Gib-punk (The William Gibson Thread)

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Manifold
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Gib-punk (The William Gibson Thread)

Postby Manifold » Mon Aug 10, 2009 5:03 pm UTC

Hello guys.

It is high time for a thread dedicated to the discussion of Gibson's (post-)cyberpunk books.

There has been a minor discussion as to whether the use of multiple-threaded narratives in some of his books are effective - for example Virtual Light, Mona Lisa Overdrive - or just show-stoppers for some people. Related to this would be the general feeling of monotony that these threaded narratives conjures up.

Anyone like to pick up the discussion with their opinion? Let's Gib-punk.
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JayDee
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Re: Gib-punk (The William Gibson Thread)

Postby JayDee » Thu Aug 13, 2009 1:02 pm UTC

The pov switching in those books seemed rather forced. It was like we had to cycle through each and every character even if what they were up to was far less interesting than the other people. There were plenty of ideas and things there were great, though.

For instance, I loved the whole 'Cops in Trouble' thing in Virtual Light, as well as the little things like police having ditched identikit pictures in favour of 'someone who looks kinda like a cross between celebrity-A and celebrity-B'. The whole Shapely thing. Same with Idoru, although I have a feeling half the things I remember being from that were actually in some of his short stories. The Chopper Reid Expy was in that book, right? He was great, I actually went out and bought whichever of his books Gibson cited as a reference for that after.

As well as the un-nessecary rigidly enforced pov switching, the I don't know, incidentalness? of the main characters in some of Gibson books tends to bug me (I could rant at length about the ending of Pattern Recognition, but it wasn't the first to do it.)
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Jorpho
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Re: Gib-punk (The William Gibson Thread)

Postby Jorpho » Thu Aug 13, 2009 9:11 pm UTC

I could hardly stand Neuromancer. It's kind of like Hitchcock's North by Northwest, in a sense: I have no doubt that it was incredibly revolutionary when it came out, but nowadays it seems like everything that it did first has been done so much better, repeatedly.

The Difference Engine would have only been marginally improved if (as was apparently done with international versions) there was a glossary defining all its "witty" historical references. As it is I can hardly stand it either. Just what the frack is the point to that unending account of whatshisname's encounter with a prostitute!?

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Re: Gib-punk (The William Gibson Thread)

Postby Dazmilar » Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:04 pm UTC

I spent a fair amount of The Difference Engine trying to figure out why Babbage inventing a computer would have stopped Keats from dying from Tuberculosis in 1821. Really tho. I understand it's an alternate universe, but shouldn't most of the differences stem from The Difference Engine being constructed?

Otherwise, I find Gibson an interesting study in narrative voice. I thought he nailed it in Neuromancer, with the perfect voice for a Cyberpunk narrative, and then I couldn't read any of his following books because Gibson sounded so much like Gibson.

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Re: Gib-punk (The William Gibson Thread)

Postby Manifold » Mon Aug 17, 2009 8:47 pm UTC

JayDee wrote:[the] incidentalness? of the main characters in some of Gibson books tends to bug me


Would you mind to elaborate on that? Do you mean that he seems to stick to similar personalities for each main character?

JayDee wrote:The pov switching in those books seemed rather forced. It was like we had to cycle through each and every character even if what they were up to was far less interesting than the other people


Ultimately, I got frustrated with Spooky Country and returned it to my local library, for the same reasons, today. It's such a shame. Was texting my friend today and it occured to me that I'm getting pickier with books. I used to have such staying power. If I were myself three years ago, I'd be chalking off Spook Country off as another hard-to-read "win".

Jorpho wrote:I could hardly stand Neuromancer. [...] I have no doubt that it was incredibly revolutionary when it came out, but nowadays it seems like everything that it did first has been done so much better, repeatedly


I'm actually slightly afraid of reading Neuromancer now, lest I taint my good memories of it. Could you cite what, in your opinon, would be the "spiritual" successor of Neuromancer (stylistically, idealistically etc)?

Jorpho wrote:The Difference Engine would have only been marginally improved if (as was apparently done with international versions) there was a glossary defining all its "witty" historical references.


You are not alone, apparently. Wish I'd found this before I'd read the thing. Every so often, I try and fathom some sense from the ending of The Difference Engine to no avail.

Jorpho wrote:Just what the frack is the point to that unending account of whatshisname's encounter with a prostitute!?


My sentiments too.

