Idoru (William Gibson 1996)


Idoru is the second book of William Gibson’s Bridge trilogy, the first book of which I found somewhat disappointing. Despite my misgivings I am not one to let a series go unfinished so I pressed onwards with the second book.  Idoru follows an entirely new set of characters, with the primary protagonists being Colin Laney, who has a natural talent for sifting through vast amounts of data to find “nodal points” of relevance, and fourteen year old Chia Pet McKenzie, fan of rock group Lo/Rez. The story revolves around Rez, a rock star and member of the previously mentioned Lo/Rez, who wishes to marry an AI named Rei Toi who is the titular Idoru. Laney is brought in by head of security Keith Blackwell, who believes somebody is manipulating Rez somehow. Meanwhile Chia finds herself in possession of a contrabrand item after a woman named Maryalice dupes her into smuggling it through customs, getting her into trouble with a number of interested parties.

The first thing I noticed was how they had essentially reused the same plot as Chevette from Virtual Light for Chia in this novel. Like Chevette she ends up with a strange device which a lot of bad people want and finds herself on the run. She is however a lot more interesting than Chevette, with a lot more personality. Laney is also interesting, especially because of his ability to sift through information. He also links back to a lot of the characters from the previous novel, such as Shinya Yamazaki and Berry Rydell, neither of whom have point of view segments. This is a good thing, especially so with Yamazaki, whose subplot in the first novel was so boring and irrelevant.

However this novel does have its share of problems. This time it is the way the two main plots, Laney and Chia’s storylines, intersect. For most of the novel the connection between the two plots wasn’t clear and I wasn’t certain which one was the most important to the story. To the novel’s credit the two plots do eventually intersect as the novel reaches its climax, although there were some elements which left a lot to be desired. A lot of the twists felt like they came out of the blue. After they came to pass they left me scratching my head since at no point during the rest of the novel was any of this really foreshadowed effectively. Usually with a good twist you can think back to a previous part of a novel and look at it in a different light, a eureka moment where everything prior to then makes sense. That isn’t something I got with this novel.

I must admit though the Rei Toi plotline was very interesting, depsite the fact that I had a bit of trouble following it towards the end. Rei Toi was an interesting enigma and throughout then novel I wondered if she was in fact sentient, and whether or not Rez was actually in a relationship with her or if he was living out some delusional fantasy. Towards the end it became clearer that Rei Toi was sentient and I found myself routing for them. I liked the ambiguity in the ending, which left it open to interpretation as to whether or not they were finally able to achieve their happily ever after.

Overall I felt like the book was still a bit average, but I considered it an improvement from Virtual Light. This in part because of Rei Toi, who made the story feel like it was true Cyberpunk. Meanwhile with Virtual Light,  I felt like it was just a thriller with cyberpunk window dressing. Here the cyberpunk elements are a lot stronger, examining the themes prevalent in the genre in a more direct and obvious fashion. The book is still a far cry from a masterpiece, but it’s better than its predecessor and it makes me glad that I decided to pick of the Bridge trilogy after all.

SCORE: 3.5/5



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