Weeding Womb


Idoru by William Gibson. 'Virtual Light' was a great novel. I loved it, and have read it three times. This one doesn't feel like the sequel as much as the remix. And therein lies the rub: Remixes are often more diluted. They ape the original too closely, and the parts that don't are just introducing often-inferior elements of their own. It follows from the old supposed Samuel Johnson quote: 'Your manuscript is both original and good. But the parts that are original are not good, and the parts that are good are not original.'

And that's the problem with Idoru. It has all the elements of 'Virtual Light':
1) A very important piece of computer hardware that Important People want.
2) A mostly-innocent girl, who fate gifts unwillingly with item #1.
3) A friend of item #2 who sacrifices him- or herself for item #2 and is assumed to have died, but who doesn't really die.
4) A down-on-his-luck guy who's had a bad run-in with the highly unethical bottom-crawling 'hard-hitting news' media, who caught him at the same time the unfortunate death of an innocent did.
5) Someone, proxy for a powerful conglomerate, who hires #4.
6) A Japanese guy.
7) Russians.
8) VR cyberspace, of course.
9) A scene involving unpleasant sex.
10) A small community unto itself that most people ignore.
11) A hip club where a fight breaks out as different factions meet.
12) Gibson uses his male main character's last name to refer to him, but uses his female main character's first name for her.

The pieces are moved around but not really changed much, except to make it worse:
1) The hardware is different and IMHO, much more poorly explained and less relevant than the virtual light glasses. It's nanotech, it's a human-computer interface, it's a panacea, it's a technobabble tchotchke. The Virtual Light glasses felt real.
2) The girl is about the same, though somewhat less compelling. I preferred VL's Chevette to Idoru's Chia.
3) Sammy Sal of VL surviving a fall that could've killed him was okay for the happy ending. This time it was like Gibson wanted to make it more debilitating but didn't want it to actually kill the sacrificial lamb. So it turns out Zona Rosa loses her online identity and is in deep denial about her disabled real-life form. So she'll be 'back' someday in a new online mask.
4) Berry Rydell (VL) was far more compelling than Colin Laney. More on this later
5) Okay, Keith Alan Blackwell was cooler than VL's Lucius Warbaby.
6) The same Japanese guy, I think. Only this time he wasn't a 'fish out of water' and passive observer (like in VL) so much as an extension of the same company Blackwell worked for. The only thing I liked about him in VL was that he provided someone new to the future fractured United States that the reader could experience the world through. Other than that, he was the worst part of the story. Here, he doesn't have the 'newbie' status as his saving grace. He's just kind of... there.
7) Well, the Russians in VL were at least more memorable. Here they're just mob people who showed up all of a sudden to tie up a loose plot end or two.
8) Same as before, though see item #10.
9) I preferred the drawn-out suspense of Loveless's attempted rape of Chevette Washington to this one's weird Photoshopped rape pictures blackmail. And somehow I fail to understand how a girl with a celeb father would think her best way to an acting career was to agree to be 'violently raped' by a guy who'd be digitally altered to look like someone else. Agree or no agree, the description was still extremely unpleasant. I mean, I don't watch porn that violent in Real Life, I don't like reading about it with any amount of detail, either. And, to top it off, the blackmailer's only real purpose was so a villain odius enough would be handy for Blackwell to 'have a discussion with', a discussion involving nails.
10) Both times, it was very much a case of the zeitgeist at the time of writing taking over the story. In VL it was TV-watching religious fanatics, when satellite TV was big and trendy. In Idoru it's a Napster/SETI-at-home distributed computing type VR city for withdrawn geeks.
11) Okay, the club here was a bit cooler in design.
12) This is a classic Gibson thing. Look at Neuromancer's Case and Molly. I can't even remember Case's first or Molly's last name.

Other major problems with this story include that the main male character (Item 4) never meets the girl (Item 2) until the end, and then they just pass in a crowd. The best scenes and characterizations of Virtual Light were after Berry Rydell and Chevette Washington met and went on the run together. I do understand that Laney and Chia had no reason to meet, unlike Rydell and Chevette, but it just hurt the story. You had to keep track of two or more individual plot threads all through the story. Was rather annoying.

Not as annoying as expected was the character of Rez, since I know someone with that online moniker. Of course, I also read a series of pretty cool short stories with a character named Rez, then there was the game Rez, so I suppose I'm used to it.

To summarize: It was suspenseful like VL, but annoying unlike VL. If you're expecting (Virtual?) lightning to strike twice, it didn't.

The Archon

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