Thursday, 1 February 2001

William Gibson: Idoru (1996)

Edition: Viking, 1996
Review number: 736

We are rapidly approaching the era when virtual celebrities will become a commonplace; there are already websites which feature purely digital news readers. We will no doubt soon see computer generated actors (improving on Jar Jar Binks) and musicians. Eventually, they will have at least simulations of personalities of their own. The pivotal event of this novel depends on this idea; rock star Rez announces his engagement to a virtual personality.

Believing this to be a sign of some form of insanity, various people start to do something about it: the rock band entourage, who hire Lacey, one of the protagonists, to take a rather mystic look at the data about Rez to see if the patterns in it can tell them what is going on; the Seattle area fan club, who send a representative to the nightclub in Tokyo where the announcement was supposedly made, to find out the truth behind the rumours that reached them.

Gibson's novel, which fits into the post-cyberpunk science fiction world that he was instrumental in creating, is about the nature of fame. This is not just shown by Rez and the idoru (virtual celebrity); Lacey's previous job was to work for tabloid Slitscan, researching exposés of celebrities often with the collaboration of the celebrity themselves. Gibson's view of the world of the famous in the future is cynical; he shows a world where manipulation by and of the media is the nature of celebrity. There are clear signs of this development in the world in which we live today, and the reader will hardly be amazed by the uncanny prescience of Gibson's predictions, but Idoru is well written, an interesting extrapolation of current trends.

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