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William Gibson

William Gibson (born 1948) is credited with having coined the term “cyberspace” and envisioned the Internet — and its effects on daily life — before any such things existed. Many of his descriptions and metaphors have entered the culture as images of human relationships in the “wired” age. William Gibson is married and has two children.


Neuromancer: Clones, AIs, and Ninjas

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Originally published in 1984, William Gibson’s debut novel, Neuromancer, has it all: clones, artificial intelligences that manipulate human affairs, and ninjas. In contrast, our burned out hero, Henry Dorset Case, is not very impressive. But he’s trying.

When we meet him, Case is doing his best to hustle a living in Chiba City, Japan. He used to be a hacker, but his employers corrupted his body when they caught him stealing. Now, Case is searching for a miracle cure or perhaps a ticket out of this life. Enter Molly Millions, a woman whose implants have endowed her with lightning reflexes. And razorblades in her fingers. Molly and her backer set Case up with a series of new organs so that he can ride his console one more time.

Gibson’s writing is often remembered for its influence on cyberpunk and science fiction. But make no mistake: Wil... Read More

Count Zero: Neuromancer’s been busy

Count Zero by William Gibson

They plot with men, my other selves, and men imagine they are gods.

Several years have passed since Molly and Case freed the AI who calls himself Neuromancer. Neuromancer’s been busy and now his plots have widened to involve several people whom we meet in Count Zero:

Turner is a recently reconstructed mercenary who’s been hired by the Hosaka Corporation to extract Christopher Mitchell and his daughter Angie from Mitchell’s job at Maas Biolabs. Mitchell is the creator of the world’s first biochip, and he’s secretly agreed to move to Hosaka. Extracting an indentured research scientist is a deadly game, but Turner is one of the best.

Bobby “Count Zero” Newmark, who wants to be a console cowboy, has just pulled a Wilson (that means he majorly screwed up) on his first attempt at running an unknown icebr... Read More

Mona Lisa Overdrive: Stylish, lacks impact of prequels

Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson

In Mona Lisa Overdrive, the third and final novel in William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy, it’s been seven years since Angie Mitchell (from Count Zero) was taken out of Maas Biolabs and now she’s a famous simstim star who’s trying to break her designer drug habit. But a jealous Lady 3Jane plans to kidnap Angie and replace her with a cheap prostitute named Mona Lisa who’s addicted to stimulants and happens to look like Angie.

In a dilapidated section of New Jersey, Slick Henry makes large animated robotic sculptures out of scrap metal. He owes Kid Afrika a favor, so now he has to hide the comatose body of Bobby Newmark (aka “Count Zero”). Bobby is jacked into an Aleph where he’s got some secret project going on. A Cleveland girl named Cherry Chesterfield is Bobby’s n... Read More

Burning Chrome: Get to know William Gibson

Burning Chrome by William Gibson

William Gibson is one of those authors whose style is so distinct that it’s immediately recognizable. Anyone who’s read one of his novels could pick up another and, without looking at the cover, probably identify it as Gibson’s merely by reading the first page. His popularity indicates that legions of readers love his neon-infused plastic sheeting-coated visionary style, but as evidenced by reviews of his novels at Amazon and other places, many readers just don’t appreciate William Gibson. They complain about a wooly writing style and vague incomprehensible plots. Having been enthralled by Neuromancer and Count Zero, just slightly annoyed by Mona Lisa Overdrive and All Tomorrow’s Parties, and completely frustrated by The Difference Engine, I can understand both views.
... Read More

The Difference Engine: Thickly veiled and imperceptible

The Difference Engine by William Gibson & Bruce Sterling

William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, two major SciFi powerhouses, joined forces to produce The Difference Engine, a classic steampunk novel which was nominated for the 1990 British Science Fiction Award, the 1991 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1992 John W. Campbell Memorial Award and Prix Aurora Award. I listened to Brilliance Audio’s version which was produced in 2010 and read by the always-wonderful Simon Vance.

The Difference Engine takes place in a nearly unrecognizable Victorian England. The fundamental “difference” between this alternate history and the real one is that Charles Babbage succeeded in building his Difference Engine — the first analytical computer. Thus, the information age develops (along with the industrial revolution) in the social, political, and scie... Read More

Virtual Light: Examines the intersection of technology and culture

Virtual Light by William Gibson

William Gibson’s SPRAWL, as seminal a trilogy of books if ever there were in modern science fiction, is a tough act to follow, let alone by the man who wrote the books. But if the series can be considered raw steel, then the follow up has to be considered the bare blade. Honing in on the present, Gibson shows no shortage of the futurological imagination and wordsmithing that made him famous. 1993’s Virtual Light, the first book in the BRIDGE series, is every bit as genius.

