Saturday, December 6, 2014
I've never read the Bridge trilogy as a trilogy - I got the books out of order and pieced them together in my head. I haven't read the books in at least five years either, so I'm coming in to them fresh.
Virtual Light is messy and slapdash, but relentlessly entertaining. Chevette is badass and awesome and makes me want to be a bike messenger, Rydell is kind and a little stupid and an interesting main character because of it, and watching the two of them cause trouble together is a lot of fun.
The background characters really steal the story here. Sublett and his allergies are a funny diversion and the TV cult he escaped from makes me curious to know more about him. Skinner is noble and pathetic and raises a million questions that we don't get anywhere near enough answers to. JD Shapely is a mystery who we're only given enough information about to desperately want more.
San Francisco and LA are also characters, in their own odd way. The cities are smutty and dark and different from the cities as they currently are, but similar enough in enough ways that you can almost see the haze of smog and fog floating through the pages.
This is a great novel to dig in to, to bite down and expand your imagination. It's not as remote and foreign as the universe of Neuromancer, nor as familiar as the world of Pattern Recognition, so you can build up a base of familiar things (security companies, city layouts, bike couriers) combine them with bizarre ideas (nanotech buildings, an earthquake named Godzilla, the Golden Gate Bridge as a city unto itself) and write the concepts in between those two worlds for yourself, making the story richer than just the words on the page.
Gibson's stories demand participation. They ask effort from the reader to make the words resolve into something meaningful. Virtual Light is a great example of this concept, and a good place to start if you're not familiar with the rest of Gibson's works.
Gibson, William. Virtual Light. Bantam Books. New York: New York. 1993.