Virtual Light by William Gibson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The last time I read this book was 10+ years ago. After I recently traveled to San Francisco, where a lot of this book is set, I wanted to re-read it. I remember it as being ok, but not his best, and certainly not as good as the last book in this ‘Bridge Trilogy’ – ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’.
I was also a little trepidatious about doing so since a relatively recent re-read of Neuromancer did not hold up to my memories.
It turned out though that Virtual Light is much, much better than I remembered. The concept of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge becoming effectively a shanty town I remembered as being brilliantly described, and that was the same this time. Furthermore the plot seemed to whizz by and the character development was good. The ‘historical’ sub-plot of the ‘HIV martyr’ JD Shapely was well conceived and fantastically exposed during the rest of the book.
I only give 4 stars since I think the character development could have been a little better, and also I thought that one of the key plot points (why the glasses were so valuable) was a little weak.
Another thing that works about this book now is that it was set at the time in the ‘near future’ – the early 2000’s (it was first published in 1994.) We’re obviously now past that point so instead of science fiction this book effectively becomes more speculative fiction. I enjoyed this as such since it’s good to know things didn’t turn out as bad as they could, yet on the other hand some of the themes still offer a warning about how out society could become if left to be screwed up by corporations and the upper classes.