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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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All Tomorrow's Parties

Chris Campbell

I just finished reading William Gibson's All Tomorrow's Parties which I like a lot. I've become a bit of a fan of Gibson in reverse. I'd known about him for a while with the "invented the term cyberspace" plastered throughout almost everything written about him, but I didn't get around to reading any fiction by him. The nonfiction that I read was great, so one day I saw a discounted copy of All Tomorrow's Parties and I picked it up, but never got around to reading it. Then I saw Pattern Recognition which I bought since I browsed through it and couldn't put it down. I loved Pattern Recognition and started reading All Tomorrow's Parties right after I finished it. I like the idea (since I arrived late at this particular party) of working my way through his work backwards.
The other thing that I didn't do (which is a bit different for me) is research the book... when I like a film I'll find out a lot about it and then track down similar works or previous works by the director or writer or other members of the team behind the film. It's fascinating to find the patterns and connections between people, their work, their ideas and how it intersects with a particular time and place. This type of thinking and these themes are articulated by Gibson, so maybe that's why I consciously avoided that approach so I'd be a bit fresher when I experienced the work.
I'm glad that I did, since I think that I may have enjoyed the book more. What I found out when preparing this entry is that All Tomorrow's Parties follows on with characters from two previous Gibson books that are on my list... it was interesting to pick up the stories where I did. One character just showed up briefly near the end and I wondered why he was there... in reading an excerpt from Idoru I figured it out. Aside from that one blip, everything else worked great. The world existed and I loved how it felt real with a history. I think that where I latched onto Gibson will make me enjoy the direction that he's going in now. Two novels can be enough to determine the general trajectory of a writer and I like where he's going and I appreciate where he's been. What I find fascinating about Gibson's writing is the intersection between the characters and technology which is exactly where I am right now and what I love to think about.
All Tommorow's Parties focuses on an emerging nodal point where everything changes. It's the big change that everyone expected in 2000 that didn't happen and was only delayed. The whole Y2K thing is quaint now, but the fear and hysteria leading up to it was real and overwhelming for a while. It's a fascinating story of trying to make sense of a world on the verge of massive change. You know that something big is going to happen, but not exactly what it is. That's where we are now in the world.
I can't wait to see where Gibson's next novel takes place. I get the sense that as our mediated world becomes more and more surreal and the technology more ubiquitous that it's harder to writer about the future as that's where we are. The world is changing and it's more profound and moving to capture something that is real and close to now than it is to project something that will be in the future. All Tomorrow's Parties is set in the future, but it is a future that existed in the pre-millennial phase before the year 2000 and before the 11th of September signified so much more than a date. Things begin their movement towards anachronism now so quickly that the when and where of creation can be very significant.