William Gibson, who predicted the Internet with Neuromancer, takes us into the millennium with a brilliant new novel about the moments in history when futures are born.
"Gibson remains, like Raymond Chandler, an intoxicating stylist."-- The New York Times Book Review
All Tomorrow's Parties is the perfect novel to publish at the end of 1999. It brings back Colin Laney, one of the most popular characters from Idoru, the man whose special sensitivities about people and events let him predict certain aspects of the future. Laney has realized that the disruptions everyone expected to happen at the beginning of the year 2000, which in fact did not happen, are still to come. Though down-and-out in Tokyo, his sense of what is to come tells him that the big event, whatever it is, will happen in San Francisco. He decides to head back to the United States--to San Francisco--to meet the future.
The Washington Post praised Idoru as "beautifully written, dense with metaphors that open the eyes to the new, dreamlike, intensely imagined, deeply plausible." A bestseller across the country (it reached #1 in Los Angeles and San Francisco), and a major critical success, it confirmed William Gibson's position as "the premier visionary working in SF today" (Publishers Weekly). All Tomorrow's Parties is his next brilliant achievement.
Although Colin Laney (from Gibson's earlier novel Idoru) lives in a cardboard box, he has the power to change the world. Thanks to an experimental drug that he received during his youth, Colin can see "nodal points" in the vast streams of data that make up the worldwide computer network. Nodal points are rare but significant events in history that forever change society, even though they might not be recognizable as such when they occur. Colin isn't quite sure what's going to happen when society reaches this latest nodal point, but he knows it's going to be big. And he knows it's going to occur on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, which has been home to a sort of SoHo-esque shantytown since an earthquake rendered it structurally unsound to carry traffic.
Colin sends Barry Rydell (last seen in Gibson's novel Virtual Light) to the bridge to find a mysterious killer who reveals himself only by his lack of presence on the Net. Barry is also entrusted with a strange package that seems to be the home of Rei Toi, the computer-generated "idol singer" who once tried to "marry" a human rock star (she's also from Idoru). Barry and Rei Toi are eventually joined by Barry's old girlfriend Chevette (from Virtual Light) and a young boy named Silencio who has an unnatural fascination with watches. Together this motley assortment of characters holds the key to stopping billionaire Cody Harwood from doing whatever it is that will make sure he still holds the reigns of power after the nodal point takes place.
Although All Tomorrow's Parties includes characters from two of Gibson's earlier novels, it's not a direct sequel to either. It's a stand-alone book that is possibly Gibson's best solo work since Neuromancer. In the past, Gibson has let his brilliant prose overwhelm what were often lackluster (or nonexistent) story lines, but this book has it all: a good story, electric writing, and a group of likable and believable characters who are out to save the world ... kind of. The ending is not quite as supercharged as the rest of the novel and so comes off a bit flat, but overall this is definitely a winner.
--Craig E. Engler
From Publishers Weekly
Gibson is in fine form in his seventh novel, a fast-paced, pyrotechnic sequel to Idoru. In the early 21st century, the world has survived any number of millennial events, including major earthquakes in Tokyo and San Francisco, the expansion of the World Wide Web into virtual reality, a variety of killer new recreational drugs and the creation and later disappearance of the first true artificial intelligence, the rock superstar know as the Idoru. However, Colin Laney, with his uncanny ability to sift through media data and discern the importance of upcoming historical "nodes," has determined that even more world-shattering occurrences are in the offing. Letting his personal life fall apart, suffering from an obsessive-compulsive disorder related to his talent, Laney retreats to a cardboard box in a Tokyo subway station. There he uses his powers and an Internet connection to do everything he can to head off worldwide disaster. Contacting Berry Rydell, former rent-a-cop and would-be star of the TV show Cops in Trouble (and a character in two of Gibson's previous novels), Laney first maneuvers him into investigating a pair of murders committed by a man who is mysteriously invisible to the psychic's predictive powers, and then into recovering the Idoru, who is seeking independence from her owners. Also involved in the complex plot, centered on the bohemian community that has grown up on and around San Francisco's now derelict Golden Gate Bridge, are several other returning characters, such as the incredibly buff former bicycle messenger Chevette, plus a number of new eccentrics of the sort the author portrays so well. Gibson breaks little new thematic ground with this novel, but the cocreator of cyberpunk takes his readers on a wild and exciting ride filled with enough off-the-wall ideas and extended metaphors to fuel half a dozen SF tales. Author tour. (Nov.)
