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Virtual Light (Bridge #1)

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Berry Rydell, an ex-cop, signs on with IntenSecure Armed Response in Los Angeles. He finds himself on a collision course that results in a desperate romance, and a journey into the ecstasy and dread that mirror each other at the heart of the postmodern experience.


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Berry Rydell, an ex-cop, signs on with IntenSecure Armed Response in Los Angeles. He finds himself on a collision course that results in a desperate romance, and a journey into the ecstasy and dread that mirror each other at the heart of the postmodern experience.

30 review for Virtual Light (Bridge #1)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hobie

    I felt like Gibson created a cool world for the story to take place in, but then just never wrote the story. A messenger nabs some VR glasses and gets the help of some ex-cop blah... who cares? He just never got me to care about the characters or their conflicts. I wanted to hear more about the dystopian California-states and the fancy VR itself, but then all Gibson wanted to talk about Berry and Chevette. 3 stars purely because of the world Gibson dreamed up, but if you're looking for a good stor I felt like Gibson created a cool world for the story to take place in, but then just never wrote the story. A messenger nabs some VR glasses and gets the help of some ex-cop blah... who cares? He just never got me to care about the characters or their conflicts. I wanted to hear more about the dystopian California-states and the fancy VR itself, but then all Gibson wanted to talk about Berry and Chevette. 3 stars purely because of the world Gibson dreamed up, but if you're looking for a good story you should probably try elsewhere.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brooke

    Was rather disappointed by this one, and I'm starting to get the feeling that Gibson's been writing the same book over and over. While the technology mattered in Gibson's Sprawl trilogy, Virtual Light seemed more like a on-the-run-from-bad-guys thriller set in a vagueishly sci-fi setting. The tech that was stolen could have just as well been a candy bar. I wanted to find out more about the plan on the tech (to rebuild San Fran after an earthquake), the Bay Bridge community, and all the other int Was rather disappointed by this one, and I'm starting to get the feeling that Gibson's been writing the same book over and over. While the technology mattered in Gibson's Sprawl trilogy, Virtual Light seemed more like a on-the-run-from-bad-guys thriller set in a vagueishly sci-fi setting. The tech that was stolen could have just as well been a candy bar. I wanted to find out more about the plan on the tech (to rebuild San Fran after an earthquake), the Bay Bridge community, and all the other interesting bits that Gibson created. Instead, all of that seems to be zooming by on the outside while the story focuses on one long chase scene; it's always present but is very blurry and merely serves as a backdrop.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Graeme Rodaughan

    Not Gibson's best work, but still thoughtful. The whole cyberpunk genre is a valuable exploration of ideas about our near future. A future within reach of many who are alive today.

  4. 5 out of 5

    RandomAnthony

    I'm re-reading the early Gibson because I remember liking them and I can't keep the books straight. Virtual Light stands as high-quality, maybe one of his more underrated titles, at least to me, upon a second reading, because except for a somewhat abrupt ending, the novel is excellent. The book's true star is the bridge, and if Gibson ever releases a "greatest hits" of passages from his work, his initial description of the bridge deserves a place of honor. You can see him extending Ballard's inf I'm re-reading the early Gibson because I remember liking them and I can't keep the books straight. Virtual Light stands as high-quality, maybe one of his more underrated titles, at least to me, upon a second reading, because except for a somewhat abrupt ending, the novel is excellent. The book's true star is the bridge, and if Gibson ever releases a "greatest hits" of passages from his work, his initial description of the bridge deserves a place of honor. You can see him extending Ballard's influence and perceptions of concurrent decay and advancement. The glasses connected to the title are cool, of course, and even better than whatever google's cooking up, but I think, throughout Gibson's work, the underlying focus is the tough, stubborn ability of humans to adapt, whether criminally or not, to roadblocks and opportunities. He's one of the best, one of my favorites, really, and his early work holds up.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    Read "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson instead.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ben Babcock

