Tuesday, November 15, 2022


Well, as you can see I didn't post anything on Friday. This is exactly why I decided not to participate in NaNoWriMo, because if I did, then I'd be behind schedule and beating myself up about it. Instead, I'm doing Try To Write More In November But If I Don't That's Okay And I Forgive Myself, or TTWRINBIIDTOAIFM, and I'm writing right now so this definitely counts. 

On Sunday I also wrote what I think is a really great article on Blue Collar Prepping about a battery backup for my CPAP, and I'm pretty sure that counts too. 

So, I'm gonna talk some shit about William Gibson. But first, a video. 

I used to be a William Gibson fan. I adore Neuromancer; in addition to being a well-crafted story in general, it's a seminal work of science fiction that jump-started the cyberpunk subgenre (alongside other authors like Greg Bear and Walter Jon Williams). I try and read it every year or so, it's that good. 

The sequel, Count Zero, was also very good, although the story is a bit fractured due to perspective shifts. Something that you need to know about William Gibson is that he can tell amazing stories, but only so long as he keeps to one character's perspective. The more perspectives he adds, the more convoluted the story becomes, until it eventually collapses under its own weight. The multiple perspectives become more important than telling a coherent story, resulting in an ending that gives no closure, squanders the intriguing possibilities described in previous novels, and leaves the reader mourning for what could have been. This is what happened to Mona Lisa Overdrive, the third novel in that trilogy. 

I call this Gibsonian Head-Up-Ass Syndrome (GHUpAS, pronounced "goop-ass" because it's my acronym and I can say it however I like), and it's unfortunately a characteristic of his work. My friend Chris Hogan over at the BookFace says Gibson is "an amazing short story writer who sadly works in the novel format," and I can't disagree. Burning Chrome, a collection of his short stories, was published two years before Neuromancer, and many of those stories laid the groundwork for his later Sprawl Trilogy. I think Neuromancer succeeded mainly because it was originally serialized in Asimov's Science Fiction, which meant that it essentially was a collection of short stories told in series and tied together with an overarching plot.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Count Zero works mainly because he keeps the perspectives tight (two, I seem to recall; no, wait, three, but one of them contributes very little to the plot and doesn't interact with the other two POVs, so these act more like interludes than anything else) and because it plays off a neat idea introduced at the very end of Neuromancer: that there's an alien Artificial Intelligence in Earth's internet that was beamed here via satellite from Alpha Centauri and is interacting with the unleashed Neuromancer-Wintermute AI gestalt that was freed of its chains in the previous novel. We subsequently learn that this gestalt AI decides to manifest as various loas of Voudou, and they are appearing to a young woman who can somehow interact with the internet without machinery. 

This is a really cool concept. I bet you're hoping that in the third book you find out why the alien AI is here, how it's different from human-built AIs, if it's friendly or an enemy, and that sort of thing, right? And when you discover that a fan-favorite character from Neuromancer is in this book, that there's gonna be some awesome ass-kicking. Oh, and the internet-woman is here, too! It's all coming together, right?

Answer: Hahahahahaha fuck you, no, you get dogshit. The story in Mona Lisa Overdrive is a confusing mess, there is no resolution to many dangling plot threads, the alien AI story is left abandoned, and your fan-favorite character might as well not be there at all for all the impact she has. 

So why is GHUpAS a syndrome? Because Gibson did the exact same thing in his next three books, the Bridge Trilogy. 
Book 1, Virtual Light: Gibson created an interesting world with compelling characters and an intriguing plot.

Book 2, Idoru: This is a fork from the main book, focusing on a side character from the first one and a plot related to an unexplored aspect of the setting that is relevant and related to the first novel. 

Book 3, All Tomorrow's Parties: The pieces from books 1 and 2 could come together to make a truly remarkable story, but sadly GHUpAS is in full effect. The ending is squandered, more of an afterthought to the mental masturbation of the various perspectives than any sort of closure, and compelling ideas are left to die undeveloped for the sake characters we don't care about, and the characters we do care about are wasted. 
Yes, I am still angry about the wasted potential of Mona Lisa Overdrive. So angry, in fact, that when Gibson pulled the same shit with All Tomorrow's Parties, I swore I'd never give him another cent and never read another of his books. In fact, I am so angry that I want to invent time travel for the sole reason of going back in time to publish all his stories before he does, just so that I can then give those trilogies the proper endings that they deserve. 

So, yeah, The Peripheral? This sounds like peak GHUpAS to me. Maybe he's gotten better with his Blue Ant trilogy, but I wouldn't know because I swore I wouldn't read them, and at this point I don't really care. 

If he holds true to pattern, then whether or not the series has a satisfying ending will depend on if Amazon is adapting just the one book in the series, or all three.
Just the one book? It should be a pretty good series. 

Two books? Still fairly good, although viewers will probably be left with a gnawing "Okay, but what happens with plot threads X, Y, and Z?" feeling. 

Three books? Look at how Game of Thrones ended. 

That's my prediction on November 11, 2022. Come back here from the future and tell me if I was wrong. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.