In All Tomorrow's Parties we return to the semi-dysfunctional world Gibson first introduced us to in Virtual Light and expanded upon in Idoru. While you don't necessarily have to have read either of the two previous books, Gibson refers to events in them often enough to make you curious about the "world history."
In this installment of the series (I think we can safely call these books a series) we are re-acquainted with characters from the previous books and we meet a few more:
Berry Rydell, the ex-cop Everyman who seems to have no ambition in life other than to live it and get by.
Chevette, ex-bicycle messenger and Rydell's ex-girlfriend, running away from a bad relationship towards who knows what.
Colin Laney, friend and benefactor to Rydell, a medical experiment when he was a child left him with the ability to see patterns of information.
Rei Toi, the Idoru, the artificial entity that manifests itself as a human female. It wants to be real.
But as in Virtual Light, the main character is The Bridge, the autonomous community that spontaneously came to be after an earthquake forced the closing of the Golden Gate Bridge. Before the government could demolish the now condemned bridge, thousands of people moved to the unused space and created homes for themselves in any way they could. The Bridge is an open city ignoring all authorities.
Rydell is in Los Angeles working as a security guard for a Lucky Dragon convenience store. The store is one of hundreds in the world and nothing special. When Rydell receives a mysterious phone call from Colin Laney instructing him to go to San Francisco, Rydell has no reason to stay.
Why San Francisco? Laney's strange talents tell him Something Big is going to happen and San Francisco is the focal point. The fact that Laney has no idea of what that something is does not deter him from setting things in motion.
Chevette desires to end a bad relationship with an abusive boyfriend so she and a friend decide to head to San Francisco and The Bridge, Chevette's old stomping ground.
Chevette and Rydell spend most of their time, separately and together, moving from point A to point B, avoiding Bad Guys and interacting with the culture of The Bridge.
Oh yeah, the Bad Guys. The ones chasing Rydell to keep him from interfering with the Something Big and take what he is carrying. And Chevette has her own bad guy chasing her for more personal reasons.
When we reach the end of All Tomorrow's Parties some of his characters can now potentially live happily ever after, but Gibson never explains the nature of the Idoru. He does however leave a very large door open for several books chronicling her fate.
All Tomorrow's Parties has the feel of an interim book, the second in a trilogy. (Hmm, but this is the third?) Gibson seems to be reminding us of situations and events from previous books while fleshing out his characters somewhat. He is pointing them (and us) toward the big finish.
We definitely don't have a big finish in Parties. At the end the Status Quo has shifted but we don't know toward who or how much. We have many more questions than answers.
Is William Gibson losing his edge? Has the razor sharpness from Neuromancer finally been blunted? Or is the story he is telling in this series of books so large that we must step back from the edge to see anything? I found these three books (Virtual Light, Idoru and All Tomorrow's Parties) to be interesting reads but ultimately unsatisfying. In a previous review I called Idoru a collection of interesting scenes and situations which didn't add up to a story. I get a similar feeling from Parties. It is only when all three books are examined together that there seems to be some focus and sense of direction. Whether or not the next book is the focal point remains to be seen.
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