4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Virtual Light (Paperback)
Reading a Gibson novel is an act of faith. He weaves seemingly tenuous threads into a vivid plot. Don't expect to fully comprehend where you're going until you're well into his story. Looking at the last pages doesn't help, either. Let him carry you through the story. It's worth the effort. Gibson's characterizations are peerless, even though so many of his people seem outlandish in our perception. His eye for the future is unmatched. Harlan Ellison's dictum that "SF" means "speculative fiction" and not "science fiction" finds its greatest expression in Gibson's works. This book, which became the introduction to a trilogy, is a fine example of all these elements.
Berry Rydell was a Tennessee copper. Caught up in bizarre circumstances while "protecting the public," he becomes a Cop In Trouble. If policemen today think "political correctness" has impaired their effectiveness, wait until they see the future Gibson has in store for them. Lawsuits resulting from law enforcement activities are rampant. But the police have support. It comes from media producers who see enhanced viewer capture in publicizing these cases. Who but Gibson could view the corporate mentality with such perception? By the time of this story, corporate America has built up such a web of interfaces between themselves and the world it becomes impossible to extricate them. Rydell views video screens with the question "Woman or machine?" arising with distressing frequency. Driven from the police force, Rydell takes up with a security firm and relocated to Los Angeles. It's a drastically different world compared to Knoxville, but he hasn't seen anything yet. Before long he's in San Francisco, then off to Texas. Beyond mere survival, which is increasingly problematic, he's seeking a piece of advanced technology - the virtual light glasses. Gibson doesn't dwell on the technology behind this device. He's more concerned with the forces surrounding its possessor. Why do the questors go to such extremities to recover these glasses? Rydell represents us all. He remains honest while working among those clearly outside the law. But it isn't the individuals who bring such tension into Rydell's life. His stress is ultimately due to the hidden agencies with which he must deal. They are faceless and obscure. They impart information of vague worth with a deviousness a Delphic oracle would envy. He isn't even clear whether he's dealing with individuals or cabals. Lofty and condescending, they give him but little satisfaction and what's given is clearly on their terms alone.
It's these faceless entities that Gibson warns us of as he [and we] contemplate the future. Corporate operations are disappearing from view as their powers grow from local to global influence. They can tap growing information resources and their decisions, which impact our lives daily, are taken far removed from our scrutiny. Gibson uses Rydell to exhibit how helpless we're becoming in their grasp. Gibson shows they are subject to no accountability to law or popular review as they make "globalization" a new reality. We can only watch in awe as they form a new ruling class in world society. That Gibson can do this within the realm of captivating fiction garners our admiration. That this book begins a new trilogy commands us to follow where he leads. His view is far reaching and we are grateful he shares that vision with us. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]