Thursday, May 7, 2015

Review of All Tomorrow's Parties

Book #16. All Tomorrow’s Parties, by William Gibson. Unabridged audio.

On a recent episode of my solo podcast, I commented about how hard it is to convincingly write about future technology. It is extremely difficult to project technology into the future, and when it is done badly, it can be laughable. William Gibson knows how to write the future convincingly. The book was written more than 15 years ago,

Before starting this book, I knew that it was third in a series, but was convinced by online reviews that I could read this as a stand-alone. Now, I was not always sure what was going on in the story all the time, but I don’t know if that was due to picking up the series here. My recollection of the prior Gibson novels I read was that they were also a bit hard to follow on occasion. 

The book is made up of three overlapping main plot threads, with shared characters and a shared location for the novel’s conclusion. Despite the narrowness of this focus, Gibson manages to tell a story with an epic sweep. We have a hacker who lives in a cardboard box in Tokyo. We have a bicycle messenger in San Francisco. We have a virtual reality pop singer. And all of these characters (and many more) are involved in a story involving pharmaceutical trials gone wrong, the ubiquity of the net, and the consequences of technology on humanity. 

Gibson’s strength as a novelist lay in his ability to express his themes, and to create compelling worlds and interesting characters. This novel marks a move away from his hard science-fiction “cyber-punk” roots, into a more mainstream form, albeit one still informed by technology.

Source: received from Brilliance Audio, for discussion on the Book Guys Show podcast.

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