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Gibson non-fiction offers original view

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/1/2012 (2477 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson strays away from speculative fiction to comment on the real world in his first collection of non-fiction.

Originally hailing from the U.S. but based in Vancouver since the late '60s, Gibson is best known for his 1984 debut novel Neuromancer, which has proven an important influence on current sci-fi and speculative fiction, not least among them The Matrix trilogy of films.

The 26 essays compiled here cover a range of differing topics and draw from a number of publications over the last 20 years. Collection is certainly an appropriate description for this type of book. There is no over-arching or cohesive topic or theme that connects these pieces.

Gibson touches on a wide range of subjects and dabbles in different writing styles. Disneyland with the Death Penalty is something of a travel journal of a visit to Singapore in the '90s.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/1/2012 (2477 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson strays away from speculative fiction to comment on the real world in his first collection of non-fiction.

Originally hailing from the U.S. but based in Vancouver since the late '60s, Gibson is best known for his 1984 debut novel Neuromancer, which has proven an important influence on current sci-fi and speculative fiction, not least among them The Matrix trilogy of films.

William Gibson's collection has something for everyone interested in technological trends.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

William Gibson's collection has something for everyone interested in technological trends.

The 26 essays compiled here cover a range of differing topics and draw from a number of publications over the last 20 years. Collection is certainly an appropriate description for this type of book. There is no over-arching or cohesive topic or theme that connects these pieces.

Gibson touches on a wide range of subjects and dabbles in different writing styles. Disneyland with the Death Penalty is something of a travel journal of a visit to Singapore in the '90s.

Rocket Radio feels like a short bit of memoir focused on his boyhood fascination with technology, technology that would soon undergo radical changes, whereas Will We Have Computer Chips in Our Heads? is a very rational response to a mildly ridiculous question that Gibson notes has been posed to him many times.

There are pieces about popular music, his meeting a larger-than-life film director, Japan's Takeshi Kitano, and his an obsession with buying watches on EBay.

These divergent essays were produced for very different publications and for very different purposes. There are introductions and forewords to other books, pieces commissioned by Rolling Stone and Time magazines and some pieces which were presented at book talks and conventions.

Because there is no thematic coherence, this collection is primarily for Gibson fans. Readers familiar with his 10 novels should greatly enjoy his quite original and perceptive musings. At the end of each piece, Gibson offers a short commentary about why the piece was produced and whether he still agrees with what he's written. He sometimes modestly downplays how accurate many of his predictions about the rise of the Internet and technology have turned out to be.

Despite the multiplicity of subjects, Gibson often fixates on the technology surrounding whatever he's talking about, such as the accessibility provided by digital filmmaking or the different programs and bots that ruin his online auction experiences.

Distrust That Particular Flavor

Distrust That Particular Flavor

He is an accomplished observer and has a profound ability to look back and trace the history of technological advances and recognize where unexpected twists caused the divergence between what everyone expected to happen and what actually did happen. This skill is the strongest link between these pieces and Gibson's best fiction.

There are some issues, though, largely with a lack of context for this random assortment of essays. Terminal City is an introduction to a book of photographs, none of which the readers of this collection will see unless they head out and buy that book.

Introduction: The Body is another introduction to a book about the Cypriot-Australian performance artist Stelarc, with whom readers are unlikely to be familiar. Without the proper reference material, these pieces feel out of place.

Anyone interested in technological trends will find something to like in this collection. Gibson's style is clear and easy to read, quite an accomplishment considering the complexity of the ideas and the obscurity of some of the topics. Even when discussing the non-fictional world, Gibson is able to show a wholly original view of technology and where it will take us.

 

Keith Cadieux teaches English literature at the University of Winnipeg.

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