Monday, December 1, 2014
Circles through the net
The Sprawl Trilogy seems more circular than linear. This makes sense because so much of it takes place in a world that doesn't exist and is constantly rebirthing itself and the culture that surrounds it.
The push-and-pull of the real world and the net is probably a huge part of why Gibson is hailed as such a prescient author. He published The Sprawl Trilogy right as the real-world internet was starting to become something that people actually interacted with and he's one of the few writers who grasped that the larger society would subsume and then be consumed by online lives.
Mona Lisa Overdrive finishes what Neuromancer started - exploring the hair-fine line dividing the net from the real world and the ways to pass through and between the two. Like Dick, Gibson questions reality and its constraints and pushes the boundaries of what his characters (and readers) understand.
MLO brings together characters from both Neuromancer and Count Zero as well as introducing us to some new faces. There are, somewhat unfortunately, no physical visits to Straylight but there is a fascinating filling-in of the physical world - Cleveland and Florida and London appear on the pages as places that are new and bright and filthy and old and tired as our friends (and you do want to be friends with these characters) pass through them.
The geography of the novel is arresting. Neuromancer happens largely in a haze of drugs and jacking in and out of the net, Count Zero takes place in desolate deserts and the crowded Sprawl, but MLO is all over the place - hiding in constructs and bare wastes and the sprawl and old London townhouses. It fills itself with the world and colors the buildings it passes by.
There are huge parts of the story that I like, particularly the relationship between Kumiko and everyone's favorite razorgirl, but the book as a whole leaves me a little cold. I've already said that nothing is Neuromancer, but I can't help feeling that Mona Lisa Overdrive is just close enough to sting. I wish it was a little more than it is, but what it is just has to be enough.
Gibson, William. Mona Lisa Overdrive. Bantam Books. New York: New York. 1988.