Jason Brown (Toastx2)'s Reviews > Burning Chrome

Burning Chrome by William Gibson
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's review
Jul 30, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: reviewed

William Gibson's Burning Chrome, 1986

Public transit actually made this a more enjoyable read than I would otherwise think. It is not so much that the bumping and swerving of bus drivers, or the low pitched drone of a rail system enhanced the book. Instead, there was more that there was time to mull it over.

A couple weeks back, I finished reading Burning Chrome on my way to work. When finished, I was surprisingly lucky that I did not have a "back up book" with me. It is very rare that i do not have a second book available to me. In this case, it had slipped my mind that I would be finished soon. Half of the last story was left when I just gave up. When i arived at work, I handed the book to a coworker who wanted to read it and wrote it off as unfinishable.

As far as collections of short stories go, I tend to stay away from them. They seem like teases to a larger plotline, the story that i would prefer to read. They often seem either too rushed to make a point, or too slow and thus meandering about, ultimately showing an authors inability to create a shortened and cohesive tale.

When I read this collection, it did not swayed from my typical short story experience. In fact, I had difficulty reading every story as each one fell into one of the categories. As stated earlier, it was bad enough that when I got to the last tale in the book (having read only 3-4 pages) I just called it quits. I didn't feel bad about it, I felt victorious. I had beat the compulsion to finish reading it, regardless that my level of enjoyment was minimal.

Cue the ride home: Bare handed and unable to zone out. I kept staring at the folks riding the train and I found myself comparing individuals to characters from the book, each taking on a life that was not previously associated. As we passed under the freeway overpasses and through Portland's Washington/Zoo tunnel, I recalled details from the underworld of Johnny Mnemonic. Certain shops we went past brought forth an artdeco alternate reality. Homeless people on the street became computer geniuses in a slovenly and grimy future or juiced up cybernetic fiends needing a fix. Each tale became bigger and more lifelike than when I read it.

When I got back to work the following day I picked up the book from my coworkers desk and finished reading the last story. It seemed appropriate, as opposed tocompulsory.

Like Neal Stephenson, Gibson is given a lot of glory for the darker side of our modern scifi future, for the cyber punk hell holes where everything is better, provided you never scratch the surface or wish for autonomy. I don't think that my mind had fully absorbed what I was reading.

This book was like a good a good local or homebrew porter. Underneath a perfect, cream colored head, you find a dark nectar and perhaps some sediment suspended, trying to sink but unable to. With the right recipe, and the proper delivery, even a pessimist given a half glass would still say, "That's a damn fine brew".

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