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Would we be any happier?

Thomas Jones: William Gibson

9 February 2020
by William Gibson.
Viking, 402 pp., £18.99, January, 978 0 241 23721 2
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... By definition I don’t really know what I’m looking for,’ the prime minister’s chief special adviser wrote. The best he could do was to reach for a fictional comparison: ‘weirdos from WilliamGibson novels like that girl hired by Bigend as a brand “diviner” who feels sick at the sight of Tommy Hilfiger’. ‘That girl’ is Cayce Pollard, the 32-year-old protagonist of Pattern ...

Genderbait for the Nerds

Christopher Tayler: William Gibson

22 May 2003
Pattern Recognition 
by William Gibson.
Viking, 356 pp., £16.99, April 2003, 0 670 87559 7
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... logo designs: ‘She’s met the very Mexican who first wore his baseball cap backward . . . She’s that good.’ It’s an effortful business, and, it seems, a full-time job, but hardly unusual in WilliamGibson’s futuristic fiction, which often features characters whose sensitivity to ambient data borders on the supernaturally acute. His last but one, Idoru (1996), introduced Colin Laney, an ...

Grunge Futurism

Julian Loose

4 November 1993
Virtual Light 
by William Gibson.
Viking, 336 pp., £14.99, September 1993, 0 670 84081 5
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Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Post-Modern Science Fiction 
by Scott Bukatman.
Duke, 416 pp., £15.95, August 1993, 0 8223 1340 5
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... The future isn’t what it used to be. In one of WilliamGibson’s first published stories, ‘The Gernsback Continuum’, a photographer is assigned to capture examples of ‘futuristic’ American design from the Thirties, the kind of dream architecture that ...
29 August 1991
The Difference Engine 
by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.
Gollancz, 384 pp., £7.99, July 1991, 9780575050730
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... happened if the enemies of mechanism had changed their minds? The Difference Engine is one answer, in the form of an ‘uchronic’ novel: set in ‘no time’, instead of Utopia’s ‘no place’. Gibson and Sterling propose that the Duke of Wellington is killed by a Luddite bomb in 1831. Tired of internecine struggle between Tories and workers, the country turns to the ‘Industrial Radical Party ...
7 January 1993
Virtual Reality 
by Howard Rheingold.
Secker, 415 pp., £19.99, October 1992, 0 436 41212 8
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by Katie Hafner and John Markoff.
Fourth Estate, 368 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 1 872180 94 9
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Glimpses of Heaven, Visions of Hell: Virtual Reality and its Implications 
by Barrie Sherman and Phil Judkins.
Hodder, 224 pp., £12.99, July 1992, 0 340 56905 0
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... In the novels of WilliamGibson and other writers of cyberpunk, the new SF sub-genre, in the glittery non-realism of the movies, cyberspace is crystalline and neonlit and shiny, a place of infinite depth and detail, of towers and ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Google Glass

23 May 2013
... of that world, of course – especially in Britain, global capital of the CCTV camera. But you can see a camera or a phone or a tape recorder when it’s held up in front of you. Glass is different. WilliamGibson tried on a pair briefly at a conference, and tweeted: ‘Expect Google Glass to be reworked into less obvious, more trad spectacles, sunglasses etc, for covert use.’ A racing certainty, I ...


John Sutherland

18 November 1993
by Iain Banks.
Little, Brown, 313 pp., £15.99, September 1993, 0 316 90688 3
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Against a Dark Background 
by Iain M. Banks.
Orbit, 496 pp., £8.99, January 1994, 1 85723 185 6
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... Say ‘Iain Banks’ and the person you are talking to will say ‘The Wasp Factory.’ Banks may have as much trouble getting out from under the success of his first novel as did William Golding. It was a memorable debut. The Wasp Factory provoked a moral panic in 1984. The TLS critic called it the ‘literary equivalent of the nastiest kind of juvenile delinquency’; Margaret ...
5 February 1987
Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction 
by Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove.
Gollancz, 511 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 575 03942 6
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by Greg Bear.
Gollancz, 504 pp., £10.95, October 1986, 0 575 03861 6
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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Four Parts 
by Douglas Adams.
Heinemann, 590 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 434 00920 2
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Humpty Dumpty in Oakland 
by Philip K. Dick.
Gollancz, 199 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 575 03875 6
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The Watcher 
by Jane Palmer.
Women’s Press, 177 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4038 0
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I, Vampire 
by Jody Scott.
Women’s Press, 206 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4036 4
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... of woman – which has not changed since the days of St Augustine. Aldiss suggests that Lewis is trying ‘to answer the Wellsian position in vaguely Wellsian terms’, but this does not ring true. William Golding perhaps did that in Lord of the Flies (cp. Moreau), in The Inheritors (cp. ‘The Grisly Folk’), in ‘Envoy Extraordinary’ (cp. Wells’s Outline of History): but Lewis would deny every ...
19 April 1990
The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a spy through a maze of computer espionage 
by Clifford Stoll.
Bodley Head, 326 pp., £12.95, February 1990, 0 370 31433 6
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... thrilling as it would be if The Cuckoo’s Egg were a work of detective fiction. After tracking the hacker through a dense and endless forest of computer networks – what the Science Fiction writer WilliamGibson has called cyberspace – Stoll discovers that, whoever he is, the hacker is using the Berkeley lab as a way-station to infiltrate sensitive military and intelligence computers all over the ...


