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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
All Tomorrow's Parties (Bridge)
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on 21 August 2012
This is a magnificent novel displaying everything William Gibson is good at to its fullest effect. A stylish and intelligent thriller of the near future, it shows a writer on top form and pulling off the frankly disconcerting trick of thrilling his readers to their very core while sticking to a beautifully measured, effortless prose. It's like a public speaker whipping an audience to a frenzy without so much as breaking a sweat or even raising his voice.

The closing part of what is now known as Gibson's Bridge trilogy, All Tomorrow's Parties is set in the early 21st Century. Its most prominent feature is the ruined San Francisco - Oakland Bay bridge which has been replaced by a tunnel made possible by nanotechnology, and is now home to a bustling shanty town for those with nowhere else to go, people with no official status, illegal and semi-legal businesses and various other inhabitants of a twilight world. We are taken as well to Japan, where a pharmaceutically-damaged savant with a talent for data analysis (Laney from the second book in the trilogy, Idoru) picks up a worrying trend and an obsession with a leading media baron. The story also pulls in Chevette, the cycle courier protagonist of the first Bridge novel, Virtual Light, and Berry Rydell also appeared in the first. A very strange mercenary working for the media baron also comes into the mix.

What emerges is a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse played out in and around San Francisco and the Bridge community. Laney leads a gang of vigilante hackers in an attack on the established corporate order while the mercenary, lethal and on the edge, tries to shut them down. Our eyes on the story, Rydell and Chevette, are dragged into a dangerous conflict without much choice in the matter, and somewhere in the data of Laney's obsession, the future will be decided.

Gibson intended this trilogy as a satire on the decay, corporate power and trends in technology and media that he perceived in the 1990s. What it also does is give an insight into the kind of future we could expect around the corner. Some of the detail has not come true but the idea of a new way of living where the media, virtual reality (and reality television) permeates everything, almost omnipotent corporations, and a growing underclass with few prospects and more opportunities in criminal and antisocial activities has a certain resonance. There is also the idea of the world becoming more chaotic and the 21st century, one way or another, having a pretty difficult birth.

The nominal setting for the story is around 2010, but frankly you could reset the clock and imagine a lot of this happening a decade from now. It's still fresh, vibrant and balances on a fine line between Gibson's wry, observational tone and the unsettling, worrying view of a new world just waiting to arrive whether we like it or not. Of all Gibson's books, which I love, this is my favourite, a twisty thriller of unusual events, culminating in a big climax and ending on a note of cautious hopefulness. A really satisfying, gripping read.
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on 1 November 2000
Unlike his earlier works, in which each book stands almost alone, this book makes many references to Idoru and Virtual Light and uses several of the characters. It brings those stories together in the way we've come to expect from Gibson:- partly obscure and philosophical, partly very real and likely future vision. There isn't much actually happens overall, as a story, but the way several threads of narrative are followed as they combine towards the end, remeniscent of Mona Lisa Overdrive, make the book strangely compelling. For those who've never read Gibson before, be warned that none of his books are designed for skim-reading, you have to pay attention and think about what is written! With inescapable streetwise style, solid characters, a disturbingly likely view of the future, and even some dark humour, this is a good addition to the Gibson collection.
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on 2 December 1999
William Gibson gives us the third part in his trilogy that began with Virtual Light passed through Idoru and has now landed up as All Tomorrows Parties. This is an excellent return to form to his first days on the cyber block and the electric Neuromancer. This novel set hearts aglow when the gleam in our eyes was a shiny new 286 PC with DOS or a Classic Mac which when supercharged would run at 33mhz.
