Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mona Lisa Overdrive - William Gibson

This is the sequel to Count Zero, and continues the story begun there and wraps up a few loose ends from Neuromancer. While I'm glad I read this, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as Neuromancer. There are four separate storylines going on here: Kumiko, the daughter of a Yakuza chief who has been sent to London to avoid a Yakuza war; Slick Henry in Dog Solitude who is creating some fairly extreme artwork while recovering from the mind-warping treatment he received in prison; Mona Lisa, so poor that she fell through the cracks virtually at birth, with an uncanny resemblance to the sim-start Angie Mitchell; and finally Angie Mitchell herself - recovering from a drug addiction and searching for Count Zero - who she broke up with a while back.

It is a great story, and I think I would get more out of it if I were to sit down and read all three books back to back. Because the setting is so unusual, it is pretty easy to get the picture in your head wrong and miss important things. One of the things I find hardest to wrap my mind around is Gibson's vision of cyberspace. I'm trying to draw an analogy with the Internet as we know it today, but it is completely different. Ordinary people don't have access to it. Fax machines are ubiquitous (and deliver the morning news - apparently for free) but no one has email, or smart phones. Cyberspace is really a place, with its own inhabitants, and the equipment used to get there doesn't seem easy to come by. I think my main problem with these books is a failure to grasp exactly what Gibson envisions cyberspace to be...and since it is very central to the whole plot...that makes things tricky. I need to re-read these books while being very careful not to conflate Gibson's cyberspace with the internet.

That being said, I love the idea of sim-stars. Angie Mitchell records her entire sensorium and people can play it back to experience exactly what she did while it was being recorded. The incredible contrast between Mona Lisa's life and Angie's is almost overwhelming, and then when you realize that what Mona does for fun is to experience Angie's life via is a bit mind-blowing. That said, I think I enjoyed the setting and the characters more than the actual story.

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