    Last week Kevin Mitnick was on The Colbert Report to promote his new book, Ghost in the Wires and talk about hacking. For those of us who grew up with the Web as a fact of life and absorbed "hacker culture" through Hollywood, Mitnick's experiences seem somewhat alien. Hacking started long before the Web, of course, and even today hacking is nothing like what one sees on the movies. However, it's just in this decade that we, as a society, are beginning to understand and react to the effects of Last week Kevin Mitnick was on The Colbert Report to promote his new book, Ghost in the Wires and talk about hacking. For those of us who grew up with the Web as a fact of life and absorbed "hacker culture" through Hollywood, Mitnick's experiences seem somewhat alien. Hacking started long before the Web, of course, and even today hacking is nothing like what one sees on the movies. However, it's just in this decade that we, as a society, are beginning to understand and react to the effects of hacking as a phenomenon. It seems like not a week goes by without another story in the news about a company or government database being hacked. Law enforcement agencies have taken cybercrime seriously for a long time now, as demonstrated by Mitnick's arrest and conviction, but lately arrests of alleged members of groups like Anonymous are making the news more often. We live in the WikiLeaks era, where it doesn't matter if information wants to be free. Once information is out there, there is no taking it back. It strikes me that William Gibson gets this. In fact, he understood it a lot earlier than most of us. He was writing about this stuff before I was born. Neuromancer is indubitably his most famous and influential work, and the Hollywood vision of hacking probably owes a lot to his portrayal of the cyberspace experience of console cowboys (damn you, Gibson!). With Virtual Light, it feels like Gibson is looking at hacker culture, and its effects on society, from the other side now. The main characters are victims of hackers; they employ hackers; but they are not hackers themselves. Nevertheless, Gibson turns them into tools for making information free. Virtual Light is a little confusing at first. I wasn't sure who the main character was—is it this nameless courier? This weird private security guard named "Berry Rydell"? This messenger whom we eventually learn is called Chevette? After the first few chapters, however, the story finally emerged, and its protagonists quickly followed. On a whim, Chevette picks a courier's pocket and steals a valuable pair of sunglasses, which contain information encoded optically about a sensitive business deal that will impact all of San Francisco. She ends up on the run with Rydell as an unlikely ally. Rydell and Chevette wormed their way into my heart. This is good, because as far as its story goes, Virtual Light is surprisingly linear and predictable—surprising because I wouldn't expect it from Gibson. So I completely understand why people pan the book because of this aspect; story is not Virtual Light's strongest area. As an "on the run from the bad guys until we can broadcast our information" story, it keeps me entertained. To really appreciate it, however, one has to be willing to dig further into the way Gibson approaches the role of hacking, the flow of information, and the stratification of society in a broken United States of America. I've already talked lots about hacking, but let me say a little more. I love how Rydell loses his job because someone hacked the computer on his company truck and created a false alarm. Not only are the scene and its subsequent debriefing hilarious, but this is something that could happen today (and probably already has). We get so much of our information from intangible, computer-moderated sources and have learned to trust that information implicitly. When Rydell's truck tells him there is an armed hostage situation on a client's property, he doesn't hesitate to respond aggressively. This trust is useful, because we can react a lot more quickly when the information comes to us instantaneously—but as Rydell learns, it is dangerous too. The same thing happens today, with hackers posting fake releases about celebrity deaths on legitimate news websites. So this is a very interesting phenomenon that we, as a society, are still struggling to adapt to, and I like how Gibson tackles it in Virtual Light. In many ways this book is also similar to Gibson's "Johnny Mneumonic", of Keanu Reeves infamy. Both feature a courier carrying information that could incite unrest. In Johnny's case, it's hardwired into his brain. In Chevette's case, she appropriates the package as a pair of sunglasses. But the moral remains the same: in a world where we can send a message to someone across the ocean less than the blink of an eye, the only truly secure method of communicate remains a physical package (even if that package is only a one-time pad). As Loveless remarks in Virtual Light: "Look at her, Rydell. She knows. Even if she's just riding confidential papers around San Francisco, she's a courier. She's entrusted, Rydell. The data becomes a physical thing. She carries it. Don't you carry it, baby?" She was still as some sphinx, white fingers deep in the gray fabric of the center bucket. "That's what I do, Rydell. I watch them carry it. I watch them. Sometimes people try to take it from them." Imagine a map that depicts the world as lights connected by glowing lines—people, or buildings, or cities, connected by digital communication. Zoom in enough, and along the virtual representations of city streets, you will see glowing blue and red dots. These are the couriers, the physical purveyors of digital information. The trusted ones. I guess ultimately what I'm trying to say here is that I appreciate Virtual Light for the way it raises relevant, contemporary issues about existing in the digital era. As always, Gibson's observations are a combination of chilling and seductive, with a little bit of edgy humour thrown in. There's Reverend Fallon's cult of Christians who believe they will find God in old movies, and the cult that worships Shapely, a man whose non-lethal strain of HIV resulted in a vaccine. Some of these subplots don't seem explored as fully as they could have been considering how much time Gibson devotes to them. Shapely's story in particular perplexes me, for we learn it all through exposition that seems otherwise unconnected from the rest of the narrative. Why is it all that important? I'm probably missing something larger here. That being said, I can at least see how it works with Virtual Light's presentation of the rift between the various classes of American society. There's the sleek, slightly antiseptic feel of Karen Mendelsohn; the creepy vibe of the man we never see, Cody Harwood; the domineering little shit that is Lowell; the valiant, heroic, yet tragic Skinner; and of course, the working class: Rydell, Chevette, Sublett, et al. Karen treats Rydell as hot stuff while he is the best thing Cops in Trouble have going, but the moment a higher-profile opportunity arises, she kicks him to the curb. The people who want the data on those sunglasses kept secret, the people like Cody Harwood, do not hesitate to kill lesser people like Rydell and Chevette. And of course, there's the bridge. People living on a ravaged Bay Bridge, having transformed it into an actual community, is a vision right out of something like The Wind-Up Girl, some sort of post-apocalyptic world gone mad. One might expect to see a little less civilization, and that's certainly what some of the minor characters in Virtual Light suggest. Warbaby gives Rydell a description of the Bridge community that Chevette and Skinner patently belie, and it's not entirely clear whether Warbaby actually believes this bit of bigotry or whether he's just coldly manipulating Rydell. (I suspect the latter, but with Gibson I'm not going to bet anything I value on it.) The Bridge community is intriguing, and I would have liked to learn more about it. But of course, that's what the other two books in this trilogy are for. Virtual Light is not as stunning as Neuromancer, and it deserves the criticism levelled at its story and structure. I reject the idea that this is a bad novel, however, and certainly that this is somehow a lesser work of William Gibson. I think it does something useful and interesting, from its portrayal of hackers to the importance of securing the information that comes into Rydell and Chevette's possession. It might not do this as artfully or as skilfully as I would like, but it is still a fascinating piece of science fiction. Except, of course, that it is no longer science fiction. Sure, the specifics of this 1990s novel, set in 2005, did not come to pass—but all of the issues Gibson raises are things we are confronting, or will soon confront, in our present decade. Virtual Light is a noteworthy example of how science fiction does not need to predict the future in order to predict the problems we will be facing and prompt us to ponder solutions before it's too late. As usual, William Gibson demonstrates that science fiction is valuable. My reviews of the Bridge trilogy: Idoru →

