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All Tomorrow’s Parties: A Bridge to the Future Unknown

Posted by goldwriting on March 6, 2008

alltomorrowsparties4.jpg “It’s not a dream?” “No,” he said.

Timelines and parallel possibilities come together and break apart during each waking second of the day and every sleeping moment of the night. Little connections are being made everywhere that ripple and reverberate throughout society and sometimes, just sometimes, people find a way to get in front of the chaos wave, trying to direct it towards their own desired outcomes. So when telling a story like this it only makes sense to place most of it on a large, broken down bridge, as it leads in one way to a whole new existence, but in another way it leads to nowhere at all.

For those who don’t know about William Gibson, here is a tasty refresher course. Gibson can’t be said to have burst onto the cyberpunk scene in 1984 with his landmark novel Neuromancer, the reason being that he created the cyberpunk scene. He refers in a large number of his books to nodal points and connectors that bring about change in the world they exist, well, he himself is one of those points. With the introduction of Neuromancer into popular culture he coined the first ever usage of the word “cyberspace” and thereby defined it. Once that found its place in our lexicon the growing world of virtual reality and cyberspace became molded as much by his visions than any scientific field or philosopher. It’s not even too far to say that Neuromancer became the unofficial bible of this burgeoning virtual world. From that point on he was raised to cult-like status by science fiction fans around the world and her has never strayed far from the cyberpunk genre, following things up with titles such as Count Zero, Burning Chrome, Mona Lisa Overdrive, Virtual Light and Idoru. He also wrote the short story Johnny Mnemonic, which was adapted into a completely silly movie with Keanu Reeves as the star.

No that you’ve had your literary history class, let’s discuss this particular work, All Tomorrow’s Parties.

This story revolves around a group of people who unknowingly find themselves at the nexus point of a major change in the world as they know it. Some of them are fighting to stop it, while others are trying to get ahead of it and direct it to their own ends. Lastly, the group which we all feel the most kinship with, are those who are stuck in the middle without any comprehension of how big this situation really is. On the heroic side; Laney, a unwilling patient from an orphanage who was given a drug that now allows him to see the flow of data and understand it on a deeply fundamental level; Rydell, a one time rent-a-cop who encapsulates an archetype that Gibson loves to write, the dark trenchcoat-wearing, quiet-talking, lighting-quick moving, unwilling loner hero; Silencio, a boy who doesn’t speak, but has an innate talent for digging underneath the information he is shown to find the information that he wants; Chevette, a young, punky looking girl who’s undesired ability is being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong man on her arm; and lastly the appearance of Rei Toei, a completely virtual Japanese pop star who is totally sentient, universally desired and somehow nowhere to be found. These are the characters that Gibson weaves into this tale and the enviroment he sets them loose in is a nearly destroyed futuristic version of the Golden Gate bridge, which since a massive earthquake no longer has cars packed on it in traffic jams, but an entire city of squatters and outcasts aptly called “Bridge People”.

One of the things I love about Gibson is his staccato writing style. The stories snap and break as he slices over to a new timeline or another character’s point of view. There is a beat and rythym to his writing that is unique to him alone. I will admit that if you have no knowledge at all of computers and the digital culture, there are going to be a lot of concepts and terms thrown around in Gibson’s work that won’t make a lick of sense. He is the Granddaddy of Cyberpunk and it would definitely be good to brush up on the topic before diving into his world. As for my feelings on this story, I liked it. It is a little tough getting into it, mainly due to so many different threads being started, but once they start to intertwine with each other the excitement from each one builds on the next and you ride that wave until the final page. Overall not quite as intriguing as some of his other books, Pattern Recognition being the most recent I read before this, but still a solid effort and a fun dip into the seedy side of the tech world.

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