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Virtual Light

(Bridge #1)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  21,975 ratings  ·  547 reviews
Berry Rydell, an ex-cop, signs on with IntenSecure Armed Response in Los Angeles. He finds himself on a collision course that results in a desperate romance, and a journey into the ecstasy and dread that mirror each other at the heart of the postmodern experience.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 26th 1996 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published September 1993)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  21,975 ratings  ·  547 reviews

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Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
William Gibson begins his Bridge trilogy with this 1993 publication that was nominated for both the Hugo and the Locus awards.

In the air of great protagonist names won hands down by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 cyberpunkapalooza Snow Crash with Hiro Protagonist, Gibson introduces us to Chevette Washington, a messenger living on the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland who gets caught up in corporate espionage surrounding some stolen glasses.

But these are not just any glasses, they produce
Dec 29, 2008 rated it liked it
I felt like Gibson created a cool world for the story to take place in, but then just never wrote the story. A messenger nabs some VR glasses and gets the help of some ex-cop blah... who cares? He just never got me to care about the characters or their conflicts.

I wanted to hear more about the dystopian California-states and the fancy VR itself, but then all Gibson wanted to talk about Berry and Chevette.

3 stars purely because of the world Gibson dreamed up, but if you're looking for a good stor
Ian "Marvin" Graye

This 1993 novel isn't so much set in the cyberspace of Gibson's “Neuromancer", as in the world of an imagined 2005/2006 (the exact date doesn't seem to be mentioned in the text itself, and there's a conflict in the extrinsic evidence), after some event (perhaps an earthquake) has destroyed much of San Francisco, and California has been split into two states, NoCal and SoCal.

The technology isn't as advanced as the digital matrix in “Neuromancer", which was apparently set in the 203
Dec 30, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, 2010
Was rather disappointed by this one, and I'm starting to get the feeling that Gibson's been writing the same book over and over. While the technology mattered in Gibson's Sprawl trilogy, Virtual Light seemed more like a on-the-run-from-bad-guys thriller set in a vagueishly sci-fi setting. The tech that was stolen could have just as well been a candy bar. I wanted to find out more about the plan on the tech (to rebuild San Fran after an earthquake), the Bay Bridge community, and all the other int ...more
Graeme Rodaughan
Not Gibson's best work, but still thoughtful. The whole cyberpunk genre is a valuable exploration of ideas about our near future. A future within reach of many who are alive today.
Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm re-reading the early Gibson because I remember liking them and I can't keep the books straight. Virtual Light stands as high-quality, maybe one of his more underrated titles, at least to me, upon a second reading, because except for a somewhat abrupt ending, the novel is excellent. The book's true star is the bridge, and if Gibson ever releases a "greatest hits" of passages from his work, his initial description of the bridge deserves a place of honor. You can see him extending Ballard's inf ...more
Kara Babcock
Last week Kevin Mitnick was on The Colbert Report to promote his new book, Ghost in the Wires and talk about hacking. For those of us who grew up with the Web as a fact of life and absorbed "hacker culture" through Hollywood, Mitnick's experiences seem somewhat alien. Hacking started long before the Web, of course, and even today hacking is nothing like what one sees on the movies. However, it's just in this decade that we, as a society, are beginning to understand and react to the effects o ...more
Jul 25, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson instead. ...more
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
The last time I read this book was in the mid-90s. It came out in 1993, nine years after Gibson's Neuromancer, the novel that coined the phrase "cyberspace" and posited a world where we'd all be interconnected through an information network. He was wrong about the virtual reality stuff, but right about almost everything else. If Neuromancer was somewhat predictive of the future, Virtual Light reads like someone had gone to the future of 2005 and sent a postcard back to us.
Reading it now and rea
Sean Blake
Aug 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Great sociological science fiction with a cool vibe and, in my opinion, a vast improvement over Gibson's previous Sprawl trilogy. Some scary observations on 90's culture and crackling prose with a cool kind of dialogue for Gibson's characters. A brilliant piece of cyberpunk literature.
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
If Haruki Murakami and Philip K Dick had ever written a book together this would have been it (they didn't have no baby or anything though). To me it felt like Philip's story but in the voice of Murakami.

My first William Gibson novel and I've enjoyed it, he has created an interesting future, things are only slightly more advanced than they are now which makes it easier to get into. There are a fair number of characters, all having little bit parts, I only really had an issue with one of then, Y
May 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Reading something like this after something like Snow Crash can only really leave you feeling one thing. There's no real comparison. This is basically Snow Crash Lite.

