Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review of Idoru by William Gibson

Idoru, William Gibson’s 1997 middle entry into the Bridge trilogy, takes the baton of Virtual Light’s conclusion and runs with it.  Celebrity worship, pop culture, media influence, and the futuristic tangents advanced technology offers these take-it-or-leave-it facets of modern existence are the centerpiece.  Less standard noir than Virtual Light, Idoru expands the themes into an imaginative, singular story that develops the series positively.  

Like Virtual Light, Idoru features a young woman and man as main characters.  Chia MacKenzie is a fourteen year old member of the Seattle chapter of the Lo/Rez fan club who has been asked to go to Tokyo to investigate whether the lead singer of the world-famous band will actually marry the virtual pop star Rei Toei, as rumor has it.  Living and breathing the band like millions of other fans around the world, Chia’s reluctance to take up her club’s commission is surpassed by her devotion to Rez, the lead singer, and she soon after finds herself on a plane to the earthquake re-building city.  Colin Laney was an orphan who spent time in an experimental school being administered drugs for research purposes.  Emerging with the ability to see through masses of data to their underlying patterns, he took his unique talent to a paparazzi corp and was put to work digging up the secrets of celebrities.  When a scandal broke out, Laney found that Southern California was no longer friendly ground and Japan is a place to escape the legal and personal troubles his life has brought, and it is to the island nation he heads in the opening pages.  With the otherworld-ness, cult fetishes, and streamlined, materialist mindset of post-modern Tokyo buoying them along, Chia and Laney find their orbits intersecting in ways that only a console savvy, pop culture saturated, all-too-plausible vision of our future can offer.

Relaxing from the razor sharp prose of Virtual Light, Idoru is a looser, more flexible read.  It remains vintage Gibson, but with the edge slightly dulled in favor of smoothness and flow.  Noir shadows remain, but given the neon-exotic setting and the anything-but-standard storyline, the choice is apt, making Idoru similar in depth but different in presentation to Virtual Light—both quality in their own rights.  

And to what depth is the overall content of the series taken in Idoru?  Working off the bold conclusion of Virtual Light, Gibson moves celebrity-ism, the mass-market influence of pop culture, and the corrupt power of money and media deeper into the spotlight.  The premise being a pop star who wants to marry another star—a virtual one, Gibson challenges the reader from the get-go.  On one side a view into Rez’s life and his retinue, and on the other a view into the attachment and pure fanaticism of some of his groupies, he exposes not only deep-rooted human exigencies, but an emptiness spreading from the core of the current socio-economic entertainment paradigm.  Gibson forever the painter of futuristic possibilities with morals displayed so openly only the discerning are aware, the implications are enough to move the strongest liberal.  

“Bridge” a point of symbolism presented with more than one facet in the eponymous series, Gibson’s choice to take the trilogy to Tokyo gives the reader something to ponder.  American and Japanese cultures forming ever-stronger links (technology and pop culture among them), the Pacific manifests itself as the facet du jour in Idoru.  The latest tech, money, information, and media influence the ingredients of the connection, readers must wait for All Tomorrow’s Parties to see the final railroad spike driven home between the two.  Suffice to say, while Virtual Light set the groundwork for one stanchion, Idoru sets the other, the East and West interwoven in ways no single human can modulate or prevent.  

In the end, Idoru is more delicious socio/techno/media futurology from Gibson.  A storyline both engaging and profound, the author continues in all-too-believable fashion to extrapolate upon our world in a near future that is as breath-taking as it is worrisome.  Technology an entity beyond the control of humanity, the media influences, celebrity worship, and pop culture examined in the novel is fascinating, and take the series to the next level.  Storyline engaging from page one, the three years that pass between Gibson’s books are well worth the wait.

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