By William Gibson
Setting & details: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Authenticity of Japanese characters & dialogue: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Translation quality: N/A
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.
If you love a satisfying sci-fi immersion, check the December Japanagram to see if you won a copy of Idoru! All subscribers are automatically entered to win—if you’re not one yet, click this button and sign up to enter.
How I pick the winners: On the last day of each month, I load all the email addresses of Japanagram subscribers into a random name picker on the Web and ask it to choose subscribers to match however many books I’m giving away that month. Then I publish the emails in the next day’s Japanagram (all emails obscured in a way so only the subscriber will be able to recognize it as their own, of course!)
The Last Tea Bowl Thief is an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense on Amazon!