All Tomorrow's Parties
Reviewed by Sidney Moody, Fri., June 16, 2000
All Tomorrow's Partiesby William Gibson
Putnam, 277 pp., $24.95
All Tomorrow's Parties is cyberpunk prognosticator William Gibson's attempt to pierce the technofetishistic membrane of the new millennium and should be subtitled: It's the End of the World as We Know It and Bill Gibson Wants Us All to Feel Fine. All Tomorrow's Parties continues the storyline of Gibson's 1996 novel The Idoru, which ended with the marriage of the Chinese-Irish rock star Rez ("very possibly the last of the pre-posthuman megastars") to the idoru herself, a computer-generated entertainer from Japan who goes by the name Rei Toei ("a waking dream, a love object sprung from the approximation of global mass unconsciousness"). In All Tomorrow's Parties, certain details of the marriage are told from the viewpoint of American Colin Laney, the techno-shaman of the nodal point whose visions of pure information haven't dimmed a bit, but who is now reduced to living in a cardboard box hotel located in one of the seamier sections of Tokyo. It seems that this marriage between a human and a hologram was doomed from the beginning, a point driven home when Rei Toei inexpliably vanishes.
One feels slightly embarrassed to witness Gibson's well-known eBay obsession with collecting antique wristwatches tweaked into a subplot about one of the Bay Bridge's street urchins obsessed with the same. One only hopes that Gibson is using these retro stemwinders to make a new-Joycean statement about the nature of time that is somehow connected to Laney's vision of time's end, but this isn't apparent from just one reading of the text. It's clear that Gibson's got the phlogiston and he's got it in spades. His instantly addictive prose is sprinkled with Raymond Chandlerisms like: "Her lips, around the tan filter tip, looked like a pair of miniature water beds plastered with glittery blue candy coat." But I want more Rei Toei. I want to know what goes on inside that pretty hologram-of-a-head of hers, not a tease of a characterization with her flitting in and out of the narrative like an enigmatic Energizer bunny. I want more of the dyadically wounded Laney and his unholy visions of how everything is going to change. And I wish I didn't have to wait another three or four years for the next installment.