on April 6, 2003
A brilliantly futuristic, 'digital' writing style, rich with metaphors that border on the surreal and a thought-provoking storyline leaves the reader with a faint tingling in the peripheral nerve endings. Woven around the principles of tomorrow's sciences - nanotechnology, virtual reality - 'All Tomorrow's Parties' is part thriller, part sci-fi and part a work of postmodern literature.
In speaking of 'wind farms', 'money in little tabs of plastic', 'nanobots', Gibson fast-forwards us to an era in the future. At the same time, he throws open the door to a new interpretation of history that is definitely mind-bending. His hypothesis: in every epoch, since the dawn of time, there have been 'nodal points', the points from which change emerges.
He speaks of such a 'change' again...
A set of apparently disjointed events flow in a linear progression until they all converge at a vortex. This is where it all ends, or rather begins - The Golden Gate Bridge. Colin Laney, who has the uncanny ability to predict the future by interpreting the 'data flow' around him; Tessa, an Australian media student at Los Angeles; Rydell, an ex-cop; Fontaine, a collector of antique watches; Cody Harwood, a megalomaniacal media mogul; Rei Toei, a beautiful, virtual icon, all converge at San Francisco. They are present at a decisive juncture in space and time to witness something, something which will alter the course of their destiny, their futures.
Grab a copy if you want to stroke your gray cells!
on December 2, 2002
William Gibson's All Tomorrow's Parties is a well-written and interesting book. Gibson employs an interesting present-tense writing style that challenges the reader. Through a wide assortment of characters and settings, Gibson creates a fast-paced and interesting story. He vividly describes his futuristic world where communities are created on damaged bridges, people live in cardboard boxes in subways, and experimental drugs exist that allow people to witness rare but significant events that forever change society. Probably the greatest element of this book is its variety of characters. They are all believable and unique in their own way. Gibson, unfolding a rich story, masterfully connects all these characters together despite their different backgrounds.
One of the main characters, Colin Laney, has taken the 5-SB drug. This drug allows him to see the world as data which he can interpret with relative ease. Laney believes that a "nodal point" is approaching that will change the world forever, and he believes that whatever happens will occur in the Bay Bridge area. However, the 5-SB drug has also left Laney obsessed with a man named Cody Harwood. Laney never considers the possibility that Harwood may be tampering with the data Laney interprets.
Despite the ill-effects of the drug, Laney hires Berry Rydell, a security guard at Lucky Dragon convenient store, to go to San Francisco. Rydell travels to the Bay Bridge and is given the device that contains Rei Toi, a computer generated idol-singer.
Other characters are woven into the complex plot that Gibson creates. There is Silencio, a quiet child obsessed with watches; Fontaine, the owner of a small collectable store; and Chevette, a former bridge resident fleeing her abusive ex-boyfriend. All these completely unique characters interact beautifully in Gibson's colorful, yet degenerate futuristic world.
I recommend this book to all cyberpunk and science fiction readers. If you have read Gibson before, the world is a familiar place you should find welcoming. Gibson has reinforced his role as one of the best cyberpunk writers in the world with All Tommorow's Parties. Hopefully he will continue producing novels of this quality for years to come.
on September 6, 2002
A few years ago, I started flirting with a heretical thought: is William Gibson really that good? After all, most of his stories border on being incomprehensible (if the basic elements of plot can even be discerned at all). His characters are both distasteful and uninteresting, like characters from a futuristic Jerry Springer show. Gibson is too impressed with his own stylistic flair to write a simple, comprehensible sentence that actually moves the story forward. Basically, Gibson inherited the worst traits of J.G. Ballard and simply added more stuff about computers and a vaguely "alternative" vibe. So why read Gibson?
In the end, there's aways that nugent or two of an interesting idea buried in Gibson's pretentious slop. Something that makes you think this is where the world's heading in a decade or two. When the idea comes together in your head, you say, "Whoa!" and usually spend a day or two thinking about it.
On that score, Gibson once again delivers, with concepts of "nodal points" and "existential sociology." But this book is an especially harsh read. I didn't give a flying leap about any of the losers around which the story revolves. Gibson resolved to write a story without any colorful adjectives - and I mean that literally. Nothing is described as red, blue, yellow, orange, sepia, or otherwise hued. Gibson had a point - reading the book gives you a strange, monochrome vision before you realize why. But it also makes the process of imagining the story a bit nauseating after awhile, and I firmly believe that book shouldn't physically hurt. Gibson has great ideas, but I wish he'd realize that you can tell intriguing, entertaining stories and still get across deep thoughts.
on September 1, 2002
Gibson is one of few writers who allows his characters a vision of the mechanisms supporting reality's existence. Characters like Rei Toei are composed of pure information bits. The character Laney's world, enhanced by his exposure to the drug 5-SB, is composed of computer bits. Laney has schooled Rei Toei to interact with the crude, sensual characters who people the ordinary world. Laney would no doubt agree with Ed Fredkin that "there is nothing as concrete in the world as a bit-it's more concrete than a photon or electron, ... it's not a simulation of reality; it's not something that pretends to be reality. It is reality." Laney's problem is that he suspects his own interpretations of the data stream are being tampered with by an outside agent, Harwood. He also has totally ambivalent feelings toward Harwood who he thinks could be a strange attractor -one bringing order out of chaos. Laney has at the core of his being an emptiness devoid of both light and darkness. This complicates the puzzle wherein he must struggle like a amateur painter to identify the future human datascape.
