Book review: All Tomorrow’s Parties

All Tomorrow's Parties.All Tomorrow’s Parties by William Gibson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not with a bang, but a whimper. That’s how William Gibson’s Bridge trilogy appears to end. The final novel is enjoyable, though it’s shot through with frustration and missed opportunity.

The problem is that while characters reappear from across the previous two books, certain key characters are wasted, or used too sparingly. All we get of Blackwell is one unnamed appearance? Come on, guy. You can’t create someone that memorable (not that Gibson created “Chopper” Read, but you know what I mean) and then not use them! Particularly when the Bridge trilogy, unlike the Sprawl, ensures most of the same characters figure in each novel.

The problem with the book is that it seems padded. There’s characters who play no real part given airtime which could have been better used. Creedmore? Boomzilla? They exist for something like one plot convenience each (van-minding and kissing, respectively) and don’t add anything other than “colour”. Except where previously character colour has always been something Gibson’s not short of, here it seems a reach, an acknowledgement that something less-than-optimal is going on, writingwise. Even Tessa, more or less a major character, seems to exist solely to show how obnoxious people who fly drones are.

It’s confusing – when coupled with the rest of the tale, it seems Gibson didn’t really have any idea how to tie up the trilogy. It certainly seems the case, given the dismissive way one of the key concerns of Idoru – the union of human and AI – is treated. Rei is recycled, but it seems purely because she’s a good character and can act a stand-in for the sort of motivational film noir objet d’amour required to move the plot, not because of any deeper thinking.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of startling imagery to be going on with – the ultimate fate of the Bridge, Rei’s ultimately Pinocchio-esque story, the literal manifestation of good versus evil (and the power of data interpretation) in Laney and Harwood – but the story is clouded and a bit hand-wavy in its almost unfinished nature. That’s something I’ve not come across in Gibson’s writing before. Previously, there was space for the reader to fill in the blanks, but here it’s been replaced by a gesture at a foggy room, titled with the phrase “…and then some stuff happened…” to prompt thought, unsuccessfully. Even the segments in Shinjuku seemed a bit thrown-in.

It’s a shame. I had felt the trilogy were leading somewhere, but All Tomorrow’s Parties doesn’t build on its predecessors in a meaningful way. All we learn is that drones and faux-country singers are shit, and that convenience stores are run similarly to dictatorships. C’mon Gibson, tell us something we don’t know.

My Goodreads profile is here.

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