(Wait a minute I still write this on an old Mac that runs at 33mhz). So much would be possible in his portrait of suburban and urban decay, places where ubiquitous corruption and life insecurity were the norm. A life stained by drugs and corporate mafia, viral, invasive, even toxic software and this was a complete vision of a world gone to hell. Now we are actually on our way there and Nuspeak is the official language of Millbank, we now know that Gibson was John the Baptist and Christmas Day is coming folks. All Tomorrows Parties seems to be about a bridge. Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, circa 2011. It has most of the characters of the former books running through their little tricks and electronic idols are properly worshipped. But now we are whisked away from Japan to the sure footing of his future USA. Gibsons portrait of his America is so complete and plausible we can see it as the Gibson veneer. In his post-net world, where the web is invisibly embedded into our fractured lives he touches on all our insecurities in this one. Just because our society isn't quite like this yet, it doesn't mean Gibson is wrong. His is the most likely scenario. There are already many no-go areas in the USA and in some parts of California or New York in particular, drugs have taken over local economies. The Yardies in New York with their ruthless expansion of the drug dealing culture serve as a warning as to what it will be like in our future. It was reported only this month by the BBC that Afghanistan controls 72% of the worlds supply of Opium. This is their economy. Incessant war has seen to it that there is nothing else. In All Tomorrows Parties the bridge houses the people disenfranchised by progress. They live, they barter, they cling to the bridges in a spiders web of plastic entrails, nests rather than homes. The real city, where people consume, go to Lucky Dragon convenience stores and seemingly live real city lives, nanotechnology is on the cusp of changing what people do and how they do it. Drugs are bought and sold everywhere and gone from the landscape are the things we take for granted now (but we can see the beginning of the change). Banks, post offices, jobs, careers are have all migrated to the phone or the web or whatever, but it is no long real, but virtual. We are all security guards, or corner store lackeys, or couriers, or hitmen or too old and shut out from Medicare and hope. (unless you are rich). It is a world where we have been niched, targeted and fragmented into target consumers and the rich live out indulgences that will kill them or become weird aesthetes. Into the Matrix (no he didn't write that, but it is very close to his work and that of the ubermaster Philip K Dick) we enter this date 2011. This is when everything comes together in some sort of critical mass of new technology, the moment when the millennium really kicks in. A similar thing happened in 1911 and so it goes with our next century.
You want details about the book? There is a drug, an experimental drug called 5-SB that they gave to Laney, the web freak, in the orphange, which gave him second sight, and then there's Chevette who is a stunning tough cookie and yet, still looks for love. Then there's Rydell, a down on his luck ex-cop whose honour is all and who loves Chevette, only she's on the run from Carson who beat on her and is looking everywhere for her. And then there's Rei Toei, the most beautiful girl in the world who isn't real, but would like to be and Harwood, who could be the Rupert Murdoch character or any media megalomaniac, who wants to seize and control of the next frontier and he's not going to let anyone stop him. The stuff that is happening now with e-commerce on the web is happening so fast we are going to wake up a decade from now and find everything we were ever certain of has gone forever and it its place will be Gibson's world. The world he paints is real enough and his construct is frighteningly plausible. Writing this review in Cornwall where superficially nothing has changed, but actually everything has changed, one can get a glimpse of his vision through the cracks. Huge local unemployment, inadequate or overpriced housing, marginalised people, shops and banks withering, empty high streets with boarded windows in many town and if there are shops, they are antique shops, just like on Gibson's bridge where the dealer obsesses about 19th century watches with real craftsmenship. We are heading back to the day of the bazaar and you can sense the discontentment. see it in action in Seattle streets.
ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES is a jest. Life will not be a party and you won't get in, not without an invitation anyway. Is the book any good? Hell yes.
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on 20 November 1999
I told my friend about this book that I was reading - 'All Tomorrow's Parties' by William Gibson. Altough just under halfway through it, I thoroughly recommended it to him.
He ased what it was about. I didn't know.
The point of this tale? I was at a point between ignorance and understanding. I was at an interstice.
This, for me, is what the books underlying theme is. Existing at a place between two points.
Laney - living in a box placed within a corridor of a mass transit system, somewhere between the physical realm and an informational one.
Berry Rydell - seemingly always between jobs. Always between realisation of who is and the media exposure that he thinks will define him.
Chevette Washington - removed from being a part of the bridge community.
Rei Toei - as human as data can be.
Willaim Gibson - perhaps hinting that this book is a moment of transition for him?
The world - at a nodal point as important as the one in 1911.
The only solid character seems to be the mysterious Konrad; someone who exists within the moment.
I could go on - although that would be tedious.
All tomorrow's parties is a finely crafted book; I would argue that it exists somewhere between Sci-Fi and literature. Forget the negative review of the other reader; infact forget all the reviews. Read this book and make up your own mind.
