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Virtual Light [Hardcover]

William Gibson
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 1 1993 A Bantam spectra book
2005: Welcome to NoCal and SoCal, the uneasy  sister-states of what used to be California. Here the  millenium has come and gone, leaving in its wake  only stunned survivors. In Los Angeles, Berry  Rydell is a former armed-response rentacop now working  for a bounty hunter. Chevette Washington is a  bicycle messenger turned pickpocket who impulsively  snatches a pair of innocent-looking sunglasses. But  these are no ordinary shades. What you can see  through these high-tech specs can make you rich--or  get you killed. Now Berry and Chevette are on the  run, zeroing in on the digitalized heart of  DatAmerica, where pure information is the greatest high.  And a mind can be a terrible thing to crash...


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From Amazon

The author of Neuromancer takes you to the vividly realized near future of 2005. Welcome to NoCal and SoCal, the uneasy sister-states of what used to be California. Here the millennium has come and gone, leaving in its wake only stunned survivors. In Los Angeles, Berry Rydell is a former armed-response rentacop now working for a bounty hunter. Chevette Washington is a bicycle messenger turned pick-pocket who impulsively snatches a pair of innocent-looking sunglasses. But these are no ordinary shades. What you can see through these high-tech specs can make you rich--or get you killed. Now Berry and Chevette are on the run, zeroing in on the digitalized heart of DatAmerica, where pure information is the greatest high. And a mind can be a terrible thing to crash. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

