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am 19. Juni 2000
I make a point of reading this book every summer. The plot is straightforward enough--like almost all cyberpunk, it involves people getting their hands on forbidden data and being hunted by its rightful owners--but what I really enjoy is the human landscape that Gibson relates. The book is full of images that, for whatever reason, connected with me on a visceral level: the lonely back roads of future California, Skinner's bridgetop apartment, L.A.'s endless convenience stores and strip malls...Gibson keeps his characters moving, and successfully (at least in my case) replicates the strange, gut-level nervousness and odd euphoria of driving around an unfamiliar part of the country at nighttime. It's essentially a cyber-noir road trip story, and the journey is infinitely more significant (and fun) than the destination.
Gibson is cursed to forever take pot-shots from overhormoned teenagers for not rewriting NEUROMANCER again and again. And on rereading NEUROMANCER on the heels of reading VIRTUAL LIGHT, I noticed something for the first time: Gibson's original trilogy (NEUROMANCER/COUNT ZERO/VIRTUAL LIGHT) is missing a human heart at its center. Those books are totally concerned with looking sleek and sexy, full of meaningless sex and casual violence. Characters exist to do kewl things with gadgets and die unpleasantly. VIRTUAL LIGHT and its followups (IDORU and ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES) are different. When violent things happen in these books, it's genuinely affecting because A) it's rare and B) we actually care about the people these things are happening to. Rydell, hero of VIRTUAL LIGHT, is a goofy and charming twentysomething guy from Memphis, Tennessee whose biggest ambition in life is to hold down a paying job. His problems are real, and if Gibson's readers were plunged into the world he writes about, I have a feeling we'd have a lot more in common with Rydell than with a sexy hacker superman like Case.
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am 31. Juli 2000
Virtual Light is very much a departure from the world of Neuromancer, showing instead an insidiously closer-to-home look at a possible near future. The grittiness and vivid bleakness are still there, but they make up a different picture: our own society, just a little bit worse. The result is a bit more believable, but neither better nor worse; it's just a slightly different perspective.
Similar in style to Neuromancer's sequels (yet with a bit more substance), the story is actually composed of several stories that meet up throughout the course of the book; each is important. Gibson manages to get a strong feeling of tension going as the characters become more deeply mired in their plight. The story's villain, Loveless, is creepier and more dangerous than expected, adding a sense that the stakes are higher than they seem and that nothing is predictable.
Idoru, set in the same universe as Virtual Light, I'd say is slightly better, but Virtual Light shouldn't be missed. No Gibson fan should pass this up; anyone new to his work should start with Neuromancer and read Virtual Light next.
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am 30. Juli 2000
I enjoyed Mona Lisa Overdrive but Virtual Light grew tiresome. The plot lacks substance and Virtual Light, lacks any virtual reality. I thought with the theft of the high tech specs, the book was going to be an interesting read.
Maybe I'm just tired of the quirky, "tongue and cheek" dialogue that Gibson and Science Fiction has unfortunately restricted it self to over the last couple of decades. The author thinks that he and the reader are sharing some inside joke throughout 350 pages and it gets old. Give me some of that "old fashioned" science fiction with plot development, characters and suspense, fear and challenges. The Science Fiction as well as Cyberpunk writers could learn something from James Patterson, Michael Crichton, or Arthur C. Clarke.
am 5. Dezember 1997
Chevette, the heroine in Virtual Light, is one of Gibson's finest creations, a bicycle messenger who lives on the Golden Gate bridge with a lot of other homeless people. She's a spunky, streetwise kid, sexy and vulnerable, who hasn't yet lost her innocence. Gibson is obviously a little bit in love with her, as any male would be who reads the novel.
Rydell, the hero, is a security cop assigned to San Francisco to help recover a pair of what appear to be sunglasses stolen by Chevette from an obnoxious masher who had been entrusted with them. Like all Gibson's heros, Rydell is both tough and sensitive, a kind of street samurai of the future.
Despite the charm of the leading characters, the central gimmick-dark glasses that show the wearer where new developments will be built in San Francisco-seems rather mundane in comparison with the cornucopia of technological wonders he created in earlier novels. Plus, the plot is the old one where villains, trying to learn where the city will build next, will kill anyone or do anything to get inside information because it means a lot of money.
The novel is a bit of a disappointment, though not a total loss. Gibson seems to have trouble with conclusions. The one to this novel involves an air strike by characters difficult to tell who they are, what they are doing, or why they are doing it. Yet, it's no worse than other popular thrillers, and it contains a fine cast of fascinating characters.
am 30. Dezember 1999
My first William Gibson novel was "Neuromancer," and I keep waiting for him to match it. "Mona Lisa Overdrive" came close. "Virtual Light" does not.
