(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Virtual Light is Gibson’s fourth solo novel, preceded by his cyberspace trilogy of Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988); one story collection, Burning Chrome (1986); and a novel coauthored with Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine (1990).

Although Virtual Light is placed in a future roughly similar to that of the Neuromancer trilogy, the novel shows the author’s development away from reliance on technology as the central element of his books. The Virtual Light glasses in the novel play a relatively minor role. Gibson focuses more on the culture and characters of his near future, fragmented society.

Gibson’s style always has been distinctive for its union of technology and humanity. In the world of Virtual Light, cars and buildings are organic structures; in order for people to exist, they often must adapt. In the opening chapter, the courier in possession of the Virtual Light glasses describes the lights of Mexico City buildings as “the luminous flesh of giants.” Such descriptions present a unique vision of buildings as living things—aliens of human construction.

As in science fiction in general and cyberpunk novels in particular, the novel personifies social groups as part of its theme: Groups of people function as single characters. DatAmerica and the characters of Warbaby and Loveless can be seen as the...

(The entire section is 474 words.)