Top critical review
on October 26, 1998
Gibson has both developed and regressed in this piece, which appears far from the noirish heights of Neuromancer, and yet somehow more mature. Mona Lisa Overdrive is a complex book, which tracks the overlapping stories of five characters, using neat chapter-size sections for each. He develops each character with startling skill, no mean feat for the man who filled Neuromancer's 300 pages with a host of electrifying descriptions, while failing to expand his main character's background beyond several brief paragraphs. The storyline, as per usual, is inane. The book is a cyberspace-Mafia thriller with Gibson's typical conspiratorial edge, and an ending that was meant to be profound - particularly to followers of the trilogy - but misses the spot. But it isn't the storyline which drives a Gibson novel, as any hardened fan will know. Gibson's true talent is growing his nebulous future world into new dimensions - this time into Japanese organized crime and the American 'urban refugee' scenario - and applying to it his extraordinary style; prose that has its roots in 30s detective fiction, yet, in my opinion, far exceeds the questionable efforts of Raymond Chandler and company. And this is where Gibson has failed this time around, inasmuch as he is capable of failing in the stylistic arena. Though in many ways it is a remarkable evolution from his uni-character, monologous works of the past, Overdrive is texturally thin. Unfortunately, Gibson shines mainly in his style, and so while he has stepped forward with this book, he has left many of his readers behind.