From Library Journal
Roused from his self-imposed isolation in Tokyo, cyberjock Colin Laney enlists the aid of freelance security cop Berry Rydell to investigate a series of postmillennial upheavals centered in San Francisco. Building on the story begun in Idoru, Gibson achieves another milestone in his stunning portrayal of a dystopic 21st century filled with virtual paradises and real-life squalor. A master of the cyberpunk genre, Gibson excels at visually exciting storytelling. A good selection for sf collections.
Colin Laney, the "netrunner" of Gibson's Idoru (1996), is hiding in a hovel in a cardboard city in the heart of Tokyo, with his eyes seemingly permanently attached to eyephones connecting him to the console on which he scans information from around the world. Attuned to subtle alterations in the data flow, he can sense an approaching paradigm shift, one of the "nodal points in history." "Last time we had one like this was 1911," he remarks. In Gibson novels, change happens not in small increments but massively, in a cataclysm, an apocalypse. The approaching change here is somehow linked to Rei Toei, the idoru (a virtual being), who is at large in San Francisco; Berry Rydell, a former security guard at the Lucky Dragon convenience store on Sunset, who first appeared in Gibson's Virtual Light (1993) and is now in Laney's employ; Chevette the bike messenger, also from Virtual Light; and Cody Harwood the "uncharismatic billionaire," whose plans to network his Lucky Dragon stores with the aid of a device that transmits objects across space are at the crux of everything. Gibson's protagonists are misfits. Their disparate stories get woven together in time for a showdown of sorts on the Bay Bridge, which has become a community of outsiders since the earthquake that made it unsuitable for automobiles but ideal for squatters. Gibson's new book is less a cyberpunk novel about virtual reality than one that realizes an almost recognizable future filled with new and exciting technologies. Although most of the action occurs in the "meat" world, Gibson's vision is inextricably linked to the advent of the Internet, whose possibilities he envisioned in the book that made him a big sf name, Neuromancer (1984).
From The New York Times Book Review , Tom LeClair
Compared to Idoru and Virtual Light, the world of All Tomorrow's Parties is lo/rez, but the author appears to have been highly resolved to compose a trilogy, even if the result is Virtual Lite.
From Kirkus Reviews
More ultra-cool cyberpunk, sort of a sequel to Virtual Light (1993) and Idoru (1996). The disasters predicted for the end of the millennium never happened. Colin Laney, however, has a peculiar talent for seeing ordinarily imperceptible data associations, or nodal points, an ability brought about by childhood exposure to an experimental drug. Now down-and-out in Tokyo, subsisting on blue cough syrup and stimulants, he's perceived an upcoming event that will change the world, just as the previous one did in 1911. Aware of a shadowy killer who leaves no traces in the Net, Laney contacts his old pal, former rent-a-cop Berry Rydell, in San Francisco, sending him money and a mysterious package. Others are drawn into Laney's virtual world: the weird, watch-loving boy Silencio; erstwhile motorbike messenger Chevette Washington; the mysterious inhabitants of the virtual Walled City; and industrialist Cody Harwood, who's dosed himself with Laney's drug and in effect is creating the node. Harwood plans to build a network of nanotech replicators, presently forbidden by most governments. Rydell's package is a projector containing the virtual personality, or idoru, Rei Toei. Harwood's shadowy assassin, Konrad, refuses to kill Rydell, and the characters converge at the Bay Bridge for a conclusion that's as strange as it is baffling. This familiar, vigorous, vividly realized scenario is set forth in the author's unique and astonishingly textured proseindeed, in Gibson's books the texture is the plotbut the unfathomable ending will satisfy few.
Wired Magazine, October 1999
All the heroes in All Tomorrow's Parties wield knives. Chevette, the onetime bike messenger and second-best thing in William Gibson's 1993 Virtual Light, has one hammered from a motorcycle drive chain. Rydell, former cop, night watchman, and now convenience store security guy, sports a lightweight ceramic knife, although he doesn't much like its balance. And the mysterious Konrad, the man who kills without fuss or muss, brandishes the deadliest blade, the one "that sleeps head down, like a vampire bat."
So many sharp knives slice elegantly through the virtual realities and nanotechnological macguffins that populates Gibson's latest novel. And appropriately so. When Gibson, one of science fiction's greatest literary stylists, is at his best, he offers visceral detail ("helicopters swarming like dragonflies") even when promising transcendent change ("the mother of all nodal points" -- a moment in the near future when the fabric of daily life will twist profoundly).
Gibson wouldn't be Gibson if he spelled it out, if he eliminated all the ambiguity. His specialty is hanging on to that fractal edge without ever going over the brink.