Virtual Light Essay - Critical Essays

Virtual Light

Set in an L.A. where the rich and powerful hunker down in Stealth Houses guarded by armed patrol cars, and a San Francisco which so far has defied corporate America, William Gibson’s science fiction novel VIRTUAL LIGHT fascinates with its clever extrapolation of current trends, its uncanny vision, and some plucky protagonists.

Stranded in L.A. after losing his job as a cop in Knoxville to the lawyers of a psychotic’s family, Berry Rydell trips up again when he responds too vigorously to a false alarm while on the payroll of IntenSecure, the best among L.A.’s booming private security providers. Sent to San Francisco, Rydell is to help recover a stolen set of sun glasses. Far from the ordinary thing, their razor-thin lenses contain a cyberspace databank which holds the plans for turning San Francisco into the ultimate corporate themepark. Because his rude come-on offended her, Chevette Washington has purloined the glasses from their Serbian courier, thus ending her career as one of the fastest bike messengers.

Hunter and hunted, Berry and Chevette meet on the Bay Bridge, the last place in America where spontaneity rules supreme: abandoned after the Little Grande earthquake, the bridge has become home to the city’s homeless, who live all the way up to its cable-towers. Turned off by the brutality of his employers, Rydell rescues Chevette and switches sides.

With the goons of IntenSecure and DatAmerica hot on their heels, Gibson’s protagonists traverse a California replete with digital tattoo parlors, fortified Christian RV compounds, and mischievous information superhighwaymen. Up to the finale atop L.A.’s most bizarre skyscraper, VIRTUAL LIGHT is a feast of the imagination. With this novel, William Gibson has proven his mettle as a first-class storyteller, and an equal to Thomas Pynchon.

Sources for Further Study

Byte. XVIII, September, 1993, p.49.

Chicago Tribune. August 8, 1993, XIV, p.1.

The Christian Science Monitor. August 26, 1993, p. 11.

Library Journal. CXVIII, August, 1993, p.159.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 17, 1993, p.13.

New Statesman and Society. VI, September 24, 1993, p.55.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVIII, September 12, 1993, p.36.

Publishers Weekly. CCXL, September 6, 1993, p.70.

The Times Literary Supplement. October 1, 1993, p.21.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIII, August 22, 1993, p.5.