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    The last time I read this book was in the mid-90s. It came out in 1993, nine years after Gibson's Neuromancer, the novel that coined the phrase "cyberspace" and posited a world where we'd all be interconnected through an information network. He was wrong about the virtual reality stuff, but right about almost everything else. If Neuromancer was somewhat predictive of the future, Virtual Light reads like someone had gone to the future of 2005 and sent a postcard back to us. Reading it now and rea The last time I read this book was in the mid-90s. It came out in 1993, nine years after Gibson's Neuromancer, the novel that coined the phrase "cyberspace" and posited a world where we'd all be interconnected through an information network. He was wrong about the virtual reality stuff, but right about almost everything else. If Neuromancer was somewhat predictive of the future, Virtual Light reads like someone had gone to the future of 2005 and sent a postcard back to us. Reading it now and reading it in 1995 are two different experiences. Back then, I read this and saw a future that was advanced, but full of sickness and decay. I saw some hope because humans had ingenuity, but despair because of waste and pollution. Now, I read it and it seems that we're only a few years away from things like the disappearance of the middle class, the privatization of public space, the adulteration of natural resources, and the occupying of space by squatters who turn unused space into a living space. It's the future, AIDS has been cured, but new diseases pop up. Journalism and entertainment have merged to give us shows like Cops in Trouble, a show that Fox would be proud to show. Berry Rydell was a cop in trouble because he shot a guy who held his family hostage, and was subsequently sued by said family for his trouble. But in the midst of all this, a new story comes up about a cop who shoots a serial killer that preys on children and Rydell becomes yesterday's news before his story hits the air. Trapped in Los Angeles, Rydell again becomes a victim of circumstance and computer hackers as he gets fired and ends up working as a driver for a bounty hunter in San Francisco. Chevette Washington lives on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco (the suspension side, not the cantilever side; it makes a difference in the book). She's in her early 20s, a ward of the state who was abandoned by her mother, and who made it from an orphanage in Oregon with barbed wire surrounding it, to NoCal and was taken in by Skinner, an old man who was there when the homeless occupied the bridge. In the book, she's lived there for some time and is a bike messenger. Some guy at a party she accidentally walked into hit on her in an obnoxious way and she stole a pair of very valuable glasses from him to shut him up. These aren't ordinary glasses though. They act as both MacGuffin and object through which social commentary on gentrification is dispersed. Rydell and Chevette's paths cross. And that's what this book is about. Intersections. Just as the Bay Bridge becomes a living place that used to connect two cities but is now a place where many people's lives connect, we also see what happens when rich and poor meet, when technology and art meet, and when reality and entertainment meet. Gibson not only wrote a good story, but could predict things like the rise and fall of the Euro, the use of drones by law enforcement, and the shrinking of the middle class, and make them only passing mentions in this book to add color and background to the story. While reading, I saw I had used many of his conventions in stories I have written, but forgotten where they'd come from. Things like jumping in time chronologically, using objects for something different than they had been intended for, and characters with convoluted pasts dealing with the situations they find themselves in now, are themes I recognize in my writing. But ultimately, that's what good writing comes down to. You write something that other writers "steal" without realizing they have "stolen" it. Like the bridge in the story, it all melds together to form a new place, a new setting, and a new way to look at things. This look at the "future" of 2005 helps us to see our present in a new way.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Liutauras Elkimavičius

    Bene pras... ne, paprasčiausia maestro knyga. Neįmantrus bad future bajavičiokas, kuris tačiaugi susiskaitė lengvai ir greitai. Aišku tikėjaus iš pirmos The Bridge trilogijos knygos aš daugiau ir todėl tik mažiukas #Recom nuo #LEBooks #VirtualLight

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sean Wilson

    Great sociological science fiction with a cool vibe and, in my opinion, a vast improvement over Gibson's previous Sprawl trilogy. Some scary observations on 90's culture and crackling prose with a cool kind of dialogue for Gibson's characters. A brilliant piece of cyberpunk literature.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    If Haruki Murakami and Philip K Dick had ever written a book together this would have been it (they didn't have no baby or anything though). To me it felt like Philip's story but in the voice of Murakami. My first William Gibson novel and I've enjoyed it, he has created an interesting future, things are only slightly more advanced than they are now which makes it easier to get into. There are a fair number of characters, all having little bit parts, I only really had an issue with one of then, Y If Haruki Murakami and Philip K Dick had ever written a book together this would have been it (they didn't have no baby or anything though). To me it felt like Philip's story but in the voice of Murakami. My first William Gibson novel and I've enjoyed it, he has created an interesting future, things are only slightly more advanced than they are now which makes it easier to get into. There are a fair number of characters, all having little bit parts, I only really had an issue with one of then, Yamazaki, I could see the point of including him, was he telling the story or not? The setting was brilliant, the bridge and how it had been built on was described so well I was able to picture it in me head with ease. Glad to see that this is down as book one, should mean I'll get to read about the characters again. woooo

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tfitoby

    Reading something like this after something like Snow Crash can only really leave you feeling one thing. There's no real comparison. This is basically Snow Crash Lite. William Gibson wrote an occasionally entertaining novel of an interesting possible future with some very good observations about humanity BUT it's characters and story structure are so similar to Neal Stephenson's masterpiece of the genre that you can't help but compare. Virtual Light will always lose, not least because Berry Rydel Reading something like this after something like Snow Crash can only really leave you feeling one thing. There's no real comparison. This is basically Snow Crash Lite. William Gibson wrote an occasionally entertaining novel of an interesting possible future with some very good observations about humanity BUT it's characters and story structure are so similar to Neal Stephenson's masterpiece of the genre that you can't help but compare. Virtual Light will always lose, not least because Berry Rydell is no Hiro Protagonist. Aside from the brief touches on cyber technology and the near future setting this could easily have been just another political/crime thriller about some form of mafia/drug cartel and crooked congressman and the plucky law students who stumble upon the truth of their evil scheme and must save the day before McDonalds eats their soul (see The Pelican Brief which from my memories of reading as a 13 year old was actually better than this book.) I recently read Savages which this book reminded me of in some ways but again whilst Savages was exciting and raw Virtual Light was positively tame. This being the first book in a trilogy, I must admit to having read Idoru first. I cannot see how the sequel relates to the world created in this first book in any way, unless it was set quite a long time afterwards. The third part apparently contains characters from the first two books so perhaps that will enlighten me. But not for a while I think.

  12. 4 out of 5

    J.I.

