By William Gibson

Cover of Idoru by William Gibson

Setting & details: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Authenticity of Japanese characters & dialogue: ⭐⭐⭐
Translation quality:
Entertainment value: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
My recommendation:
This book imagines a Japan that’s mesmerizing in its projections of near-future pop culture and chillingly prescient in predicting the kind of world that current technology is forging right now

I’ve always thought it’s a shame to say that William Gibson is a great science fiction writer, because he’s such a great writer, period. He effortlessly packs so much information into a one-paragraph sketch of a character that you don’t just guess where the person came from, where they’re headed, and how they’re probably going to get there, you feel their prejudices, sympathize with their grudges and are already conspiring with them to escape the insidious influence of their boss. And he’s not just a visionary when it comes to imagining all the weird stuff that might spiral out from current technologies, he follows it down into all the wiggly ways it might be used for unsanctioned (and illegal) purposes. How biohacking might be bent to body mod fashion on the black market. What forms addiction might take in future generations.

This book—the second in his “Bridge” trilogy*—is about a rock star who wants to marry a music idol. The only catch is, she doesn’t really exist, except as an artificial intelligence and renderings on a server. How they pursue their perfect union is the stuff of which this immersive novel is made, and it’s got so much quintessential Japan in it, it really makes me want to live long enough to see it.

This is a tale about the real wanting to become the virtual—not to obtain tedious old immortality, but to pursue true love, in the very best tradition of Japanese dramas. It’s full of truly eye-opening visions of present-day Japan being projected into the future.

*Gibson’s “trilogies” are really standalone books that happen to exist in the same time and reality and share some characters. Your understanding of all the little backstories will be greater if you’ve read them all, but you don’t have to have read the first one to enjoy Idoru. If you want to, though, it’s called Virtual Light, and is also a great favorite of mine, because it takes place in a near-future San Francisco.

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Jonelle Patrick writes mystery novels set in Tokyo, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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