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I'm diametrically opposed to the last reviewer's comments regarding Davis' narration.
Gibson's books contain a polyglot of races and accents. Davis is the perfect choice for these works as his ear for accents is nothing short of amazing. He's one of the few narrators who can manage southern, hispanic, and african-american accents and not force me to cringe.
29 of 31 people found this review helpful
So I made it to the end. Having begun this trilogy with Neuromancer many many years ago, and finally finishing it up now, has left the entire Sprawl series a bit disjointed. Conversely and oddly enough though, my enjoyment of the series actually increased per book. I think I approached the book the wrong way though and honestly for someone new to Gibson's writing style, it's probably not the most accessible entry. It could be due to Gibson's tightening and improving writing, my own maturity, and my own knowledge of how to handle his writing, that leads me to say that Mona Lisa Overdrive, the third in the series, is actually the best of the 3. (Count Zero close behind though). Mona Lisa Overdrive (MLO) attempts to tie together the previous books, and gives some surprising levels of backstory to things like the whole Tessier Ashpool history. I was surprised in a good way to see such a blanket laid out history.
What really gets to me with Gibson is his use of confusing names, for people/places/events. People have multiple names and handles, often many of which don't come off sounding like names or places. I make note of this because if you make the mistake of listening to this trilogy via audiobook, this makes it utterly confusing. In doing so I heavily suggest you still grab a copy of the the physical novels. It makes reading them so..so much easier. I can't stress that part enough. Countless times I've been left baffled as to the events and characters because names were mentioned and I had no clue who or what was being referred to.
Anyway like the previous Gibson books, we're giving a menagerie of characters all of which you can surmise will be linked in some way by the end of the book. Likewise there's a few characters that return in MLO, continuing the link from Count Zero. Out of all of the books, this one is the "tightest" in terms of story. What I mean by that, is that to me, it follows more logical, progressive events. Things happen, and people react to those things in a seemingly reasonable fashion. This may have been the case in the previous books, but again, before I found out really "how to read Gibson" it may have been lost on me. Of course there are moments here in MLO that seem to string the reader along, not really providing answers as to what the characters are doing, but just following them. I'm not a big fan of this style after a while as it comes off as very ad hoc and "off the cuff".
The characters of MLO are actually memorable (imagine that!) Maybe except Yumiko, they all have a real sort of feel that plays into the cyberpunk motifs. Yumiko, comes off to me as very flat, boring and honestly not very plot centric. Angie Mitchell, who is a carry over from the 2nd book, has rocketed to fame ( though we never really know how or why this is) has a secret drug filled life (what celeb doesn't) and is making her return to the lime light, but apparently someone wants to keep her drugged and in a stupor. What separates her from any other, is that she can jack into the matrix without any wires or connecting head gear. I assume this has to do with the fact that her daddy used to work at one of the big Pharm corps, and had her head tested on and inserted some weird cancer like cells and stuff in her brain. This is literally what I gleaned from the previous book.
I'm going to digress a bit here and begin a small rant. I've referenced above that by MLO I've learned how to "read" Gibson. What I've meant by this is that I've learned the art of reading a book/chapter synopsis. Seriously, If I didn't own the physical copy of the book so I could actually see the names, and descriptions, and have online resources for a synopsis. I probably would NOT have gotten to book III. Nor would I have enjoyed it if I did. There's a few really good sites out there that give character bios that really go a long way in helping understand what the characters are doing, how they interact, and what their motives are. Looking back, I'm not sure if I would have pieced it together that Sally Sheers was the same woman from book one, Molly Millions. Gibson never tells you anything out right. All of his hints and explanations are done in such a round about way of description that unless you are really focusing and (for me) making notes about descriptions of characters, a lot of it can pass over your head. Again audio listening to these is not kind to this series.
Anyway back on track to the characters. We have another female character (thinking about it now, this is a pretty pro femme fatale cast!) Mona. While angie is a glamorous superstar, Mona is a seedy prostitute who has fallen in with some douche named Eddy who think's he's made a really good deal in trying to pimp her out, but is pretty much double crossed and most likely killed. Good riddence. What strikes me as odd, and I'm sort of just coming to this realization now, is that out of all of the books, MLO actually has very very little time in the Matrix space. Most of the book takes place in the real world. And I actually think that's a good thing. To me, this book didn't really give off too much of a cyberpunk vibe, or maybe "lo-fi" cyberpunk.