    Okay, here's the thing: this book is FUN. Essentially you have a good cop accidentally getting railroaded, a good poor person who makes one mistake and pays the price, and then some evil corporation stuff and then it's just a fun little chase. Light, slight, well-written and fun. You get to hear about the near future Gibson imagined, which is interesting, you get to see some really interesting main protagonists, who are more fully fleshed out and intriguing than usually happens with these things Okay, here's the thing: this book is FUN. Essentially you have a good cop accidentally getting railroaded, a good poor person who makes one mistake and pays the price, and then some evil corporation stuff and then it's just a fun little chase. Light, slight, well-written and fun. You get to hear about the near future Gibson imagined, which is interesting, you get to see some really interesting main protagonists, who are more fully fleshed out and intriguing than usually happens with these things, and there are some very well written action sequences, as well as a clever ending. But that's it. There is nothing here. There are some satirical jabs at religion that feel entirely puerile; there are evil corporations and their schemes, but that feels entirely hollow, as well as overly twist the mustache villainesque; there is literally a scene in which a character says I'm not racist, and I have the tests to prove it but... (WHAT? WHY?); there is a cure from AIDS that feels simple even for how stupidly simple it is, and doesn't really fit into any sort of thematic package with the chase them or corporate conspiracy angle; there is a discussion about the rich and the displaced, but it is mangled, like the memory of an old man in the story, and has no sense or reason, even as a basic human response to outside stimuli. It TRIES to be about other things, but there are too many, too shallowly discussed, too randomly tossed in, to actually mean anything. Oh well. It's a fun little story.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mina Villalobos

    Probably the least engaging book of Gibson I have read so far, this one is a very competent story with great storytelling that somehow fails to deliver on the plot-plot. I mean, it was fun and fast paced and interesting and an interpretation of our social future, and it had lots of interesting background choices of historical events and crazy urban tribes and religions created for the universe, along with Gibson's trademark shifting POVs and archetypal characters. It was good, it was fun, it was Probably the least engaging book of Gibson I have read so far, this one is a very competent story with great storytelling that somehow fails to deliver on the plot-plot. I mean, it was fun and fast paced and interesting and an interpretation of our social future, and it had lots of interesting background choices of historical events and crazy urban tribes and religions created for the universe, along with Gibson's trademark shifting POVs and archetypal characters. It was good, it was fun, it was interesting, but it didn't have the oomph that other of his stories had for me. This might be because the central plot, the theft of a device that contains information about an urban development, wasn't exactly... well, it wasn't half as interesting as the story of the bridge, or the story of Shapely and how he was the key to the cure for AIDS, or Tokyo's Godzilla earthquake and further rebuilding.. it's like, out of a book full of amazing stories to be told, and the central one isn't quite as interesting. Still, the characters are a lot of fun, I loved Sammy Sal, and it was all very action-y. Would be a really awesome movie, given all the amazing visuals Gibson works into it. I sound kind of discouraged by this one but I actually enjoyed it quite a lot! just.. not as much as the others, I guess. It will probably build up and more of this will be explored in the other two books of the trilogy.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Petroula

    Παρόλες τις εξαιρετικές περιγραφές δε βρήκα καποια εξισου ισχυρή αφήγηση ιστορίας. ηταν σαν να ξετυλιγες πολλά κουβάρια και στο τέλος τα έβρισκες άσχημα μπλεγμενα. ο συγγραφέας ξεκινά με το στησιμο του κοσμου του ο οποιος ειναι αρκετα παρων καθ' όλη την αναγνωση. υστερα αρχίζει να διαγραφεται αχνα μια ιστορια η οποια ωστόσο δεν εχει αρκετή συνοχή ή ένταση οσο ο ιδιος χωρος. επειτα αλλαζει η ροη αφήγησης αναλογα με την οπτικη καθε προσωπου. το αποτελεσμα ειναι καπως χλιαρό, όπως οταν βλέπεις μια Παρόλες τις εξαιρετικές περιγραφές δε βρήκα καποια εξισου ισχυρή αφήγηση ιστορίας. ηταν σαν να ξετυλιγες πολλά κουβάρια και στο τέλος τα έβρισκες άσχημα μπλεγμενα. ο συγγραφέας ξεκινά με το στησιμο του κοσμου του ο οποιος ειναι αρκετα παρων καθ' όλη την αναγνωση. υστερα αρχίζει να διαγραφεται αχνα μια ιστορια η οποια ωστόσο δεν εχει αρκετή συνοχή ή ένταση οσο ο ιδιος χωρος. επειτα αλλαζει η ροη αφήγησης αναλογα με την οπτικη καθε προσωπου. το αποτελεσμα ειναι καπως χλιαρό, όπως οταν βλέπεις μια ταινια και δεν ακους τους διαλογους αλλα το σαουντρακ. τρια αστερια μόνο και μονο για την ερευνα που φαινεται πως εχει γινει επανω στη πολεοδομικη δυστοπια και την οικειοποιηση εγκαταλελειμμενων χώρων- υποδομών

