Monday, 21 December 2015

Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson

I think I actually read the three books that are all in this universe in order, although Count Zero was long enough ago that I remember very little of it, except that I liked it. Neuromancer I've always had a difficult relationship with - it just persists in keeping me at arms length. I get the story, I get the characters. I just don't...get it. Why it's so hugely popular. I don't dislike it, I'm just sort of baffled.

Now, at long last, I make it to the third book, because my online SF group had it as a choice this past month. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually enjoyed this one quite a lot. That strange distance I found between me and the prose and the characters wasn't there, and as always when that happens, it's hard to tell if it's a change in writing style, or that I'm finally in the right mindspace for this book at this particular point in time.

I won't go so far as to say I love this book, but I did find an easier connection to it than I have to other Gibson books so far. 

There are several interweaving storylines in this book. There's the daughter of a Japanese mob boss, sent to England for her own protection, who finds herself embroiled in the plans of the man she's sent to stay with, who is in the process of blackmailing some very dangerous people, including one familiar face with an unfamiliar name. 

There's the comatose man jacked into a machine, whom a suspicious character leaves in the care of an ex-con he knows, who builds robots according to certain designs in his head. 

There's a...shit, what's the world in Gibson's universe for the taping of human experience so others can try it out? Sim? Stim? At any rate, there's a woman who's the star of the sim world, recovering from addiction and able to communicate with the Net in ways no one else can.

There's a very young prostitute with a pimp with lofty dreams, who looks a little like the sim star mentioned above, enough so that in a convoluted scheme, it's worth someone's while to have her operated on to look just like the celebrity.

We come into the story when it's already in progress. The problem is that Count Zero was long enough ago that I don't remember whether or not these are dangling plotlines from that, or entirely new ones. At any rate, everyone's already running, and Gibson throws the reader in trying to keep up.

Strangely enough, there are also times where the plots simply fall apart without us ever really knowing what they are. Some characters are just that damned good. I am not sure what I think about this - it's interesting to watch competent characters run circles around unsuspecting others, but I do sometimes wish I'd been let in a little more on what they were foiling.

I think I get the outline, but...what were the bad guys going to do if they succeeded? They're thwarted at such a distance from the centre of power that it's never entirely clear to me. I get why the big bad wants Angie. I get why she hates her. I don't really get what she was going to do....

It's a relatively  minor quibble, I suppose. I don't mind being brought in in the middle of the action. It's just that the physical action that I saw sometimes seemed so far from the motivations behind it, and I find those motivations far more interesting and less explored. 

So, Gibson's still not my favourite author, but the writing style is growing on me.


I read this book as part of an attempt to read all the Hugo Nominees

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