Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Three More Books

I've been working 4 hour shifts at the Science Library lab, and since it is summer and classes are out, I've had very little to do. I've taken to plowing through my pile of e-books, with the net result being that I've read three books in the past three days: Idoru and Burning Chrome by William Gibson, as well as The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect by Roger Williams. Of the three, Metamorphosis was by far the best.

It addresses the development of a greater than human artificial intelligence and the digitization of human consciousness in a rational, yet very macabre way. Rather than focusing on the human ideal it goes muckraking, exploring the empowerment of sociopaths, rapists and murderers in an environment where you can't permanently kill anyone. Definitely a good read, however it does get graphic at times, with a fair number of people getting seriously maimed/"killed" in a virtual environment.

Burning Chrome is a collection of short stories, and many of the themes in it are expounded on further in Gibson's books. It is a good book if you enjoy short stories and are not bothered that they generally don't resolve in any meaningful way. Those who have read other works by Gibson stand a better chance of enjoying it, as in and of themselves the stories leave you wanting just a little more than they offer.

Idoru was very disappointing. It lacks the richness and development of other books by Gibson, and does not contribute much to the storyline in the Bridge trilogy. The first and third books (Virtual Light, All Tomorrow's Parties) present a much more cohesive story, with Idoru (the second) hanging around in a corner talking to itself. It should be the place where two characters, Laney and Yamazaki, could be fleshed out and placed in context. However, they read like shallow copies of the same characters in the third book, where they play a comparatively minor role. Likewise, the plot is so self-contained as to almost exclude it from the rest of the series. The connections to the preceding book are flimsy at best, and the third draws much more strongly from the first then the second. I wouldn't recommend this book to a casual reader. I only finished it because: A. If I don't I die a little on the inside, and B. I'd read the other two books already.
Robert Alverson


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