I discovered William Gibson back in the eighties. I honestly don’t remember the year, but I was still of a tender and impressionable age. I devoured Neuromancer and many of the books that followed. I’ve drifted away from his most recent novels, but lately I have been following him on twitter and he provides a window into all kinds of interesting cultural observations. So, as his latest book is a collection of short essays and quasi-journalistic works, I figured that I should give it a try and see what I thought.
The pieces in this collection span thirty years or so of writing, mostly for magazines, though in some cases they are previously unpublished works. Immediately, I was struck by the very personal tones that Bill uses. Many of the pieces have a very autobiographical context, very obviously reporting through the lens of his own experience and still exploring the meanings therein.
These essays often provide glimpses into Bill’s process, not so much the mechanism of how he writes, but instead the deeper place where his ideas come from. These churning wheels that process ideas behind the scenes. His recurring theme of the intersection of technology and culture explains a lot about how he sees the world and where his fiction comes from. This is often confirmed by the short afterwards that he has appended to each piece. Placing those words in the context of their time in candid and personal ways.
I don’t really want to say much about the individual pieces, as I think that exploring this book with an open mind is the best part of the experience. Though some of the essays are dated by technological standards, they retain an anthropological value for their insight into that moment.
It’s a bit of a short review, but the book itself is rather slim, and I’d rather not delve into the text any deeper. I strongly encourage you to pick this up for yourself if have any interest in science and technology and their push on social change. Do it.