In Gibson's story there are two types of people-those aware of their bit or interstitial existence and those who aren't aware. Tessa, for example, is trying to capture the interstitial world on film. Those who are aware control those who are not aware. This interstitial world is made of stored data that can be shaped or programmed like clay. The heart of Gibson's universe can only be reached through an informational wormhole-a place called the Walled City. This place is peopled by the avatars of people who escaped from the human datascape and who can play with the pixel created characters in the story. Gibson sets the action on the squattersville bridge and around box dwellers to show how little affluence will mean in his future world. It is a world where nanotechnology allows for the cloning of both people and things. A world in which scarcity is a thing of the past. One could say that Gibson plays the role of a programmer rather than an author of his stories. The story must get five stars for creativity.
on November 30, 2001
All Tomorrow's Parties is the third book in a trilogy by William Gibson. His writing technique is truly amazing. Gibson has a way of getting the point across without wasting a word. In this novel Laney, a mortally ill cardboard box dweller, comes across a disturbance in the information system. Laney has the ability to analyze large masses of data and discovers another nodal point. This only happens when a major change is about to occur in the world. Unfortunately this change promises to bring about the end of the world. Now, with the help of Rydell, an ex-convenient store employee, they must put a stop to the occurrence of the Nodal point.
During the novel the reader is introduced to a plethora of characters with seemingly little to do with one another. Gibson slowly fuses the characters together throughout the text. The ending leaves something to be desired but the book is a must read if you are into the cyber-punk genre. Gibson is truly a master of his art and this book is no different! Even though one can get lost in the artistry of his prose, his style is very captivating.
on October 17, 2001
William Gibson has been one of my favorite authors since the late 80's when a friend pointed me to his breakthrough book, Neuromancer. This book opened the door to a whole new genre - cyberpunk, and I've anxiously awaited every book since then.
All Tomorrow's Parties (ATP) concludes a trilogy that started with Virtual Light and Idoru. Actually, these books aren't so much a series as they are three books that happen to reference each other. And while the first series (Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive) takes place in mid-21st century, this series occurs in the near future (14-15 years from now, I think).
The joy of reading this book (and all his books, in my opinion) isn't necessarily in the story as a whole, but in savoring each scene individually. Each page is chock-full of inventions (some good, some crazy) that have become so ingrained in society that the story's characters take them for granted. My favorite is the convenience store chain that has a video kiosk in front that shows what's happening at other stores in the chain. At any one time, you can see what's happening at ten other randomly-selected stores. Unfortunately, most of what you see is smart-aleck kids mooning the camera, or transvestite hookers looking to make a few quick credits. This place also has anti-graffiti walls, and sells sunglasses that also function as a phone and city map.
ATP sees our hero Laney deathly ill, living in a cardboard box at the Tokyo airport, cruising the web full-time. He was given drugs as a child that as an adult allow him to see patterns when viewing vast amounts data that others cannot see, and he sees that society is coming to a nodal point - a time when everything changes. The last such nodal point happened in 1911. The book doesn't really mention it, but I read an interview with Gibson recently that said before 1911 the world was a far less controlled place. It was possible, for instance, to purchase cocaine at your local pharmacy. While you can't put your finger on any one specific cause, all that changed in 1911. In ATP, the world is heading for another big change, and Laney's one of the few people in the world that can see it coming (even though he's not really sure what it is or when exactly it will happen). He sends his ex-cop, ex-security guard friend Barry Rydell to San Fransisco to link up with a mysterious killer with no name. Meanwhile, the courier Chevette Washington flees to San Francisco to get away from her abusive boyfriend. And the idoru, Rei Toi, is released like a genie from a computer in an upstairs apartment in downtown San Fransisco. Together, these individual stories weave together and witness/cause the nodal point.
I thought the ending was a little disappointing, and that cost this book a point.
on October 1, 2001
William Gibson's novel ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES brings together characters from his novels VIRTUAL LIGHT and IDORU and places them into an apocalyptic event in San Francisco that is meant to mean a new beginning for the world.
The novel begins with the fact that Colin Laney has gone insane, the inevitable result of being used to test an experimental drug in a federal orphanage. He's living in a cardboard city in a Tokyo subway, living off stimulants and blue cough syrup, obsessed with an approaching "nodal point," an event in history which will change everything. Chevette and Rydell from VIRTUAL LIGHT provide most of the book's action, as Laney in his miserable surroundings rules the plot from the background.
ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES is a disappointment. I've stated in my review for IDORU that Gibson's novels are often showcases for interesting ideas but with poor plots. Here I must confess that even Gibson's usual future speculations are missing. The book's action is sketched with little detail, as if Gibson already knows what's going on and neglects to mention it to the reader. A good comparison is watching a symphony orchestra performing on television with the volume muted; one can see the conductor motioning but the music is not there. I really cannot fathom how the book got past the editor. The only truly interesting scene is the final appearance of Rei Toei, the Idoru, which doesn't happen until nearly the end of the book's 300 pages. Furthermore, Gibson's characters act rather different from in their previous novels, and this creates a continuity problem.
