All Tomorrow’s Parties (1999) by William Gibson

Colin Laney, sensitive to patterns of information like no one else on earth, currently resides in a cardboard box in Tokyo. His body shakes with fever dreams, but his mind roams free as always, and he knows something is about to happen. Not in Tokyo; he will not see this thing himself. Something is about to happen in San Francisco.

from the synopsis

Let me begin with a caveat. I am a big fan of William Gibson’s writing and have read and enjoyed almost all of his short stoies and novels. I know his style isn’t for everyone but it really works for me. I love his ideas, his invention, the worlds he builds as well as his dialogue. How I wish I could write dialogue like Gibson.

All Tomorrow’s Parties is the third book in Gibson’s Bridge Trilogy, preceded by Virtual Light (1993) and Idoru (1996). It can be read as a standalone story even though it features a couple of characters from the other two books. This was published back in 1999 when people were all excitied about the approaching new millenium. Realizing that was 23 years ago is making me feel weird, like I somehow missed ten years or something. Do you ever get that feeling or is it only me? But I digress.

All Tomorrow’s Parties is not an easy book to desribe. One of the main characters, Colin Laney, spends all his time surfing the net. This leads him to discover an impending “historical shift which may precede the end of the world”. He believes someone else has also discovered this approaching “shift” and is going to attempt to alter it to suit their purpose. To stop this from happening, Laney hires ex-cop Barry Rydell (from Virtual Light) to travel to San Francisco where he believes the next “nodal point” will surface. The San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge is one of the main settings of the book and the “Bridge Trilogy”.

I had such a good time reading this book. Whenever I re-read a Gibson book I tell myself not to leave it too long before reading the next one. Hey, maybe it works so well because of the gap? It feels a bit like returing to a favourite place, somewhere you know very well yet can still surprise you. There were parts of the story that I had completely forgotten, so it almost felt like I was reading this for the first time. I don’t have reviews of the other Bridge Trilogy books on this site but I recommend them all. Start with Virtual Light, then move on to Idoru. I can’t decide if Virtual Light or this one (All Tomorrow’s Parties) is my favourite of the three.

Here are some quotes from the book:

“but he isn’t crazy. Just obsessed. And the obsession has its own shape in his head, its own texture, its own weight. He knows it from himself, can differentiate, so he goes back to it whenever he needs to and checks on it. Monitors it. Makes sure it still isn’t him.”

“The beggar has wrapped his legs and feet in brown paper tape, and the effect is startlingly medieval, as though someone has partially sculpted a knight from office materials. The trim calves, the tapered toes, an elegance calling out for ribbons. Above the tape, the man is a blur, a spastic scribble, his being abraded by concrete and misfortune. He has become the color of pavement, his very race in question.”

“The watch is very old, purchased from a specialist dealer in a fortified arcade in Singapore. It is military ordnance. It speaks to the man of battles fought in another day. It reminds him that every battle will one day be as obscure, and that only the moment matters, matters absolutely. The enlightened warrior rides into battle as if to a loved one’s funeral, and how could it be otherwise?”

Thanks so much for reading!

-Wakizashi, *recommending the Netflix anime series Cyberpunk Edgerunners*


10 thoughts on “All Tomorrow’s Parties (1999) by William Gibson

  1. I’ve only read Neuromancer by Gibson and I disliked it immensely. It was back in ’11 though, so I don’t even remember much of why I didn’t like it. I suspect Gibson’s personal philosophy came through and I reacted more against that than anything 😀

    For your sake I am glad you have an author that is this good for you. I suspect that is how I feel about Neal Asher 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks mate. I’ve been thinking about how a lot of authors tend to lose their brilliance as the years pass. How often their later releases don’t have the same hunger or energy as their earlier ones. I still enjoy Gibson but his more recent releases don’t give me as much excitement as before. Re-reading his earlier books has kind of woken up that excitement.

      Have you had a similar experience with any of your favourite authors?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t notice it as much “per author” but more in a series. Especially long running or open ended ones. Alan Dean Foster’s “Pip and Flinx” series comes immediately to mind. It started as a fun light sf adventure series and by the end was this “end of the universe” with daddy issues kind of story.

        Liked by 1 person

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