Virtual Light

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Bantam Books, 1994 - Fiction - 352 pages
2 Reviews
Now, with his most fascinating novel to date, Gibson looks into our very near future, bringing it into sharp and darkly comic focus. Welcome to NoCal and SoCal, 2005, the uneasy sister-states of Northern and Southern California, in a nation and society still divided along seismic fault lines of wealth and power...chasms seldom crossed except in fear, exploitation, or violence. The millennium has come and gone, leaving in its wake the ruins of our outworn modern era and the first chaotic suggestions of a new paradigm. In Tokyo a new city is growing from the rubble of Godzilla the Superquake. In San Francisco Mr. Yamazaki, a Japanese anthropology student, investigates the deeper meaning of an anarchic squatter community constructed around the disused Bay Bridge. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Berry Rydell just wants to make a living. Not the easiest thing for an ex-cop from Tennessee to do - now that the network has decided not to base that episode of Cops in Trouble on his brief but all too eventful career with the Knoxville P.D. Rydell signs on with IntenSecure Armed Response, driving a six-wheeled Hotspur Hussar... It's only a matter of time before he runs into Chevette Washington, a bicycle messenger who has just crashed the wrong party...and who is about to pick the pocket of another kind of courier - an employee of Costa Rica's Medellin-financed havens of illicit data. When IntenSecure sends Rydell to San Francisco to drive for Lucius Warbaby, a skip-tracer in the Virtual Reality maze of DatAmerica, Rydell and Chevette find themselves on a journey into the ecstasy and dread that mirror each other at the heart of the postmodern experience. A tour de force of relentless suspense, daringinsight, and graphic intensity Virtual Light is a provocative and unforgettable portrait of life on the edge of the twenty-first century.

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This marked the beginning of a new time line for Gibson, though not one I'm sure is completely divergent from the Sprawl series. In this the darkness and nihilism of those early novels has faded and a story of forced regrowth and necessary new beginnings is told. Even the language and tech-speak is toned down, and we're left with a setting not to dissimilar to our own.
Virtual Light is the weakest in the new series, but it's still a fun, solid read, a page turner that kept me up way later than I should have been when I read it WAY back in '94. Rather than setting and "cyber" keeping you going through this one, though, it's the characters that really make it great. Rydell, Chevette, the Old Man, even Rydells' partner, they're all interesting, weird "interstices" of their own right, and it's their fate that makes this book so engaging.
Read it if you're looking for some great, low sci-fi entertainment, and then read the rest of the series cause it only gets better from here.

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About the author (1994)

William Gibson was born on March 17, 1948 in Conway, South Carolina. He dropped out of high school and moved to Canada, where he eventually graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1977. He is the author of Mona Lisa Overdrive, The Peripheral, and Neuromancer, which won the Phillip K. Dick Award, the Hugo Award, and the Nebula Award. He also wrote the screenplay for the film Johnny Mnemonic.

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