  15. 5 out of 5

    prcardi

    Storyline: 3/5 Characters: 3/5 Writing Style: ?/5 World: 3/5 Whenever I start a cyberpunk novel, I think, "Oh no, not another one of those." I dread the jagged, clipped sentence structure and the bitingly hip timbre. With Gibson, it at least didn't read as affectation. This was an irascible vision of the future written with bitter resignation of the knowledge of things to come. Not a dystopia warning us off a certain trajectory or an embrace of current trends, the world here is the inevitable conseq Storyline: 3/5 Characters: 3/5 Writing Style: ?/5 World: 3/5 Whenever I start a cyberpunk novel, I think, "Oh no, not another one of those." I dread the jagged, clipped sentence structure and the bitingly hip timbre. With Gibson, it at least didn't read as affectation. This was an irascible vision of the future written with bitter resignation of the knowledge of things to come. Not a dystopia warning us off a certain trajectory or an embrace of current trends, the world here is the inevitable consequence of advancing technology on predatory systems. Classic cyberpunk. As much as I dislike the genre's ostentation, I have to appreciate coming across a sentence like this:The music, some weird hollow techie stuff that sounded like bombs going off in echo-chambers, started to make a different kind of sense.That's the way to describe a future that hasn't come about yet. Just specific enough to make it vivid but without enough concrete descriptors for it to be identifiable. I could see myself as an old man on the block yelling at the kids to turn the volume down and how could they call that noise music anyhow. To the concrete-grey, oppressive sheen that coats Gibson's future, he'll toss in something like this: Separated at Birth was a police program you used in missing persons cases. You scanned a photo of the person you wanted, got back the names of half a dozen celebrities who looked vaguely like the subject, then went around asking people if they'd seen anybody lately who reminded them of A, B, C... The weird thing was, it worked better than just showing them a picture of the subject. The instructor at the Academy in Knoxville had told Rydell's class that that was because it tapped into the part of the brain that kept track of celebrities.Funny. Sad. Livens up the story but makes you even more despondent about society. There was enough of that to reward a reader who makes it to the end but not enough to make it the tell-tale mark of the book or writer. Elsewhere everything was sufficient to the task. The story took a while to get the right players in place, and just when I thought we were finally set up for the slow and steady build-up, Gibson was ratcheting it down and settling in for the resolution. There were some characters, side-stories, and gadgets that were left oddly incomplete. The cyberpunk world, though, was remarkably prescient(view spoiler)[ Particularly with the merry pranksters of hackers - very much how Anonymous is portrayed in the news - and the professionalization of hacking - such as by government agencies. (hide spoiler)] . I liked this much more than I did Neuromancer, which I think is generally regarded as both his and the genre's seminal novel (Oddly, my cover advertises Gibson as the author of The Difference Engine and Mona Lisa Smile but omits Neuromancer). Neuromancer might have been groundbreaking, but I didn't think that it weathered the technological developments of the internet very well and verges on the side of ridiculous when read post-2000. The worldbuilding here was a much more convincing version of the Sprawl, and the inhabiting characters were both relatable and believable as well. This might not have been as significant as the first in the Sprawl series, but it was a more perfected vision. I did think it odd to have so many similarities between this and another 1990s cyberpunk novel(view spoiler)[ Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash (hide spoiler)] . That other novel was published first, I was surprised to learn, but not by very much time. Presumably both would have been in the editing phase in the same period. The themes and character roles in this went beyond simple similarity, and I wonder about the story behind that.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael Drakich

    This is a thriller novel written in a dystopian setting in the near future. As far as the main story goes - a girl, in a pique, steals some special glasses from a guy, which results in her being chased by bad guys and helped by the main character. Standard good cop/bad cop stuff. The only scifi technology introduced of any measure is the glasses and you never get a real feel for what they do. If I am to rate this novel strictly on the main storyline it would get 2 stars...tops. Then there is the This is a thriller novel written in a dystopian setting in the near future. As far as the main story goes - a girl, in a pique, steals some special glasses from a guy, which results in her being chased by bad guys and helped by the main character. Standard good cop/bad cop stuff. The only scifi technology introduced of any measure is the glasses and you never get a real feel for what they do. If I am to rate this novel strictly on the main storyline it would get 2 stars...tops. Then there is the sub-plot. Much time is spent with a character called Skinner who lives in a box atop the Golden gate bridge. Outside of the fact the heroine lives there, and hardly focuses on that, this subplot really goes nowhere in relation to the main story. After reading you think, "What the heck was that all about?" Where this novel does excel is in the world building. The lurid detail in the novel is really quite good. In rating world building, this novel is a solid 5 star. Sadly, world building alone is not enough to give a weak story a high rating. My final analysis - 3 stars.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Corto

    Having read about 70% of Gibson's work, I'd have to say, this is one of my favorites. Tight plot. Rapid movement and action. Dystopian, but not too depressingly so (sort of). Well done book, looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    Rydell picked up Monica's copy of People and found a picture of Gudrun Weaver and the Reverend Wayne Fallon. Gudrun Weaver looked like an actress in her forties. Fallon looked like a possum with hair-implants and a ten-thousand-dollar tuxedo. Synopsis: In post-apocalyptic California, two people's lives collide. Rydell, a rent-a-cop who attracts trouble like *ahem* honey attracts flies, and Chevette, just a girl in the wrong place at the wrong time, unaware that she's stepped in it, bigtime, on an Rydell picked up Monica's copy of People and found a picture of Gudrun Weaver and the Reverend Wayne Fallon. Gudrun Weaver looked like an actress in her forties. Fallon looked like a possum with hair-implants and a ten-thousand-dollar tuxedo. Synopsis: In post-apocalyptic California, two people's lives collide. Rydell, a rent-a-cop who attracts trouble like *ahem* honey attracts flies, and Chevette, just a girl in the wrong place at the wrong time, unaware that she's stepped in it, bigtime, on an international espionage scale. Chevette Washington escaped from a juvie facility in Oregon and made something of herself when she came down to NorCal, the post-earthquake nation that is emphatically not SoCal. Specifically, she found a job as a bike courier and a home on the rogue mob-taken Golden Gate Bridge. All of which she jeopardized by stealing a pair of glasses to get back at some asshole at a crashed party. Good thing for Chevette, Rydell's on the case. Having been fired as a cop and a rent-a-cop, he's got only his roommate to lose. Cue the Cops In Trouble theme music... Here's the thing about Gibson, for me: you either love him or you hate him, and it varies by book. I loved Idoru and its sequel, All Tomorrow's Parties. I hated Neuromancer with the heat of a thousand fiery suns, ditto Mona Lisa Overdrive. Now, without having looked it all up on Amazon, there was something very familiar about this book from All Tomorrow's Parties, and it turns out it's the prequel, if only very loosely based. The thing that binds them together is Gibson's incredible, mind-bendingly real concept of how people take over the Golden Gate Bridge and colonize it in a beautifully organic vision of how things would truly work when things are truly, irrevocably broken. The community Gibson describes is so well thought out, so well realized that it lives and breathes and claws its way out of the book, out of both books, and it's a conceit so incredible that it can sustain its life outside Gibson's work. Chevette and Rydell are both great characters. Thank God for non-boy-crazy girls in smart fiction and ditto for flawed but savvy boys who are--and this is key--willing to adjust their world views, to learn and adapt in order to survive. I still can't stand Neuromancer. Yes, the one that got made into Matrix. Anyway, wholehearted rec for this book, both for scifi and post-apocalyptic fic fans.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    So I'm continuing the Gibson jag I'm on. This one's the first in the Bridge trilogy, another set of novels set in a future dystopia. This time, though, he's more tuned into portraiture than hardware. What's interesting is that the tech which is so much a part of the fabric of the earlier Sprawl trilogy is here relegated to the background. The virtual light of the title ends up playing a role similar to that of Marcellus Wallace's briefcase in Pulp Fiction, or the statue in The Maltese Falcon. Th So I'm continuing the Gibson jag I'm on. This one's the first in the Bridge trilogy, another set of novels set in a future dystopia. This time, though, he's more tuned into portraiture than hardware. What's interesting is that the tech which is so much a part of the fabric of the earlier Sprawl trilogy is here relegated to the background. The virtual light of the title ends up playing a role similar to that of Marcellus Wallace's briefcase in Pulp Fiction, or the statue in The Maltese Falcon. They're technical and advanced, yes, but they really exist to provide a motivation for the book's events. It's pretty refreshing to see something so fetishistic used for so base a narrative purpose. There's definite film noir influence at work through the book, probably fitting for something set in California. I found plenty of throwbacks to Chinatown, for example - land grabs and backroom shonks abound. It's kind of reassuring, actually - Gibson seems to have moved away from the shiny appeal of tech and its futurist promise to use the future to illustrate that no matter the advances, there's always going to be shitbags around. Whether he's depicting shitbags or "better" people, Gibson's eye for detail is great. Chevette is another well-drawn character, a kind of refinement (sans razor-nails) of Molly Millions, and the descriptions of her paper-sculpted pedalling along the hills of San Francisco inspire the reader to grab a bike. It feels like aching quads and wind burn. I'm a bit unsatisfied with how she sometimes appears more hapless than she deserves, but overall she's great. Ditto Rydell, who appears to have wandered in, kinda cluelessly, from a Carl Hiaasen joint. These are well-drawn characters who you like, goddamnit. What's creepy about this novel is how prescient it is. Stuff like Google Glass, private police forces, the rise in both militant movements, maker culture and off-grid living might have seemed improbable when Gibson wrote this, in 1993. But they're all things which are pretty much taken for granted these days. Given the setting is 2006 (and we're now several years past that date) it's perhaps unsurprising. The only thing missing is the earthquake - and you know that's coming someday.

