Friday, 25 May 2012


William Gibson Idoru (1996)
By some definition Idoru might conceivably be the last novel William Gibson wrote before his version of the future became our present. Barring the prescient appearance of nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, this is more or less our world: Japanese sex hotels, reality TV, Second Life, and Bono from U2 amongst other things. The idoru of the title is a virtual Japanese celebrity who, having developed sentience, decides to marry Bono of U2. Gibson swears blind that Rez of fictitious global megastars Lo/Rez is not Bono from U2, but let's come back to that one.

A significant element of Idoru is the divination of the future from trends found in the random cultural chaos of the present, in other words, pattern recognition. This is what Laney does - Colin Laney being one of the novel's principal characters - and what Gibson himself attempts in his writing. And apparently I was at it too, equating Rez to Bono for no immediately obvious reason, no revealing claim of I'm feeling especially Irish today, I think I'll have a potato. Then I find out that Idoru was written some time after Gibson interviewed Bono for Details magazine, a conversation which yielded this from the gurning Celtic Robin Williams impersonator:
"At first, when you're reading stories about your life in the media, who you're supposedly sleeping with, how much money you're supposed to be making, what you had for breakfast - you feel violated. Then you start to realize that the person they're describing has very little to do with you and is in fact much more interesting than you are."

This in turn inspired interviewer Gibson to mention virtual Japanese celebrities constructed from one girl's looks [and] another girl's voice. Not that this necessarily goes anywhere, but I find it interesting that I should have spotted a connection which wasn't overtly expressed in the text. Well done me.

Idoru is about surface, surface without substance, even surface as content in its own right. The narrative is relatively simplified in comparison to some of Gibson's other novels, shaping up much like a short story expanded by means of a more leisurely focus on detail. The only minor problem as I see it is that Gibson is such a master of detail - digressing into the cultural significance of a pair of trousers and all that sort of thing - he sometimes forgets to tell you what the fuck is actually happening, or perhaps assumes you'll divine it from amongst  the random signals just as Laney divines the significance of some bloke marrying a virtual woman by examining his digital entrails. The odd pointer along the lines of the famous man looked at the red cup would be helpful, but this is nevertheless beautifully written and thought provoking stuff so I'm not complaining.

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