What sort of turns me off to the entire story line of the Sprawl series, is the constant linking of these spiritual gods. Now while I get the use of religious cults and sects in cyberpunk, the whole voodoo thing just seems so random. So apparently after the two AI Wintermute and Neuromancer fused, voodoo african gods spread over the net. lol...wut? And apparently everyone worships them now. I had no idea who or what "Bridgette" was. It just...seems forced. If they were there from the beginning...sure I would have been more accepting but the fact that they just appear is just weird.
One gripe for me is ( and this may again fall on the audio style) is that the characters who are mostly all female, all have a supporting retinue of supporting characters. This makes it a bit confusing, especially going towards the end when they begin to intermingle. I was often finding myself going back and seeing which "butler" was originally with who, etc... The exception to this is the AI for Yumiko, Collin. Who btw is my favorite character....I want a Collin-bro. One character that also stands out is the AI, called Continuity. It's ( I think...) Angie's house "library" assistant. It's sort of like Amazon Echo I reckon. But more about keeping records and keeping track of life events relating to it's owner. It's pretty cool, and is one of the surprisingly few bits of technology actually in the book.
As stated before the book doesn't really give off a super over the top Cyberpunk vibe as the previous two books did. This one is more subtle, which I don't think is a bad thing. One bit that I did enjoy is the backstory of Tessier-Ashpool. More importantly I liked the way that Gibson gave it to us. Instead of just telling us (Gibson would never do that)... He presents it in a way that Angie is watching a documentary, and having it be through the eyes of sort of a director of the documentary. It's hard to explain but it comes off rather interesting. It's sort of like a narrative of how the director shot the documentary.
The climax is at the end of the book, Sally/Molly comes back to her tough as nails persona in a big way, which made me happy to see. She came off as just a bitch earlier, but once the crap hit the fan, she stepped up and took no shit, putting 3Jane in her place. Oh and on a side note, the fact that Bobby (also from the previous book) is in a coma for literally the entire book, was a pretty cool idea. I figured they'd have him be the main character, or come out of the Aleph all Neo like and omnipotent. Nope, He was knocked out the entire book, and that just lent itself to being something unique. Now that being said...the end of this book is...just...anti-climatic. We're all squared away with 3Jane back, looking to take out Angie, and revenge herself on Molly etc... Great battle lined up, the players meet..and then.... nothing? They just forgive her and move on? I'm not sure if there's some sort of hidden message that I missed, but I doubt it.. The book ends pretty flatly, but getting there was a fun ride. For a bit, I was genuinely interested in how the characters were going to meet, and their impact on the story. Aside from the bizarre naming conventions he confusingly uses for characters and places in the Sprawl trilogy, I enjoy this last one. I honestly will probably never read any of them again really, but MLO sticks out as being the best of the worst so to speak. In comparsion to characters like Case from Neuromancer who I had absolutely no vested interest in, these characters here in MLO seem much more fleshed out and actually relatable.
I can't say I'd currently recommend the series to others truth me told. If this were 1994...sure, I'd be all over it... but the books don't unfortunately offer enough ground breaking material to warrant a full read through. While I may suggest reading them out of respect for the genre, and it's foundations, you can honestly find better scifi/ cyberpunk else where.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
I read Neuromancer many years ago, found it hard work but intriguing nonetheless. So when I saw another one of Gibson's books appear in one of Audible's special offers I though why not? Unusually for me I just assumed this was stand-alone and I think this took something away from it. If you're considering reading this without the other two I would say stop and get the others first.
Gibson has an interesting writing style. He hints at things often leaving the reader to fill in the background for themselves. Combined with this and the fact that me memory had little of Neuromancer left and nothing of the second book at all made this hard going. I gave it four stars because that mistake was mine but I probably only got 3 stars enjoyment out of it . . . if that makes sense!
Gibson is a clever writer though. I like the fact that he doesn't feel the need to handhold me through everything. The world of the Sprawl is not a pleasant one. The characters all have a detachment from their world borne of its nature. This most certainly isn't easy reading or for anyone who likes to warm to noble heroes. I'd also agree with some of the other reviewers that the pace and tonality of the narration, while it did fit the book very well, was on the slow and monotone side for me.
Despite all this, I will in a few years re-visit this, starting from the beginning of the trilogy of course. It's clever stuff, well thought out, and I want to do it justice next time!
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
It's great, really. Read the the other two first though. Sit back and enjoy
1 of 1 people found this review helpful