William Gibson wrote an occasionally entertaining novel of an interesting possible future with some very good observations about humanity BUT it's characters and story structure are so similar to Neal Stephenson's masterpiece of the genre that you can't help but compare. Virtual Light will always lose, not least because Berry Rydel
Jul 23, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
Okay, here's the thing: this book is FUN. Essentially you have a good cop accidentally getting railroaded, a good poor person who makes one mistake and pays the price, and then some evil corporation stuff and then it's just a fun little chase. Light, slight, well-written and fun. You get to hear about the near future Gibson imagined, which is interesting, you get to see some really interesting main protagonists, who are more fully fleshed out and intriguing than usually happens with these things ...more
May 30, 2020 rated it liked it
In Virtual Light, William Gibson dials down the cyberpunk motifs nearly to zero and what's left is a noirish cat and mouse chase. Gibson's novels often feature individuals caught up in grand, mostly offscreen machinations. This time they were too offscreen for my taste, or perhaps the characters weren't interesting enough for me. I would have liked to see more of the Bridge community. All in all, I didn't love it, sorry.
Just like "Burning Chrome" and the Sprawl Trilogy, this first entry into the Bridge Trilogy that Wm. Gibson wrote throughout the 1990s is a very different reading experience than I expected.

"Virtual Light" probably an easier read and less difficult than any of those, taking place in a near future dystopia with very few fantastic elements. The plot is also much less convoluted and easier to follow despite Gibson as usual insisting on using as little exposition as possible, meaning that blink-and-
Mina Villalobos
Jan 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cyberpunk, sci-fi
Probably the least engaging book of Gibson I have read so far, this one is a very competent story with great storytelling that somehow fails to deliver on the plot-plot. I mean, it was fun and fast paced and interesting and an interpretation of our social future, and it had lots of interesting background choices of historical events and crazy urban tribes and religions created for the universe, along with Gibson's trademark shifting POVs and archetypal characters. It was good, it was fun, it was ...more
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great read, but more like an action thriller than the cyberpunk Matrixy stuff I like. As always, Gibson pleased with his unique rhythmic-technical, beat-poet style. I liked the characters. Some of the religious overtones reminded me of P.K. Dick, particularly the world of Palmer Eldritch.

Anyways, still a joy to read this man.
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Having read about 70% of Gibson's work, I'd have to say, this is one of my favorites.
Tight plot. Rapid movement and action. Dystopian, but not too depressingly so (sort of). Well done book, looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.
Storyline: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Writing Style: ?/5
World: 3/5

Whenever I start a cyberpunk novel, I think, "Oh no, not another one of those." I dread the jagged, clipped sentence structure and the bitingly hip timbre. With Gibson, it at least didn't read as affectation. This was an irascible vision of the future written with bitter resignation of the knowledge of things to come. Not a dystopia warning us off a certain trajectory or an embrace of current trends, the world here is the inevitable conseq
Michael Drakich
Aug 23, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a thriller novel written in a dystopian setting in the near future. As far as the main story goes - a girl, in a pique, steals some special glasses from a guy, which results in her being chased by bad guys and helped by the main character. Standard good cop/bad cop stuff. The only scifi technology introduced of any measure is the glasses and you never get a real feel for what they do. If I am to rate this novel strictly on the main storyline it would get 2 stars...tops.
Then there is the
Steve Felt
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love this book. Yes it is cyberpunk, yes it is a near future sort of post apocalyptic, yes it is a crime mystery thriller, but mostly it is about life and how we put our stories together, seemingly rationally and instinctually at the same time, about how life is planned and how shit happens, and about what we have and what we have lost. It does all this by using the Bridge community to help the readers (us) examine our lives in fresh ways.
Apr 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-punk-fi
Rydell picked up Monica's copy of People and found a picture of Gudrun Weaver and the Reverend Wayne Fallon. Gudrun Weaver looked like an actress in her forties. Fallon looked like a possum with hair-implants and a ten-thousand-dollar tuxedo.

Synopsis: In post-apocalyptic California, two people's lives collide. Rydell, a rent-a-cop who attracts trouble like *ahem* honey attracts flies, and Chevette, just a girl in the wrong place at the wrong time, unaware that she's stepped in it, bigtime, on an
May 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
So I'm continuing the Gibson jag I'm on. This one's the first in the Bridge trilogy, another set of novels set in a future dystopia. This time, though, he's more tuned into portraiture than hardware.

