Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 838
In Gibson’s Bridge stories, media permeates lives in unexpected ways. For example, IntenSecure security guard Sublett has left Reverend Fallon’s cult, which is centered on watching television in order to discover God. Criminal identification is more efficient by means of Separated at Birth, which lists what celebrities a person looks like. The reason Berry Rydell decides to become a police officer is the television show Cops in Trouble.
Unfortunately, Rydell was quickly fired when, playing with a homemade weapon, he killed a fellow officer. His case was picked up by Cops in Trouble, and Rydell was taken to Los Angeles by the lawyers Wellington Ma and Karen Mendelsohn (who seduced him). Abandoned by the show and his lover when a better story came along, Rydell becomes a security guard for IntenSecure and a partner of Sublett. The two get in trouble when hackers fool them into raiding a house which had no real emergency, merely to expose a cheating wife.
Faced with unemployment, Rydell agrees to freelance for IntenSecure on a case in San Francisco, acting as a driver for freelancers Lucius Warbaby and Freddie. The freelancers, in turn, consult with a pair of homicide detectives of Russian descent. The case is gruesome: Hans Blix, a courier, had his virtual-light (VL) glasses stolen and was found dead in his hotel room. VL glasses provide a virtual-reality medium which conveys to the wearer information on whatever he or she gazes. Rydell must track down the bike messenger who is considered the top suspect in the murder, though what the others really want is to retrieve the VL glasses.
Chevette Washington was the one who delivered a package to Blix and then stole the glasses out of spite, recalling Blix’s rudeness at a party. Chevette lives on the Bridge with Skinner, an old man who helped establish the Bridge as a haven for outcasts after the Little Grande earthquake and construction of an underground tunnel rendered it useless. Skinner himself is the subject of a case study by Shinja Yamazaki, a researcher documenting the Bridge as an example of useless but fascinating urban monuments.
When IntenSecure agents seek her out, Chevette tells her friend Sammy Sal what she has done. Sammy goes back to the Bridge with Chevette, who prepares to throw the glasses from the roof of Skinner’s shelter. Sammy shows her how they work, however, and Chevette uses the VL glasses to see plans for a radically changed map of San Francisco. Yamazaki arrives then, forced at gunpoint by Loveless, who demands the glasses. Chevette leads Loveless down the tower and fights him off with the help of Sammy, but Loveless shoots Sammy off the bridge. Chevette seeks the help of her boyfriend, Lowell.
Meanwhile, Rydell is sent to the Bridge to find Washington. He arrives as a storm brews, trailing Chevette and about to pick her up, when the Russian homicide detectives take over. Rydell senses something amiss with the homicide detectives, the two IntenSecure freelancers, and Loveless, who Chevette claims killed her friend. When another friend attacks the police, Rydell takes advantage of the chaos and escapes with Chevette and the VL glasses.
Rydell and Chevette are on the run but are caught by Loveless, who confesses to killing Blix. They are told that the VL glasses reveal plans to rebuild San Francisco with the same nanotechnology being used in Tokyo, reshaping the city and giving insiders a chance to invest in a real-estate bonanza. They manage to escape Loveless and meet up with Sublett, who has returned to Fallon’s cult to care for his ailing mother.
Rydell finally takes advantage of this situation by coordinating a plan with the Republic of Desire, masters of the still-developing cyberspace, to re-create the same sort of prank that got him fired from IntenSecure in the first place. Using their jobs as messenger and security guard, Chevette and Sublett go to Mendelsohn’s apartment to deliver the VL glasses and the nanotech plans to rebuild postquake San Francisco. Rydell has the Republic of Desire hack into the Death Star, the Los Angeles Police Department’s spy satellite, to depict the five men pursuing him and Chevette—the Russian cops, Warbaby, Freddie, and Loveless—as terrorists with explosives and hostages. Thus, Rydell’s pursuers are captured by the Los Angeles Police Department SWAT team. Loveless is killed. The producers of Cops in Trouble film Rydell and Chevette’s story, financially and legally supporting their actions.
Yamazaki has been caring for Skinner in Chevette’s absence and learns about James Shapely. Now a Christ-like martyr, Shapely had contracted a mutated version of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) virus, which became the basis for a vaccine, but was killed by militants who considered him an abomination. Deciding to join in the Shapely followers’ rituals, Yamazaki is no longer a student of the Bridge but one of its denizens, embracing the meanings and community outsiders cannot understand. He also discovers Sammy Sal was found alive after the storm.
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