  20. 5 out of 5

    The Nerd Book Review

    Great book! I will be recording a podcast episode on this here shortly, which will be available here, The Nerd Book Review but a quick and dirty review. I read SnowCrash before this novel and really enjoyed it. After reading this though my rating for SnowCrash has gone down a bit. This novel does dystopian the right way. The world feels so dirty and unfair. A girl makes a poor decision and steals something from the wrong people. That decision leads to a series of actions with an ending that is ve Great book! I will be recording a podcast episode on this here shortly, which will be available here, The Nerd Book Review but a quick and dirty review. I read SnowCrash before this novel and really enjoyed it. After reading this though my rating for SnowCrash has gone down a bit. This novel does dystopian the right way. The world feels so dirty and unfair. A girl makes a poor decision and steals something from the wrong people. That decision leads to a series of actions with an ending that is very satisfying. I will write a bit more once I’ve had a little while to think things through a bit.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex DiDonato

    Good. Just good. It was more action/suspense than sci-fi as one might expect. I think I would probably have rated this higher if: 1 - I read it around the time it was published. Some the futuristic, sci-fi parts are reality now, so the novelty of those parts didn't have the punch they probably once did. "Oh, we have that now. Neat." 2 - I hadn't read Snow Crash first. Snow Crash was/is excellent.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    Gibson's world-building is characteristically strong. The plot, pacing and development of characters seemed off a step. A middling effort, but I finished it. I'm not one to finish a book just for the sake of finishing it - something needs to keep me going and this novel did. Luckily it's short length aided in reading one of Gibson's lessor works. Even a lessor work of Gibson's is better than most. Every writer is allowed books that don't quite hit the mark, especially if they, like Gibson, have p Gibson's world-building is characteristically strong. The plot, pacing and development of characters seemed off a step. A middling effort, but I finished it. I'm not one to finish a book just for the sake of finishing it - something needs to keep me going and this novel did. Luckily it's short length aided in reading one of Gibson's lessor works. Even a lessor work of Gibson's is better than most. Every writer is allowed books that don't quite hit the mark, especially if they, like Gibson, have provided so many that do.

  23. 5 out of 5

    J-Man

    Utisak nije baš bio najpovoljniji tokom većeg dela romana, delovalo je kao da je ovo možda najslabija Gibsonova knjiga ali onda je odjednom sve došlo na mesto, uključujući čak i otrcane žanrovske trope. Kuriozitet je da ovde imamo ne jednog nego čak dva srpska lika, i obojica su relevantni za zaplet, iako u pozadini istog. Jedan je zavisnik od virtuelnog seksa kojem zdipe Mekgafin naočare a drugi je imigrant i stanodavac jednog od glavnih likova. Ime Voli, prezime Divac. :-D

  24. 5 out of 5

    Max Ostrovsky

    As a teenager, I remember I loved William Gibson. I loved Neuromancer. Now, after reading this book, I'm no longer sure. His writing skills are sound, but just couldn't get interested in a story about some lost VR glasses. I think that Gibson spent too much time creating a world for this story, in this very short book, that he left out what would make it an interesting story. Eh, that's okay. A friend told me that Neuromancer was the only decent thing he wrote anyway.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nolan Egly