Virtual Light, and the BRIDGE series as a whole, has a lot in common with the SPRAWL series. Gibson continues to paint vignettes of the future and examine the intersection of technology and culture, society, religion, and politics. And the writing, as always, is kept drum tight. But the BRIDGE series is also a departure. Set merely years in the future rather than decades, the ... Read More

Idoru: Slick and shiny, but also deep

Idoru by William Gibson

Idoru (1996) is billed as the middle novel in William Gibson’s BRIDGE trilogy (bookended by Virtual Light and All Tomorrow’s Parties) but, though it shares some history and characters with its companions, it can easily stand alone.

Idoru follows the stories of two people who live in Gibson’s post-industrial world. One is Colin Laney (of All Tomorrow’s Parties) who grew up in a Florida orphanage where he was given experimental drugs that changed his brain in such a way that he can now see patterns in huge amounts of data. Laney thinks of h... Read More

All Tomorrow’s Parties: Fascinating post-post-industrial setting

All Tomorrow’s Parties by William Gibson

When he was a child in an orphanage in Florida, Colin Laney participated in a research study in which he was given a drug that allows him to visualize and extract meaningful information from endless streams of internet data. Laney now has the ability to see nodal points in history — times and places where important changes are occurring. Even though he doesn’t recognize what the change will be, he “sees the shapes from which history emerges.”

Laney is now an adult who’s sick and living in a cardboard box in a Tokyo subway station. He’s convinced that something big is about to happen in San Francisco. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen, but he knows it will change the world. Unable to get there himself, Laney hires Rydell, a California rent-a-cop, to investigate.

Rydell is pleased to be leaving his lowly night job at the Lucky Dragon convenience ... Read More

Pattern Recognition: A mature masterpiece

Pattern Recognition William Gibson

William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition was published in 2003 and it marks the first of what has come to be known as the Bigend trilogy, a series of three novels united by a background character, Hubertus Bigend.

Cayce (pronounced like ‘case’) Pollard is a marketing consultant who is highly sensitive to corporate logos. In fact, it’s almost as though she’s allergic to bad logos. She’s made her living working as a freelance consultant thanks to this sensitivity. Although she’s quite fashionable in her non-designer label clothing, Cayce has turned her attention to things other than fashion. Lately, her passion is the “footage,” a topic that she researches using online forums and networks.

The footage is a series of anonymous film clips that have captured the attention of a growing audience of people. But who is putting these c... Read More

Spook Country: Weakest in Gibson’s Bigend trilogy

Spook Country by William Gibson

William Gibson’s Spook Country is set in the same universe as Pattern Recognition, but Hubertus Bigend aside, there is little here that recalls its predecessor. Spook Country is perhaps the weakest entry in Gibson’s Bigend trilogy.

Where Pattern Recognition was told from Cayce Pollard’s point of view, Spook Country is divided between three plotlines that only barely touch each other. Hollis Henry, who was once the lead singer of a rock band, is trying to make it as a journalist, and she has been hired by Hubertus Bigend to look into “locative art” technology. Milgrim is an addict and a translator of Russian. Trained in the Russian martial art systema, Tito delivers files to retired spies on behalf of his uncles.

These cha... Read More

Zero History: A well-crafted conclusion to the Bigend trilogy

Zero History by William Gibson

It is getting more difficult to classify William Gibson as an SFF writer. Although Gibson’s earliest work stands alongside the best of science fiction and cyberpunk, and The Difference Engine, which he co-wrote with Bruce Sterling, is a well-respected steampunk novel, Gibson’s Bigend trilogy has left cyberpunk, outer space, and human cloning behind.

Instead, Zero History is about jeans.

Gabriel Hounds clothing is unlike any clothing now made by mainstream fashion companies. The fabric is of the highest quality, and it is especially well made. What’s more, the design is iconic, yet timeless. These clothes aren’t the height of “fashion.” They’re real.

They’re also impossible to find. What an unusual marketing strategy. Marketing guru and CEO of Blue Ant, Hubertus Bigend charges former lead... Read More

Distrust That Particular Flavor: Gibson’s “Best of” non-fiction album

Distrust That Particular Flavor by William Gibson

Distrust That Particular Flavor is William Gibson’s non-fiction compilation album. These entries, which are arranged neither chronologically nor thematically, touch on a variety of subjects, ranging from Japanese culture to Steely Dan to how recent technologies will evolve.

