Virtual Light Hardcover – Aug 1 1993
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
But I'm stubborn and I went forward.
In the proceeding, the setting, the characters and the story become clearer, although the understanding is never immediate, but stems from a search of the essential elements in the midst of a flood of digressions, which in most cases have little or nothing relevance to the plot.
This post-disaster San Francisco, with people who have occupied a disused Oakland Bridge and live there, has its own charm, especially for those who love post-apocalyptic fiction (even if it is not my case), and highlights the immense imagination of the author. But the seemingly chaotic way in which the whole is presented makes you almost think that the latter had too many ideas in his head and has not been able to transfer them to the paper in the right way.
Beyond the style that you may like it or not, in my opinion the plot is that in which this novel flaws even more. Removed the numerous digressions and asides, what remains is a weak and short story, with characters that I just cannot get involved with. I had the impression that these were described from the outside, sometimes without the author had the certainty of the facts narrated. Not to mention the cyberspace and virtual light topic, which here is pretty much just mentioned and almost nothing explained. It is also true that it is the first of a series of novels, but it is for sure the last one I read.Read more ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on Jan. 20 2013 by Nox Influx
Well, for those of you who are new on Gibson, be warned, that this is not the book you should start with. Why? Read morePublished on July 18 2004 by Matko Vladanovic
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 morePublished on Jan. 6 2004 by Random
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 morePublished on May 6 2003 by kzd
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... Read morePublished on April 21 2003 by Matthew King
COPS IN TROUBLE.....
messenger chicks on bikes....
californias acting like everyone else....
and a neat piece of technology lost in it all.... Read more
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 morePublished on Dec 3 2001 by Michael Love
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 morePublished on Sept. 25 2001 by Ashley Wynn
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 morePublished on Aug. 29 2001 by Stephen A. Haines