Reading Backwards

Book reviews by your favorite Git.

Idoru

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By William Gibson
Don’t send the nanotech after me! Amazon.com
Rating: Evasive.
Read: Freshman year (00-01), reread march 05

There are two people who may be upset that I did not enjoy Idoru, but I’m afraid I have to be honest. I found Idoru to be scatter-brained and evasive. I’ve never been a fan of books that follow two characters down totally separate paths only to bring them together at some late stage (I much prefer to know their relation upfront) but Idoru is pained.

Our two main characters are Chia (yes, Pet- her mother is Italian and only recently arrived in America when Chia was born) and Laney, neither of whom knows the other. Chia is a teen fan of a band, Lo/Rez. Rumor has it that Rez, the band’s lead, is planning to marry a Japanese cyber-Idol (pronounced idoru)- a hologram. Clearly this is very, VERY severe- and so the Native America fan club of which Chia is a member gathers their resources (one girl’s very rich father’s money card) to send Chia over to Japan to investigate. Uh, wtf?

Laney is a data analyst with a special, ADD-inspired talent. He can look at all the seemingly random and useless data generated by people just through their daily activities and discern important facts, ideas, etc. He is hired by Lo/Rez’s security team on the sly to figure out what it is Rez thinks he’s doing with this computer program that happens to look like a girl.

The world they inhabit is well-defined. Chia and her friends all have computers that work through VR, including eye goggles and finger touch-pads. With goggles on, they enter virtual worlds that they can manipulate at will. (Chia’s only semi-ally, Zona Rosa, prefers to present herself to the world as a flashy, burning tribal mask. Buddy Icons on crack.) The virtual world has become so developed that in Japan there is a virtual city where otaku live. No, their bodies stay behind, but they port their minds out to a place with completely different rules. Their rooms become dark pits piled with empty ramen and coffee containers. “It is a social problem,” explains Chia’s Japanese hostess, also a member of the Lo/Rez internation fanclub, Mitsuko. A further atmosphere of ‘dark, degenerated future’ is created by mentions of ‘the earthquake’ that ripped apart Tokyo some months before our story begins. The city is currently being rebuilt by nanotechnology so small that the buildings appear to grow and move on their own.

I never liked Laney. He is defeated before he even begins. He is somewhat depressed, as anyone would be after failing to stop someone from committing suicide and being fired for even attempting to, and lets the world roll around him. His own instinct toward self-preservation has been defused, making him a very lackluster character.

On the other hand, everything Chia does seems teenagerly, and makes little sense. Why travel across the world just to talk to the other chapter’s fanclub, when they’re ALL online to begin with? She stupidly carries the bag of a suspicious passenger through customs and then allows this strange woman and her ‘boyfriend’ to give Chia a ride into Tokyo. Of COURSE they think they can use her as a mule again. When it’s discovered that someone is tracking her use of the bank card, she promptly uses it to buy train tickets. She also has little faith in herself, making her just as lackluster as Laney.

The two most interesting characters in Idoru are Zona Rosa of the flaming avatar, who may or may not be lying about heading a street gang in Mexico that is at war with another gang, and Blackwell, Rez’s burly Australian buddy/bodyguard. They, at least, are outlandish, boisterous, and speak creatively. Neither Laney nor Chia is talkative.

So what of Rez and the Idoru, Rei? Is she real? Is she manipulating Rez? Is he insane? I’m at the halfway point and I don’t much care. I remember that this happened the first time I read Idoru, as well. Which means that it’s not just me- it’s the book.

I’m giving up on Idoru, sad to say. My apologies, Sreya-pi. It was the first gift you ever gave me, and that makes it eternally special. Screw the writing.

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Written by Shen

March 31, 2005 at 5:58 pm

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