Cyberpunk Information Database
Science Fiction

Virtual Light



Title: Virtual Light
Author: William Gibson
Year of publishing: 1993

Virtual Light is the first in the new line of Gibson's novels, set in a more humane future than his earlier cyberpunk novels. Basically, it is a story about bicycle couriers in a near-future San Francisco. Although very keen on the newest achievements of electronic and information technology, this book is more like a 'post-cyberpunk' than a conventional cyberpunk novel. In fact, the book is almost light-hearted, in places. It has a happy ending, nobody important dies, and there are a few outright hilarious moments.

Virtual Light contains post-apocalyptic anarchy, protagonists immersed in and dealing with this anarchy, shadowy evil power structures which threaten to wreck them at every turn, memorable supporting characters with one or two gimicks, interesting technological gadgetry and effects, and just a general attitude that says "don't mess wit me, monkey-man!


The plot has the almost standard cyberpunk element of "something stolen from a courier that everyone wants to get their hands on". In this case, it turns out to be relatively trivial (no incredible new cybertechnology or military secrets; more like real estate secrets), so at least there aren't any major huge corporations after them.

Chevette Washington is the bicycle courier who steals the thing in the first place; she lives on the Golden Gate bridge, which became a haven for the homeless after it was closed to traffic. (That section of the book, incidentally, was modified from "Skinner's Room", a story part of a 1990 art exhibit called "Visionary San Francisco".)

Berry Rydell is a cop in trouble - he gets into all the hot spots, the major one being one where his on-line computer is hacked to indicate an emergency in a residential apartment - only to catch the wife of the owner of the apartment and the gardener in The Act, leather and handcuffs inclusive. So he moves on to take an assignment under dubious auspices, to find and return a pair of glasses (a pair of goggles with Virtual Light VR, which stimulates the optic nerve directly without "real" light) that were stolen in a party by a delivery girl - Chevette. (This is the romance angle.) So Rydell is double-crossed. His search leads to the eventual discovery of a plan that will lead to San Francisco being under a computer network-based dictatorship, just like Tokyo. This discovery puts him a terminatable position, but using his newly acquired knowledge and enlisting the aid of a few more hackers, he sics Death Star, a riot control supermachine, on the gangsters chasing him.

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