By this point in his career, Gibson was beginning to repeat himself. He had the flawed knight errant, Rydell (think of Case in "Neuromancer"); the tough street-girl, Chevette (Molly in "Neuromancer"); the sinister corporate interests. But this repetition is not the biggest flaw of this book.
Its biggest problem is sloppy construction. The plot runs out of gas; Gibson ties off the story with a flimsy, unsatisfying ending. The story turns on a pair of virtual-reality glasses, but their importance is never convincingly portrayed. Gibson introduces the character of a Japanese grad student,then all but gives up trying to use him in a meaningful way.
The book's virtues? Gibson still keeps me turning the pages, even when he's not at his best. He always brings in startling ideas and visions. His best in "Virtual Light" is the Golden Gate Bridge, closed due to an earthquake and taken over by squatters who now live on it.
Next up for me is "Idoru," and word is Gibson recovered some of his "Neuormancer" form with it. I hope so. "Virtual Light" entertained me, but I wasn't dazzled.
am 23. März 1997
Gibson's "sprawl" trilogy founded several new youth subcultures. It captivated it's audience with a dizzying mixture of dark, complex and fantastic elements in a distant future. His newer works are set in a realer, nearer future.
The characters are readily identifiable, so that you feel like you've read about them before. They are tough and vulnerable in all the right places. The story swims through a realistic universe, diving and turning at it's own will. The writing style revives my favourite elements of his past works, including the shifting from one character's point of view to another.
If the movie of "Johnny Mnemonic" hadn't been such a poor representation of the short story, I would recommend that this book enjoy similar Hollywood attention. I've read this book twelve times, twice of which were still in the book store. (I still don't own a copy!) I doubt any newcomer to Gibson's universe could be displeased by what they find lurking in the pages of Virtual Light, and I know that no fan of his previous works could. Read it. Re-read it. Even purchase a copy if need be
am 6. August 1999
Futuristic drama? Cutting edge suspense? I don't know what these other readers are seeing in this book. All I got was senseless dialogue, idiot characters, technology that isn't fully explained, long rambling passages of senseless thoughts that have no meaning or relation to anything. Notice I didn't mention any plot in that list, because there isn't one. Somebody loses some expensive electronic toy, somebody else finds it, the first person tries to get it back. This would have been better if someone had explained what the thing is, where it comes from, what it does, or why it's so important. We never find out. Instead people get chased for a while, and then.. nothing. The book just stops. No resolution or explanation at all. When I buy a book I expect an actual story, with intelligent (or at least intelligible) dialogue, and characters that seem like more than cardboard cutouts. This book sadly fails on all these counts.
am 13. Juli 1998
This is an excellent story. Gibson is definitely cutting edge in his writing with regards to incorporating technology and creating new terms. Everything that I've read by him has been based far enough in the future to be new, but close enough that the world is still real and not made up of flying cars and alien races. In other words, cyberpunk but try not to get the negative feelings about that word that a lot of people get. Instead this is an intense thriller incorporating virtual reality, designer drugs, new age weaponry, new religions and many other things which quickly pull you into this world rather than your own. It centers around two people: one an ex-cop and ex-rent-a-cop and the bicycle messenger. They quickly find their lives colliding over the theft of a pair of sunglasses. You definitely should read this and other novels by Gibson; I believe that he will continue to be a driving force in cutting edge suspense.
am 13. November 1997
You William Gibson fans have got to be kidding. I slogged through 60 pages of ``Virtual Light,'' then rang up the white flag. It wasn't as bad as Anne Rice's ``Violin'' (I got only 50 pages on that one), but it was close. There's a reason why much science fiction is dismissed as little more than weak plots and lousy writing, and ``Virtual Light'' is a case in point. The characters are cartoonish, the writing mediocre and unsubtle (Aaron Pursley -- gee, uh, is that Elvis? Duh.), and the plot about as interesting as a George Bush speech. In closing, let me say that I'm not an anti-sci-fi snob. I loved ``Star Trek: The Next Generation,'' and ``Voyager,'' though not nearly as good, is still pretty entertaining. But there's something to be said for craftsmanship and intelligence, be it in science fiction or any other creative endeavor. Ernie Torres.
am 13. Juni 2000
This was my first foray into cyberguru Gibson's realm, and the blend of cyberpunk and noir worked pretty well for me. Clearly Gibson is more interested in showing off his skills at imagining the gadgets and lifestyles of the near future, rather than providing any intricate plot. Indeed, the tale of a bike courier who unwittingly steals what turns out to be technology to die for, combined with a down and out former cop hired to help retrieve the missing item, rehashes some fairly familiar noir territory. But the evocation of a neighborhood built on the now unused Bay Bridge is good stuff. I especially enjoyed the clueless Japanese grad student who's trying to write an anthropology thesis about the neighborhood. If you like this, try Jonathan Lethem's "Gun With Occasional Music."