    William Gibson’s fourth novel Virtual Light is a multifaceted projection of a not so distant dystopian future. Although the plot is simplistic, the backdrop of economic, social, and cultural detail that Gibson posits is stunningly detailed and a large part of the enjoyment factor for the book. Fans of his earlier work (the Sprawl series) will notice some drop in the amount of technical forecasting since the story is a mere 13 years in the future (the story is set in 2006, the book was published William Gibson’s fourth novel Virtual Light is a multifaceted projection of a not so distant dystopian future. Although the plot is simplistic, the backdrop of economic, social, and cultural detail that Gibson posits is stunningly detailed and a large part of the enjoyment factor for the book. Fans of his earlier work (the Sprawl series) will notice some drop in the amount of technical forecasting since the story is a mere 13 years in the future (the story is set in 2006, the book was published in 1993), but any sense of loss is compensated in the growth of social and cultural aspects he portrays. The writing style is very terse, but communicates volumes in the short phrases. This was not a book I sped through, I would frequently find myself pausing to reflect and reread a non-dialog phrase. The story takes places in a San Francisco that has endured a crippling earthquake that rendered the Golden Gate Bridge unusable for cars and morphed into a shantytown of squatters that live there in buildings made from whatever scavenged materials were on hand. The bridge is considered dangerous by the social elite, but the people living there for the most part are store owners, bartenders, and food vendors simply trying to stay on their feet. The main characters are two ordinary people trying to scrape out a living. Berry Rydell had law enforcement ambitions but after multiple incidents of bad luck found himself driving for a skip-tracer, a new breed of private investigator. Chevette Washington is a messenger biker who in a moment of impulse punishes a jerk at a party by stealing a pair of glasses from his pockets, not knowing how valuable they are. When Berry and Chevette collide, they find themselves caught up in the interests and events of a powerful multi-national conglomerate and fighting for their lives. Previous Gibson themes are still here – weakening ineffectual government, a society ruled by ruthless corporations – but new ones also begin to emerge in this work. The social gap between the haves, many living in underground palaces, and the have-nots is a clearer focus. The influence of media on society, which features prominently in Gibson’s following book Idoru, also begins to be portrayed. I first read Virtual Light as a teenager after consuming the Sprawl books, and remember feeling disappointed by the down toning of the gadgetry. Reading it now, I’ve discovered that Gibson’s magic isn’t just in the technical imaginings, but the texture and visuals he creates in your mind through the narrative. I often don’t picture a lot of detail in my mind when reading, but Gibson is so convincing in his elaborations that I feel like I’m actually there in his hypothetical future. What Virtual Light lacks in plot or character development is more than compensated for in atmosphere. The imagined future isn’t pretty, but it’s worth a visit through its pages to see the sights.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    This is excellent! I liked it much more than all three novels in the Neuromancer trilogy (not that I didn't like those a lot). The idea of the repurposed Golden Gate Bridge is ingenious and inspirational. The two main characters are both likable and easy to root for. Of course, this IS a dystopian novel, and there is much in it that is chilling and sometimes uncomfortably prescient.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rita Monticelli

    Scroll down for the English version. Il padre del cyberpunk non mi ha convinto Questo romanzo mi ha lasciato perplessa sin dalle sue prime righe. Ammetto di aver riletto la prima pagina un paio di volte, poiché non mi era chiaro di chi stesse parlando, dove si trovasse e soprattutto cosa stesse facendo. Mai mi era capitato di imbattermi in un incipit così incomprensibile, che a mio parere avrebbe scoraggiato i più. Ma io sono caparbia e sono andata avanti. Nel procedere, l'ambientazione, i pers Scroll down for the English version. Il padre del cyberpunk non mi ha convinto Questo romanzo mi ha lasciato perplessa sin dalle sue prime righe. Ammetto di aver riletto la prima pagina un paio di volte, poiché non mi era chiaro di chi stesse parlando, dove si trovasse e soprattutto cosa stesse facendo. Mai mi era capitato di imbattermi in un incipit così incomprensibile, che a mio parere avrebbe scoraggiato i più. Ma io sono caparbia e sono andata avanti. Nel procedere, l'ambientazione, i personaggi e la storia diventano più chiari, sebbene la comprensione non è mai immediata, ma nasce da una ricerca degli elementi essenziali in mezzo ad una marea di divagazioni, che nella maggior parte dei casi hanno poca o nulla attinenza con la trama. La San Francisco post-catastrofe, con le persone che hanno occupato il ponte di Oakland ormai in disuso e vi abitano, ha un suo fascino, soprattutto per chi ama la fantascienza post-apocalittica (anche se non è il mio caso), e mette in luce l'immensa fantasia dell'autore. Ma il modo apparentemente caotico in cui il tutto viene presentato, ti fa quasi pensare che quest'ultimo avesse troppe idee in testa e non sia poi riuscito a trasferirle sulla carta nella maniera giusta. Al di là dello stile che può piacere o no, a mio parere ciò in cui questo romanzo pecca ancora di più è la trama. Tolte le numerosissime digressioni e divagazioni, resta una storia brevissima e debole, con personaggi che non riescono proprio a coinvolgerti. Ho avuto come l'impressione che questi venissero descritti da fuori, talvolta senza che l'autore avesse la certezza dei fatti raccontati. Per non parlare dell'argomento cyberspazio e luce virtuale, che qui viene praticamente solo accennato e quasi per niente spiegato. È anche vero che si tratta del primo dei romanzi di un ciclo, ma è di sicuro l'ultimo che leggerò. Ammetto che se, non avessi saputo in precedenza chi era e cosa rappresentava l'autore, l'avrei semplicemente catalogato come un pessimo libro di un pessimo scrittore. Non me ne vogliano i fan di Gibson, ma personalmente ritengo che la lettura debba essere intrattenimento, mentre in questo caso mi sono spesso annoiata e sono rimasta pure delusa dal finale sbrigativo e sotto tono rispetto a tutto il resto. In ogni caso è stata comunque una lettura istruttiva, per certi versi, ma il mio giudizio deve essere comunque legato al gradimento generale, che è stato senza dubbio basso. The father of cyberpunk has not convinced to me This novel left me puzzled since its opening lines. I admit I re-read the first page a couple of times because it was not clear to me who he was talking about, their whereabouts and especially what they were doing. I had never happened to run into such an incomprehensible starting that in my opinion would have discouraged the most. 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. I admit that if I had not known before who the author was and what he represented, I would have simply listed it as a bad book by a bad writer. I apologize with Gibson's fans, but I personally believe that reading should be entertainment, while in this case I got often bored and I was also disappointed by the hasty final, subdued if compared to everything else. In any case, it was still an instructive reading, in some ways, but my judgment must still be linked to the general satisfaction, which was undoubtedly low.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cyndy Aleo

