy Rucker’s trilogies. And, while the film based on Gibson’s work may have been an abysmal failure, the concept of cyberpunk lives on in The Matrix Trilogy and the rumored live-action Ghost in the Shell.
So, is it any wonder that, as an admirer of Gibson, I finally got around to reading the “sequel” to The Idoru? Complete with its dark imagery of interstitial communities on the Oakland Bay Bridge (revisiting a setting in Virtual Light), its Tokyo subway station ghetto of homeless living in cardboard boxes, its scathing satire of convenience store consumption with the Lucky Dragon chain, and its self-parody with the Japanese craftsman creating a miniature of one of Gibson’s cyber-cowboys, this little romp has some of the pure invention and joy of his original foray into cyberpunk, Neuromancer.

In this episode, the key to the novel is keeping the Idoru out of the wrong hands. Doing so requires recruiting an ex-cop with ambition of becoming a reality television star and the unsettling episodes of a woman who wants to photograph a documentary on the interstitial community via her mini-blimp-mounted camera platform. Perhaps, though, the most memorable new character in this novel is the young boy who is slow of speech but well in touch with the datastream. As he uses an old pair of goggles and a laptop to sift through tons of data about antique watches, matters get very interesting.

Frankly, this novel approaches the thrill of the original novel. Though there is nothing of the thrill of the chase through cyberspace in this one that we enjoyed in Neuromancer, there is plenty of action and the sense that one is lurking in a shadow world of anarchy and anomie that is far better to read about than to experience.

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