In his first solo novel in five years, Gibson ( Neuromancer ) hasn't entirely left his cyberpunk baggage behind, but he has brought his vision closer to home. It's California, circa 2005: the rich are even richer and the poor, of course, poorer; the Medellin crime cartels move not only drugs but illicit data; the Reverend Fallon preaches a television-worshipping religion; and legions of the homeless have seized San Francisco's Bay Bridge and turned it into a bizarre, jury-rigged shantytown. As in his previous novels, Gibson's plot is very simple. Chevette Washington, a bicycle courier, impulsively steals a pair of "virtual light" glasses that feeds images directly to the optic nerve, not realizing that it contains extremely valuable secret data that its owners will stop at nothing to recover. Rent-a-cop Berry Rydell loses his job due to a hacker's prank, so he teams up with Lucius Warbaby to track the stolen shades, only slowly realizing that Warbaby and his former employers are tied in with the evil corporate scheme revealed by the glasses. The plot is not the point here; it's Gibson's ability to create a world that distinguishes his work and has made him not just a rising science fiction star but a genuine cultural phenomenon. He has his finger on the pulse of popular culture and social trends; he molds a near-future world more frighteningly possible than that of any other recent writer. Although the happy ending seems a bit too happy for this grim environment, this novel's viscerally convincing dystopia should confirm Gibson's reputation as one of science fiction's chief visionaries.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By John Kwok TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
"Virtual Light" reveals yet another dimension to William Gibson's splendid writing. Largely absent are lyrical passages describing cyberspace technology that are among the hallmarks of his "Cyberspace" trilogy and "Sprawl" series of short stories. Instead, he emphasizes personalities at the expense of technology. He seems fascinated with how that technology interacts with the seeemingly mundane lives of his downtrodden characters. Both Rydell and Chevette are among his most intriguing creations since Case and Molly; how their parallel tales weave and ultimately intersect is an outcome that I found most rewarding. Once more, Gibson offers some sly, thoughtful commentary on our media-dominated culture; a persistent theme throughout his "Virtual Light" trilogy, including "Idoru" and "All Tomorrow's Parties". Those who've enjoyed Gibson's crisp, lyrical prose, but have searched in vain for well rounded, three-dimensional characters will not be disappointed with "Virtual Light". Although less intense than "Neuromancer" as a literary joyride, it stands alongside Gibson's award-winning debut as among his finest works of fiction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gibson the Great does it again July 20 2003
Format:Paperback
This is one of Gibson's best works, as good as Neuromancer. It does have a few flaws, but they don't detract too much.
What's good about it? The prose style, to start with: rich, dense, polished: all the usual Gibson attributes. The plot (most of the time) tugs you along; the characters; the background; the humor (the quiet sort, that has you gently chuckling about once every two pages and is usually based on parody/satire of current trends). The richness of the weave.
Gibson is obviously an adherent of Checkhov's "gun hanging on the wall" philosophy: there isn't an unused incident in the entire complicated work, nothing that happens is just-for-local-color, everything ties up with something else. Usually with two or three something-else's, with an unspoken invitation to start thinking about the implications of this in society. A few times I found myself thinking "why is he including this?", but there was always a reason further along the line.
The book lends itself to this strand-in-the-weave approach, being written at least some of the time in very short chapters, so that we move from one scene/set of characters to another in an approach that comes to resemble the textual equivalent of sound-bites or video clips. After a series of several 1 1/2 page chapters, I found myself recalling Eliot's "The Waste Land":
These fragments have I shor'd against my ruin
Don't know if Gibson intended that particular allusion, though of course it fits in so well with the general background of the book. But the video-clip approach to writing is surely saying something about the age the book is set in.
What are the bad points? To start with, it was written in 1993, and the blurb says it's set in 2005.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Dreck by the alleged master of cyberpunk April 21 2003
Format:Paperback
I picked up this book on a whim since the description on the back cover sounded really cool. It sounded like it would be in the vein and vision of James Cameron's "Dark Angel", one of my favourite T.V. shows of all time. Also the No-Cal and So-Cal concept sounded neat. However, the back cover summary turned out to be the best thing about this mess; this novel is terrible.
The main thing I have to complain about with Virtual Light is the author's writing style. It is immensely confusing and short-phrased. After the first few chapters, I felt completely lost, and thought to myself: Who is this? What is that? Obviously Gibson did not feel the need to develop characters. I completely agree with an earlier reviewer who pointed out that Gibson writes as though him and the reader are sharing some kind of inside joke. I have 3 words for Gibson; Background, Character, Development!! One can not get thrown into the middle of a story without any development whatsoever and be expected to figure out things by himself but this is exactly what Gibson does to the reader. I'll admit that Gibson has a very active imagination, however the way he writes frustrates me to no end.
So for those of you looking for a good cyberpunk read, I would recommend looking elsewhere. I'm going to try Neal Stephenson's "snow crash" next, hopefully I won't be as dissapointed.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Writing, Thin Plot April 21 2003
Format:Paperback
Let me preface this by saying that I love William Gibson. I think he is a phenomenal writer who is wonderfully intelligent and imaginative. In every one of his books, he spins fanciful, thought-provoking yarns that are utterly absorbing and linger long after the last page has been turned.
So if this is true about Virtual Light (and it is), why three stars? Well, unfortunately VL felt to me like Gibson spent a lot more time worrying about some of the really neat ideas in the book (the homeless community on the Golden Gate Bridge, which was wonderfully described, the Costa Rican data havens, the TV Christian cult, etc.) than about the story.
Several of the characters felt quite underdeveloped, a few even unnecessary. This is not uncommon in Sci-Fi, even in Gibson (though his characters are usually very good, and several here are, too), but here it felt like it detracted from the story significantly rather than being a minor nuisance. Additionally, the plot, though interesting, didn't actually go far until the end of the story. Things you might expect to happen in the first 100 pages weren't happening until 250, and the horribly deus ex machina ending occurred so quickly that I could hardly believe the book was over. Not that what Gibson did in the end was bad, necessarily (minus the "divine" intervention that allowed it to happen). It's just that he took 100 pages worth of plot and condensed them into about 10.
Having said all that, though, the book wasn't that bad. I was very absorbed in it while I was reading, and almost all of the ideas in the story were very interesting. However, I'm glad this wasn't the first or even the third Gibson novel I read. I'd recommend you start with Neuromancer or his new one, Pattern Recognition, if you are new to Gibson's writing. If you aren't, this is still a worthwhile read, as long as you can forgive its flaws.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars The father of cyberpunk has not convinced me
This novel left me puzzled since its opening lines. I admit I re-read the first page a couple of times because it was not clear to me who he was talking about, their whereabouts... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Anakina
5.0 out of 5 stars My second fave Gibson Book.
Next to Neuromancer this is the best book written by this author in my opinion. Good, smooth reading, and would make a great movie. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Nox Influx
1.0 out of 5 stars value it only virtually
Well, for those of you who are new on Gibson, be warned, that this is not the book you should start with. Why? Read more
Published on July 18 2004 by Matko Vladanovic
1.0 out of 5 stars I read this once before, and it was called Snow Crash
While reading this book, I got the distince impression that Gibson got the inspiration for this novel right after he finished reading Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash". Read more
Published on Jan. 6 2004 by Random
4.0 out of 5 stars wow
The first cyberpunk novel I have ever read. I was not disappointed one bit and was even pleasantly surprised with how much i enjoyed it. Read more
Published on May 6 2003 by kzd
3.0 out of 5 stars Still better than TV......
COPS IN TROUBLE.....
messenger chicks on bikes....
californias acting like everyone else....
and a neat piece of technology lost in it all.... Read more
Published on July 11 2002 by J Maby
5.0 out of 5 stars More story, less technology
William Gibson is an author that creates characters and situations that capture your imagination. When you put one of his books down your thoughts stay with the story. Read more
Published on Dec 3 2001 by Michael Love
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite Gibson
Maybe it's just because I was raised in Arkansas and I live in a trailer park that I love this one so much. Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2001 by Ashley Wynn
5.0 out of 5 stars Rydell's Run
Reading a Gibson novel is an act of faith. He weaves seemingly tenuous threads into a vivid plot. Don't expect to fully comprehend where you're going until you're well into his... Read more
Published on Aug. 29 2001 by Stephen A. Haines
4.0 out of 5 stars Virtual Light, the sidestep from Neuromancer
If you enjoyed Count Zero, Neuromancer, and others, then you'll like this. It's part of a trilogy involving Ridell, a rent-a-cop in gibson's cyberpunk world of future earth, and... Read more
Published on Aug. 28 2001 by Josh-Daniel S. Davis
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