What's interesting is that the tech which is so much a part of the fabric of the earlier Sprawl trilogy is here relegated to the background. The virtual light of the title ends up playing a role similar to that of Marcellus Wallace's briefcase in Pulp Fiction, or the statue in The Maltese Falcon. Th
The Nerd Book Review
Great book!

I will be recording a podcast episode on this here shortly, which will be available here, The Nerd Book Review
but a quick and dirty review.
I read SnowCrash before this novel and really enjoyed it. After reading this though my rating for SnowCrash has gone down a bit. This novel does dystopian the right way. The world feels so dirty and unfair. A girl makes a poor decision and steals something from the wrong people. That decision leads to a series of actions with an ending that is ve
Aug 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Gibson's world-building is characteristically strong. The plot, pacing and development of characters seemed off a step.

A middling effort, but I finished it. I'm not one to finish a book just for the sake of finishing it - something needs to keep me going and this novel did. Luckily it's short length aided in reading one of Gibson's lessor works. Even a lessor work of Gibson's is better than most. Every writer is allowed books that don't quite hit the mark, especially if they, like Gibson, have p
Max Ostrovsky
Oct 16, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi, fiction
As a teenager, I remember I loved William Gibson. I loved Neuromancer. Now, after reading this book, I'm no longer sure. His writing skills are sound, but just couldn't get interested in a story about some lost VR glasses. I think that Gibson spent too much time creating a world for this story, in this very short book, that he left out what would make it an interesting story.

Eh, that's okay. A friend told me that Neuromancer was the only decent thing he wrote anyway.
Mar 03, 2019 rated it liked it
The first of Gibson’s [b]Bridge Trilogy[/b], this is better than I remember.

Gibson is often accused of writing the same book over and over again, and to a degree this is fair. The plot of this one is fairly cursory - a cast of characters running around after a MacGuffin, but the world building is excellent and some of the writing is truly first rate. Gibson has a deft hand for metaphor and imagery and he creates an engaging environment here.
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is excellent! I liked it much more than all three novels in the Neuromancer trilogy (not that I didn't like those a lot). The idea of the repurposed Golden Gate Bridge is ingenious and inspirational. The two main characters are both likable and easy to root for.

Of course, this IS a dystopian novel, and there is much in it that is chilling and sometimes uncomfortably prescient.
Nolan Egly
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
William Gibson’s fourth novel Virtual Light is a multifaceted projection of a not so distant dystopian future. Although the plot is simplistic, the backdrop of economic, social, and cultural detail that Gibson posits is stunningly detailed and a large part of the enjoyment factor for the book. Fans of his earlier work (the Sprawl series) will notice some drop in the amount of technical forecasting since the story is a mere 13 years in the future (the story is set in 2006, the book was published ...more
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
"Neighbourhoods that mainly operated at night had a way of looking a lot worse in the morning."

Virtual Light,written in 1993 and set in 2005, is a detective noir story set in San Francisco around two people: Berry Rydell and Chevette Washington. After the city has suffered a massive earthquake the Bay Bridge has become home to the poor and under-privileged who have attached their homes to the steel structure. Chevette calls the top of one of the massive pylons home.

Chevette works as a bicycle m
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What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Post apocalyptic bike messenger living in/on a bridge. [s] 7 33 Aug 13, 2020 01:22PM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

William Ford Gibson is an American-Canadian writer who has been called the father of the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction, having coined the term cyberspace in 1982 and popularized it in his first novel, Neuromancer(1984), which has sold more than 6.5 million copies wor

Other books in the series

Bridge (3 books)
  • Idoru (Bridge #2)
  • All Tomorrow's Parties (Bridge, #3)

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“Well,' Rydell said, trying to pick up his end, 'I was watching this one old movie last night-'

Sublett perked up. 'Which one?'

Dunno,' Rydell said. 'This guy's in L.A. and he's just met this girl. Then he picks up a pay phone, 'cause it's ringing. Late at night. It's some guy in a missile silo somewhere who knows they've just launched theirs at the Russians. He's trying to phone his dad, or his brother, or something. Says the world's gonna end in short order. Then the guy who answered the phone hears these soldiers come in and shoot the guy. The guy on the phone, I mean.'

Suhlett closed his eyes, scanning his inner trivia-banks. 'Yeah? How's it end?'

Dunno,' Rydell said. 'I went to sleep.”
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