(And if anyone can tell me what happened in 1911 please mail me!)
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on 18 October 1999
William Gibson gets better and better at pruning his prose to the bare minimum, yet he manages to convey the the impression of high technology just by alluding to it, almost obliquely:
Several varieties of ultra sharp knives (a popular cyberpunk tech topic since Raven's glass knives in Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash)
Hackers from the Walled City appear again like the Low Teks from Neuromancer, all powerful and anonymous.
The "chain gun" disposable blunderbuss
The drug enhanced data analysis via virtual reality
Nanotechnology is no longer new, but not yet trusted. The collectors wristwatches remind me that the author has written about his fascination with eBay type online auctions.
Set in the near future in the San Francisco familiar from Vitual Light and Idoru, with Rydell and Chevette (the SF female bike messenger, who appeared in Virtual Light, but who always reminds me ofh Neal Stephenson's female skateboard courier YT)
The ultra cool killer Konrad is a mystery, but still cool, expect to see the nickname online
The ending, well if the world is at a nexus, and you can only peer dimly into the near future, the ending will always be a bit puzzling
Essential reading for William Gibson fans, and worth studying for the cool, sparse, minimalist allusion to high technology.
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on 13 October 1999
When reading the stories of William Gibson, one feels as if they are being offered some snippet from the the future as it will be. For those who haven't read any of his previous work, this is an ideal opener in that yet again he surpasses himself in astounding all that read it. For those who have read his work before, and most probably follow religiously, this will not fail to impress.
The third in a trilogy, it continues the story woven around those introduced through Idoru and Virtual Light. Without giving too much away it brings together Laney and Rydell for another job, this time pulling them deepend into the matrix of events that the world has become.
What I found best about this story is Gibsons talent for description. He places beauty into technology in a way nobody else can, describing a computer more like a dew covered rose.
Buy this book, not because it's a net-story or becuase it's written by the man some call the Godfather of the internet, but simply becuase it's a beautifully written book that will capture you from front to back. Budding authors would do good to learn from this man and so would a few hardened professionals
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on 5 February 2001
In my view, All Tomorrows Parties could almost be called a short stories collection. Yes, there is a plot, but mostly it's really just ignored. Instead, Gibson concentrates on describing his visions of the future, which are absolutely stunning in both detail and depth, and could even be called his best yet. Needless to say, I loved it.
And by the way, this book has some great stuff for you fellow gamemasters out there :)
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on 11 July 2006
as cyclic as human history seems to be, it is however and clearly following a descending path.
this must be the attraction of a writer like gibson, who can picture a future of regression towards less evolute forms of inter-human relationships, towards social organizations that devolve rather than evolving. I love the history of Middle Age in Europe, and to me the Bridge is middle age at his best [...]
there is also the language, even a non native speaker like myself can notice the use of neologism, the painstaking research of a language that is rich but also that has a strange sounds to it, like the voices synthesized of the Walled cities avatars.
Reading W. Gibson I have the feeling of being part of a new genre, a new philosphy in the doing.
THis is my 3rd times re-reading the 2 cycles of WG. Now I am left with other books but waiting for something new to come out, hopefully soon?
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on 11 February 2002
I finished it a couple of weeks ago, and it inspired me to re-read Virtual Light (Idoru will be next).
The thing is, while I can remember lots of little facets: ideas, locations, characters, and events, the main thrust of the plot is gone from my mind. Perhaps this is the nature of Gibson :-)
The chapter lengths are *very* short, making for a staccato read. Not a problem, but perhaps that's part of what makes the overall picture so hard to appreciate and remember.
It was nice to meet Rydell and Chevette again, and the bridge was (once more) a fascinating place to visit.
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on 16 November 1999
Very disappointing. Gibson has always written in a fragmentary way, each chapter switching the focus from one character and situation to another, but here it does not work as well as it has in the past. The character of Laney (from Virtual Light) returns but is very shallow and two dimensional, and the relationship between Rydell and Chevette does not seem to really be explored. The biggest let down though is the plot which is convoluted in the extreme without being as engaging as any of his previous works. Such a shame as I have enjoyed all Gibson's books and was looking forward to this one with great anticipation.
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