Ian Stewart

4 November 1993
The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier 
by Bruce Sterling.
Viking, 328 pp., £16.99, January 1993, 0 670 84900 6
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The New Hacker’s Dictionary 
edited by Eric Raymond.
MIT, 516 pp., £11.75, October 1992, 0 262 68079 3
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Approaching Zero: Data Crime and the Computer Underworld 
by Bryan Clough and Paul Mungo.
Faber, 256 pp., £4.99, March 1993, 0 571 16813 2
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...  individual computers, ‘nodes’ on the global network, which maintain files that anyone with a modem and the right phone numbers can dial up, read or write. They inhabit what the SF writer WilliamGibson calls ‘cyberspace’, the linked electronic interiors of the world’s computers. Cyberspace is real, even though it has no overt physical presence. The American telephone system lives in ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Silly mistakes and blood for Bush

4 December 2003
... No such problem for Bush: his spare blood is in the fridge in his armoured cadillac, alongside the cans of Diet Coke.The LRB has received a sheet of puffs for The Chief, David Nasaw’s Life of William Randolph Hearst (Gibson Square, £9.99), including one from Conrad Black in the Scotsman. That would be the same Conrad Black who wrote the book’s foreword. A helpful yellow post-it note reads ...


Lorna Scott Fox: Salvador Dali

2 April 1998
The Shameful Life of Salvador Dali 
by Ian Gibson.
Faber, 764 pp., £30, November 1997, 0 571 16751 9
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... and essays offer more in the way of perception, deception, bravado, and indeed perversity, than do the paintings: one problem for the biographer is that Dalí said it all, quite wittily, himself. Gibson does the exhaustive job of slotting every fact into place for the first time, dispelling a few confusions and taking us up to the last days, with the wrangles between Spain and Catalunya over the ...
9 May 1996
John Wayne: American 
by Randy Roberts and James Olson.
Free Press, 738 pp., £17.99, March 1996, 0 02 923837 4
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... Now we don’t want to see no John Wayne performances out here,’ a sergeant tells his platoon in Vietnam. We see them anyway, collected in Slotkin’s book and in Warrior Dreams (1994) by James WilliamGibson. When Philip Caputo joined the Marines, he saw himself ‘charging up some distant beachhead, like John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima’. ‘War movies with John Wayne’ sent Ron Kovic to ...


Julian Loose

30 January 1992
The Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Alfred Birnbaum.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 241 13144 8
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... owes more to the winning cartoonism of Kurt Vonnegut (touched perhaps by Raymond Roussel’s delight in deliriously over-elaborate explanations) than to the dirty cyberpunk realism of Sterling and WilliamGibson. Similarly, Murakami’s fantasy narrative is more reminiscent of the elegant allegories of Ursula le Guin than the sword and sorcery adventures of, say, Anne McCaffrey. In the parallel story ...

Howling Soviet Monsters

Tony Wood: Vladimir Sorokin

30 June 2011
The Ice Trilogy 
by Vladimir Sorokin, translated by Jamey Gambrell.
NYRB, 694 pp., £12.99, April 2011, 978 1 59017 386 2
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Day of the Oprichnik 
by Vladimir Sorokin.
Farrar, Straus, 191 pp., $23, March 2011, 978 0 374 13475 4
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... New Russia, imported gadgetry coexists with icons and incense, oil pipelines with feudalism. It’s as if hi-tech limbs had been grafted onto the torso of early modern statecraft: Wolf Hall meets WilliamGibson. Komiaga begins his day by repressing a nobleman, and then spends the rest of it attending to a variety of tasks: censoring a play, investigating a subversive poem, resolving a customs dispute ...

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