Saturday, 8 August 2020

Virtual Light - William Gibson

 Virtual Light is the first of the 'Bridge' trilogy.  The second is Idoru, which I am yet to read, the third All Tomorrow's Parties reviewed below (October 31 2018).

We begin with Berry Rydell, trained as a cop in Knoxville but dismissed after 13 weeks for blowing away a nutjob who he thought had kidnapped a kid.  He moved to LA to work as rent-a-cop but again makes a mistake and has to be let go.  However his extreme driving skills have been noted and his supervisor recommends him for a driving job for the parent company up in what remains of San Francisco after the inevitable earthquake.  The job is to drive a senior recovery agent who has injured his leg skateboarding.  The agent - wonderfully named Warbaby - is after a bike courier called Chevette Washington who appears to have stolen a highly significant pair of virtual light glasses.  She might also have given the original courier a Cuban necktie, but the glasses are what matter.

But it is Berry who tracks Chevette down to the Gold Gate bridge where many of the dispossessed have built a shanty city of their own, where she is something of a live-in nurse for one of the original bridge settlers, Skinner, the subject of a sociological research paper by Japanese student Yamazaki.  Berry saves Chevette from Warbaby and his crew of Russian cops.  The chase is on and sparks fly.

Gibson is my absolute favourite writer, creator of wonderful characters and the hardest-boiled prose this side of James Ellroy.  Virtual Light is one of his best, far better than Mona Lisa Overdrive and every bit as good as All Tomorrow's Parties.

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