    A huge William Gibson fan, I honest have to say I had never read anything of his, from short stories to novels, that I ever truly hated. When Virtual Light was released back in 1993, I was there within the week to pay full retail for the hardcover and devour it with my usual relish. By the third paragraph, I realized I wasn't reading the usual Gibson novel, and by the time I was halfway through, I was pretty darn sure that I would never re-read the book. Well, never say never, because I've been A huge William Gibson fan, I honest have to say I had never read anything of his, from short stories to novels, that I ever truly hated. When Virtual Light was released back in 1993, I was there within the week to pay full retail for the hardcover and devour it with my usual relish. By the third paragraph, I realized I wasn't reading the usual Gibson novel, and by the time I was halfway through, I was pretty darn sure that I would never re-read the book. Well, never say never, because I've been ill and not able to do much other than read lately, and am trying to read more books to free through BookCrossing. I had truly forgotten everything about Virtual Light, but struggled through just to say I'd read it again before freeing it. ::: NoCal and SoCal, or Gibson As Done By John Jakes ::: Virtual Light is set in 2005, which may have seemed a long way off back in 1993, but makes the book even more painful when you read it "in the present." In Gibson's 2005, California is actually two separate entities: NoCal and SoCal, and the Golden Gate Bridge is little more than an elaborate junkyard civilization comprised of homeless people. We meet our two main characters, Berry Rydell and Chevette Washington, in two very different situations. Berry, a former police officer who was fired for killing a man holding his family hostage, is working as a private security guard when he and his partner are sent out on an assignment and authorized to use deadly force. Chevette is a bicycle messenger who ends up at a party and steals what appear to be a pair of sunglasses from an arrogant partygoer just because he annoyed her. Of course, this being Gibson, Rydell learns that the communications system was hacked and there really was no need to drive the company-issued SUV through the house they were responding to, and Chevette learns that the sunglasses are more than just sunglasses, wanted by people willing to kill to get them back. As Rydell accepts a freelance job to pay the rent and Chevette goes on the run after she and a friend from work are attacked for the glasses, the two characters end up working together, which of course, you expected all along. What the glasses are, why everyone wants them so badly, and how Chevette and Rydell get out of the mess they find themselves in is so convoluted and trite that you'll find yourself groaning as you turn each page. ::: When Gibson Isn't Gibson ::: There were so many things wrong with Virtual Light that I almost didn't know where to begin. Gibson, of course, is best known for his novel Neuromancer, the father of all cyberpunk novels. With Virtual Light, he hits way too close to the present for the story to be very believable. The concept of the bridge as a sort of homeless camp set up after an earthquake decimates the area just seems a bit too cutesy and contrived, and the use of a sociology student studying life on the bridge as an expository method seems like a failed lesson right out of Fiction Writing 101. Gibson's characters are drawn so thinly that not only can the reader not muster up the desire to care about them, I don't think he did either. Chevette's boyfriend is a caricature, placed only as a plot device, and in such an obvious way as to say "Hey! Look at me! You'll see my use later!" Silly little props like a business card Rydell gets during the backstory are such obvious plants that I was almost wondering if they were paid product placement. As you can imagine, the plot plods along like a dot-to-dot picture. Gibson plops down points A, B, and C, which we will later join up with points D, E, and F, most of the time, in the exact order in which they were presented. Rydell meets an annoying woman on the plane, and OF COURSE they run into her later. Rydell's partner belonged to a religious sect who believes God is in reruns of old movies on television, and of course, they come into play later on. As do the hackers. It's so predictable that instead of anticipating a big climax, you find yourself falling asleep at the end, just wondering when it will all be over. Virtual Light would have been a disappointing read no matter who the author was, but the fact that it is Gibson makes it a staggering disappointment. This review originally published on Epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/Book_V...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    I sort of regret that this was my first Gibson book... I bet his others were better. The world is pretty much like what you'd expect from 90's cyberpunk, but I couldn't get into the characters. It's a little like Snowcrash, but not as bad.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Max Renn

    Part two of the William Gibson re-read project. Following quickly on the heels of the Blue Ant trilogy, and not having read the Bridge Trilogy for some time, I am struck by the vigorous naturalism of this book. It will sound strange, particularly since this book is designed by Harakawa Sisco in what was im sure at the time a very hip but destined to date badly 'cyber' style, but this might actually be the grittiest, most organic of the three Gibson trilogies. If the Blue Ant trilogy feels more lik Part two of the William Gibson re-read project. Following quickly on the heels of the Blue Ant trilogy, and not having read the Bridge Trilogy for some time, I am struck by the vigorous naturalism of this book. It will sound strange, particularly since this book is designed by Harakawa Sisco in what was im sure at the time a very hip but destined to date badly 'cyber' style, but this might actually be the grittiest, most organic of the three Gibson trilogies. If the Blue Ant trilogy feels more like a Vermeer, with its cool, elegant, very much in control adults, competently and impressively going about their smart business, Virtual Light is filled with Boschian characters and almost Neimanesque sense of hyperreal color and a surface textures going gloriously sideways. As messy, vivid, innocent and delicious as any slightly overripe peach. His characters here are naive and prone to fuck ups of the most charming kind. And if the plot is a bit thin, well then that is missing the point, Gibson is feeling out and flexing that sense of place and detail that are his strong points. It is here that he started his serious attempts to chronicle the interstitial spaces of our world. Gibson still thought he had to try to guess the future here. Perhaps it was looking back to these halcyon days of 1993 that informed his decision to go for the ever present future. The realization that it is a futurists fate to perpetually play catch up with the high weirdness. My friend, the good doctor, i seem to recall, likes this trilogy the best and i am starting to see why. This is Gibson at his most humanist, perhaps not his most romantic but certainly with the biggest heart. On to Idoru...

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