Gibson begins the work explaining how he learned to write fiction. He further admits that many of his non-fiction works were done primarily because Wired and other publications offered to fly him abroad if he’d comment on his experiences. Given the introduction, readers might not expect much from Distrust That Particular Flavor, but I often enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it more than I do most compilations of non-fiction written by novelists, perhaps in part ... Read More

The Peripheral: Here’s how a writer builds worlds

The Peripheral by William Gibson

Reading William Gibson is like learning a new language. At first you struggle. It's a bit boring, although you can tell that's just because you don't understand, that there are exciting things happening under the surface. Then, one day, you've learned enough vocabulary and grammar that it starts to click and you can converse.

His latest novel, The Peripheral, which I listened to on audio, read by Lorelei King, follows two interlocking story-lines. One is from the perspective of Flynne, a young woman in a not-too-distant but horribly bleak American future. Her brother Burton, an ex-Marine, gets Flynne a job running security in what she believes is a virtual reality game. While on the job, she witnesses a horrifying murder. Flynne soon realizes that what she saw was not virtual, but actually happened. As the sole witness, she is drawn into the murder investigation. Puzzlingl... Read More

Agency: Sounds an alarm

Agency by William Gibson

William Gibson’s latest novel, Agency (2020), is a follow-up to The Peripheral which needs to be read first. In The Peripheral we learned that in the not-too-distant future, someone will discover some software on a secret server in China which allows users to interact with people using the internet in the past (our modern day). Contacting people in the past makes a new timeline branch called a “stub.” The future people who create the stub can play around with it, influencing the economy, politics, and even waging war.

The future people we met in The Peripheral are a group of friends named Wilf, Lev, and Ash who live in London, which has been ... Read More

Archangel, Issue One, by William Gibson and Michael St. John Smith

 Archangel, Issue One by William Gibson and Michael St. John Smith, Illustrated by Butch Guice

I kept my head down as I moved through the crowd. This mission was a total Hail Mary, two agents-in-place improvising because we had to work fast. Fankind risked his cover even talking to HQ, but if the intel was right, if he had what we thought he had… “Archangel, Issue One, by William Gibson,” he had said. “This could change everything.”

Rumors were only rumors, of course, but as I pretended an interest in the Cruisin’ The Main Drag Car Parade I couldn’t help, just for a few seconds, but dream. The first original comic co-written by William Gibson and Michael St. John Sm... Read More

Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology: An examination of what defines the genre

Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology edited by Bruce Sterling

There are a handful of people who have/had their finger on the pulse of cyberpunk. Love him or hate him, Bruce Sterling has perhaps two. In 1986 he decided to pull together a collection of stories he felt were representative of the sub-genre. Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology is both broad in scope yet largely encompasses the idea of what the average sci-fi fan's expectations are for the form. Though Sterling’s agenda is his own, some stories will be immediately recognizable for their mood and voice, while others will require more thought toward determining just how they fit into the sub-genre, if at all. The following is a brief introduction to each.

"The Gernsback Continuum" by William Gibson Read More

The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories: Humane science fiction

The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories edited by Tom Shippey

I read Tom Shippey's other excellent collection, The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories some time ago, so it was only a matter of time before I sought out this one. Like its stablemate, The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories consists of a chronological collection of stories from a variety of authors with an introduction by the editor. I was struck by the idea of "fabril" literature, which is discussed in the introduction: a form of literature in which the "smith" is central. Certainly, a great deal of early science fiction in particular involves a clever engineer solving some sort of problem, and I'm sure many careers in engineering and the sciences have been launched in this way. I'd say that there is some tendency, though, as the genre matures, for technology to become the problem and human factors the solutio... Read More

Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded

Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded is the second steampunk anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, following 2008’s first installment. It contains about twice as many stories as its predecessor, but unlike the first collection the quality is more uneven here, resulting in a less impressive but still fascinating anthology that should please fans of the genre.

While the first anthology only contained one story I was less than happy with, there are at least four or five in Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded that I could have done without. There are also a few stories here that are at best marginally connected to steampunk, although that probably depends more on how you define steampunk. After all, there are probably as many definitions of steampunk as there are readers. Maybe the best way to defin... Read More

Why You Should Read… William Gibson

If you'd like to contribute a post to this series, please contact the editor.

Today I am pleased to welcome Tom Hunter, the ever-enthusiastic Award Administrator for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Tom can be found on Twitter as @clarkeaward. It should come as no surprise that his chosen Why You Should Read... subject comes from the world of Science Fiction, one William Gibson.

“Anti-buzz,” he said. “Definition by absence.”

She waited to see if he’d indicate that he was joking. He didn’t. “That’s ridiculous.”

I’ve bought more William Gibson books as gifts for other people than I have those of any other author.

I buy a lot of books as gifts.

A big part of what I do in what I guess we mig... Read More