IDORU was a decent book, recommendable to anyone sitting in an airport for a couple of hours with nothing to do, although it certainly isn't great literature. ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES, on the other hand, is a great failure. Even if you've already read IDORU, I would suggest not moving on to this book.
Hidden from general readers for some years, Gibson's Neuromancer remains the best speculative fiction novel. Almost a sequel, the Idoru trilogy carries forward his ideas of what the future is likely to hold. Never a simple read, this book stands out in displaying Gibson's writing ability and his speculations about tomorrow. Gibson's talent in portraying a future world has few peers. The future looks grim, indeed, depending on your perspective. In Gibson's view, the perspective is from below.
His characters are people rarely seen in "normal" life, but clearly, they are here among us. They live out of the "mainstream," Tokyo subways, landslide ravaged Malibu and the Bay Bridge. Gibson has them caught up in events not of their making nor choosing. They are no less instrumental in carrying out Gibson's designated roles for all that. Colin Laney, hidden in the subway among other indigents, his enhanced senses foretelling coming changes, becomes the chess master. He moves distant people as pawns in dealing to deal with a future even he sees only dimly. His pawns react to his plays, unable to comprehend his direction, but just as unable to resist. Chevette, in particular, becomes a pivot for Laney and Rydell. She moves adroitly through the many crises Gibson confronts her with, a strong character who should give pause to those claiming men can't write about women.
As a Westerner, Gibson is sensitive to the power of earthquakes. Under his discerning scrutiny, he sees the power of continental drift as modifying not only the landscape, but society as well. In this story, tremblors around the whole Pacific Rim have generated social adjustments. San Francisco, so vulnerable to earth movements, has given rise to a subculture on the Bay Bridge after the Big One renders it unsafe to traffic [Interesting that there is no attempt to restructure the bridge, nor to devise newer forms of transportation. Gibson's love of technology is in data streams, not engineering challenges.]. He uses the Bridge as a backdrop instead of the focus of the whole story, which lesser writers have done.
The Bridge becomes a haven for Rydell and Chevette, Laney's most active pawns. They must come together because Rydell has the mysterious "thermos" carrying the Idoru. Rydell is captivated by the image of "all desires" but why he's carrying her remains a mystery to the end. Even when the conclusion arrives, why Laney was so insistent that "everything is going to change" isn't entirely apparent. This approach remains the basis of Gibson's genius. He refuses to end his tales cleanly, giving his readers much to ponder and contemplate. If Gibson isn't the reason Harlan Ellison urged the term "speculative fiction" be substituted for "science fiction," he should be. Reading groups will have much to ponder and discuss over this book. In the end, none will be correct, and none wrong. Until the future justifies Gibson's predictions of where we're headed.
on August 8, 2001
Gibson's stories.... You never care anything about the low-life scumbags that serve as his main characters, and sometimes you can't even figure out what's going on. But despite that, Gibson has always been one of my favorite authors because he writes such intensely interesting anecdotes, and describes such brilliant twisted scenes, from a near-future that is disturbingly close to our present.
This book has its share of interesting moments - ruminations on "nodal points," "existential sociology," disposable cars, and the first explanation I've ever read about why computers have until recently always been made in that damn boring beige - but on the whole, it's less interesting than his other books (it doesn't have any plot whatsoever, as far as I'm able to discern), and it has a lot of sections where the descriptions are extrememly hard to visualize and the flow of the action becomes altogether incomprehensible. I'd only recommend this book for the die-hard Gibson fan. Neuromancer remains the best book for first-time Gibson readers.
"All Tomorrow's Parties" is one of William Gibson's finest novels, and is the best of the trilogy which started with "Virtual Light". Here, he makes a partial return to his hard boiled, dense literary style of "Neuromancer" and "Count Zero", coupled with his expansive view of characters first seen in "Mona Lisa Overdrive". Rydell and Chevette from "Virtual Light" return, along with Laney from "Idoru". Approached by freelance Japanese anthropologist Yamazaki, Rydell undertakes a mission for Laney, who has fled from the rock band Lo/Rez, and is now living inside a cardboard box somewhere in Tokyo. Laney is obsessed with finding the "nodal points" of history, and believes that one is rapidly drawing near. Meanwhile the Idoru, Rei Toei, has disappeared. What follows is marred slightly by a weak finish, yet is told with some of the finest, most lyrical prose Gibson has written to date. As much as I admire the writing of noted cyberpunk writers such as Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson, Gibson is still the master when it comes to writing effective terse, yet lyrical prose, which borders on poetry. However, those who were dazzled by Gibson's electrifying prose in "Neuromancer" and "Count Zero" may be disappointed, since his vivid prose isn't rich with the brilliant ideas and dazzling scenes of his "Cyberspace" trilogy. Still, I strongly recommend "All Tomorrow's Parties" as a fine tome worth reading.