Dazimilar wrote:Otherwise, I find Gibson an interesting study in narrative voice. I thought he nailed it in Neuromancer, with the perfect voice for a Cyberpunk narrative, and then I couldn't read any of his following books because Gibson sounded so much like Gibson.


Out of interest, have you read his Burning Chrome short stories? Some of those, in my opinion, come close to knocking Neuromancer off it's Cyber-chrome throne. Cyberpunk short stories are deliciously punchy.

Has anyone seen Jonny Mnemonic? I found it immensely fun to watch cyberpunk on live action screen, despite it's flaws (it doesn't exactly follow the original short story..).

Oh, and big pseudo-kudos to whoever's seen New Rose Hotel, also another Gibson film. It is rarely mentioned and for a good reason. I'll remain silent and wait for another person who's seen it to step out.
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Re: Gib-punk (The William Gibson Thread)

Postby Jorpho » Mon Aug 17, 2009 9:00 pm UTC

Manifold wrote:I'm actually slightly afraid of reading Neuromancer now, lest I taint my good memories of it. Could you cite what, in your opinon, would be the "spiritual" successor of Neuromancer (stylistically, idealistically etc)?
Come to think of it, the only thing at the moment I can recall reading that resembles Neuromancer were some bits in Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, and maybe some of the bits about Jane in the Ender books. Perhaps I am not well-read in that regard. But there's no end of stylistically-similar movies: Total Recall, Johnny Mnemonic, Ghost in the Shell, The Matrix, Tron (at a stretch), and so on.

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Re: Gib-punk (The William Gibson Thread)

Postby JayDee » Tue Aug 18, 2009 12:45 pm UTC

Manifold wrote:
JayDee wrote:[the] incidentalness? of the main characters in some of Gibson books tends to bug me
Would you mind to elaborate on that? Do you mean that he seems to stick to similar personalities for each main character?
Not that the characters are all the same, but more that the characters aren't important. The pov characters were experiencing the plot instead of driving it, I guess. Which isn't a bad thing in itself, but I wasn't a fan of it in Idoru (where it was the Idoru whose name I cannae recall and her boyfriend more driving the plot) and Mona Lisa Overdrive where the protagonist of the previous book was important but generally off-camera. On the other hand, I guess Case in Neuromancer was sort of the same thing, he was just along for the ride, but I think it worked alot better in that book. When the development (and the window / perspective into the plot) was focused on the one character rather than spread over three.
Manifold wrote:I'm actually slightly afraid of reading Neuromancer now, lest I taint my good memories of it.
For what it's worth, I've re-read Neuromancer recently and not been at all disappointed with it. *shrug*. Same with the Burning Chrome stories I loved.
Manifold wrote:Out of interest, have you read his Burning Chrome short stories? Some of those, in my opinion, come close to knocking Neuromancer off it's Cyber-chrome throne. Cyberpunk short stories are deliciously punchy.

Has anyone seen Jonny Mnemonic? I found it immensely fun to watch cyberpunk on live action screen, despite it's flaws (it doesn't exactly follow the original short story..).

Oh, and big pseudo-kudos to whoever's seen New Rose Hotel, also another Gibson film. It is rarely mentioned and for a good reason. I'll remain silent and wait for another person who's seen it to step out.
I had no idea New Rose Hotel had been made into a film - it's another of the stories from Burning Chrome, right? Holograms and fractured memories and roadsides? Videos recorded on crystals and terrorism? (yes, I could just look in the book, but questioning half-memories is more fun.)

Some of the stories in that collection were just great. I think Red Star, Winter Orbit was my favourite, if I'm recalling the title rightly. Punchy is a good description - as I said before, some of the latter novels seemed to be interesting ideas + filler. Short stories don't need the filler. Stuff like The Gernsback Continuum and the one about travelling through some wormhole to get technology - just an interesting exploration of a single idea. I don't think it's just cyber-punk (and only three or so of the stories in Burning Chrome are really cyberpunk, aren't they?) - the short story is just a great format for S-F.

When I originally saw Johny Mnemonic (and I remember the night, renting it on VHS and watching it at some family friends house) I wasn't terribly impressed. There were cool bits - the Yakuza with their pinky laser sword whip things, and the typing on a virtual keyboard - but the movie as a whole was a bit eh. I've got the (written by Gibson) screenplay lying around, I should flick through that someday.

Later, I read Neuromancer for the first time, and Molly's reminiscence about Johnny sounded way cooler than I remembered the movie being.

Then when I read the short story I was all "Crack-addicted psychic ex-navy cyborg dolphin? Fuck yes!"
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