December 12, 1988 12:00 PM

by William Gibson

Gibson is the leading voice in cyber-punk, an exciting ’80s school of science fiction that mixes high-tech with hip. Mona Lisa Overdrive, his third novel, could be regarded as the completion of a trilogy, containing, as it does, a few recurring characters and many themes familiar from Neuromancer and Count Zero, his first two works. Gibson evokes a bleak, post-(nuclear)bellum, technocratic future ruled by a handful of pan-global corporations. Filled with opulence and rubble—and not much in between—it is a world of bionics, female assassins, designer drugs, artificial intelligence, ubiquitous pollution, computer cowboys and industrial savagery. In this future, information is power and most of that hard, cold data reposes in a monolithic computer matrix. Gibson’s outlaw heroes are usually free-lance computer jockeys using their wits, nerve and software to infiltrate the matrix in order to enrich themselves. Mona Lisa Overdrive revolves around the abduction of a specially endowed simstim star. (Simstim is a futuristic form of immersion TV that engages and stimulates all five senses.) In many ways, it is Gibson’s most absorbing story to date, but he has so many plot lines working that it takes most of the book for him to generate much narrative momentum. More recondite and jargony—lots of computerspeak—than its predecessors, this book is not a propitious primer to the Gibson oeuvre. Instead, readers who are sci-fi user-friendly may want to begin with the masterly Neuromancer (a Hugo and Nebula Award winner). You’ll get to the sequels soon enough. Gibson’s vision, while it can be forbidding, is fascinating. (Spectra/Bantam, $17.95)

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