Idoru, William Gibson

Putnam, 1996, 292 pages, C$33.95 hc, ISBN 0-399-14130-8

TONIGHT, on “Litterarly Incompetent!”:

Is William Gibson still living off Neuromancer‘s Reputation?

Ever since the release of his latest novel Idoru, fans are asking the same question: Is this good stuff for you, or good stove fuel? Is Gibson back, or still living in Wired magazine? Is there life after Neuromancer?

Tonight, we will attempt to answer these questions. And the answers may not please you. Please welcome the Literary Incompetent himself, Christian S.!

Fancy introduction, but does the job.

For various reasons, I’ve been less than enthusiastic about William Gibson in recent times. Neuromancer was a classic, but far less can be said about Gibson’s later works. I’ve been variously bored and confused by everything else. Cyberpunk’s nice, but it’s also mostly irrelevant: Low-life people living in dirty cities doing insignificant things. Is this what I want in my SF?

And I’d rather not talk about The Difference Engine.

In Idoru, we meet two very different persons: A man named Laney, whose particular talent is an uncanny ability to spot relevant information in a sea of virtual data. Then, a fourteen-year-old girl named Chia, member of Seattle’s Lo/Rez Fan Club. Both are going to Japan, to search for the same thing.

You see, Rez (one “half” of the band Lo/Rez) has declared that he will soon marry. Except that his bride-to-be is an Idoru, a virtual person with a programmed personality and no corporeal existence. Both Laney and Chia, from their own perspectives, are investigating why Rez would do such an idiotic thing.

Idoru is in many ways a step up from Gibson’s previous work. It seemed shorter, read faster and felt better than Virtual Light, (less filling, too) although Virtual Light wasn’t such a bad novel.

But Idoru is far from being a great work. It’s a good story, well-written, with sometimes confusing action. As a first novel, it would be fine, even promising. But as a sixth novel by a “master of the genre”…

Fortunately, it’s written with the same hip style than the previous novels: Not always clear, but usually with a certain potency. Gibson has an eye for details and unusual gadgets are strewn around the story.

The problem with Idoru is that I’m running out of things to say. Much like the novel itself, I’m trying to cover that up by fancy style and rhetoric. And failing miserably.

So yeah, basically, it’s decent and well-written, but that’s about it. There are no sparks, no flashes, no fireworks from this. It’s the kind of novel that gets two stars out of four: Not really bad, but nothing exceptional either.

Definitely wait for the paperback, borrow it from the library but don’t use the waiting list, etc…

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