Idoru Essay, Research Paper
Idoru by william gibson is nothing less than an awe-insiring book for me. no other author that i have come across can inspire one to recreate visions of reality at the turn of every page. Gibsons books are all compelling; neuromancer (1984) needing perhaps a special mention; as this book single handedly created the cyberpunk genre, aswell as coining phrases such as “cyberspace”. However, as one of his later works (1996), we are able to find within Idoru’s more contempory exploration of our worlds transformation into a high density infomation-governed datasphere, an analysis of what might happen to certain aspects of humanity as technology, infomation, and a new reality converge within the global infrastructure.
First a quick summary: Idoru translates as “idol singer” in modern japanese culture – specifically to the Virtual, entirely artificial video stars that have been created and animated entirely on computer. Presently these Idoru are 3D rendered “anime” style character who along with becomming top selling “artists” also help to sell cars on television, go on talk shows, even “sign” autographs for their millions of fans. The Idoru in Gibsons book has evolved into real-life 3D with the aid of holograms and eventually nanotechnology.
It is very difficult to simplify this novels plot, as there are several subplots of typical complexity, each worthy of a summary. However the basic outline revolves around four groups (whoose lives eventually become more intertwined)of people each of them has their own interest in an entity, as yet unknown which is creating sharply chaotic imprints within the fabric of their net’s reality. The entity in question turns out to be one particualr Virtual Idol, Rei Toei, and a certain rock musician (called Rez, part of the duo Lo/Rez). Rez has apparently said he is to marry Rei Toei, this of course being impossible as Rei is entirly virtual. Here enters some illeagal nanotech harware from Russia, which a not so benevolant AI has arranged (through instigating imperceptibally small changes in various places, real or virtual, so as to effect the physical location of the hardware) to reach Rei (incedently this AI turns out to have beeen – in the next few novels – created from the virtual equivilent of primordial soup of the present net. Rei Toei is merely a fragmented split of the particular AI). Idoru examines what happens to all those who are connected to either of the media stars, as well as what happens when an artificial inteligence gains sentinence within the now real body of Rei Toei. It examines the (basically exagerated, and possibly likely)new media conglomerates, the power they have, how the use and abuse it especially in relation to the world economy. One can spend pages and pages “outlining” the aspects of the world that Idoru covers; every little point begs to be interperated, and as there is such a wealth of infomation, ideas, and typographic references to modern culture, a mass of isomorphisms which reach out to one, this book is, to me, personally at least, bordering on revolutionary.
Idoru is however, not a work of classic liturature, and doesnt share much with its classical literary counterparts (Brave new world for example), but as a work on its own, within its own genre it is certainly one of the finest. Perhaps in this analysis, one should consider the usual analytical tools (plot, structure, characterisation etc), aswell as how this book could help us in predicting a (considerably less dark) vision of the future, not to mention what it is about this book that inspires one so much.
As previously mentioned, this novels plot is somewhat complicated – this however does not detract from the overall flow of the book – in a sense, the density of infomation and detail we are faced with when reading, acts as a mechanism to allow us to live the moment in the novel – a citizen in an infomtion dense society would be faced with so many details on a daily basis, it is one of gibsons many tactics to help us enter into his world (thought his of course plays on a certain predesposition and interest towards high-tech countercultures).
A major theme throughout Gibsons books, and no stranger to Idoru, is that humanity (even if it is only represented by a handful of characters) never gets ireplacebly polluted by technoolgoy and the machine – if one extends this logic, and simplifies it, one can say that Gibsons world is one where good triamphs over evil in the end. To do so would be a drastic oversimplification, evenso, at the end of each novel, the almost chaotic swirl of infomation settles in the centre of one stable fact – that whatever technological advances have been made, the very thing that makes us human (some would say spirit) is always untouched. The reason this is a point worth mentioning is that a large number of his contempoaries (who might well be briliant), work, usually ends with humanity disippearing into various nasty dark futures: mass techofetishism, apopeleptic chaos, wars etc etc. Gibsons books, although perhaps a little dark at first glacne, always seem to have salvation for humanity. This can be traced back to the very beginings of story telling – good triumphant over evil, which one could argue could be used as a tactic…
It is very interesting that throughout his novels – which usually overlap into the same world – just in different timlines, the main characters are usually polar oposites – this is perhaps being too analytical, to mere simplify such things, but for example in Neuromancer there was Case (a highly evolved hacker, who helps release an AI from its corperate bonds) who isnt a particulaly fine specemin of humnity – and there is Molly, a woman hightech equivilent of a ninja/bounty-hunter – she is sharply contrasted by being increadibly strong in every way. Mollys job is based in the physicla workd, while cases is based in cyberspace, and as such has poorly developed realworld skills. In Idoru, one of the main characters is a chap called Laney who has a perculial nack for finding “nodal points” in a sea of infomation – as such that he can find out anything about anyone who leaves digital fingerprints behind them (bank accounts etc), there doesnt seem to be much distinguishing him from Case, except that he is much more of a stright person – no illeagl activities etc. He is however, as many male leads appear to be portrayed, weak – so it isnt much of a suprise to find that the two other main charaters in Idoru are much stronger.
In most of his previous novels it is really quite simple – two or more mismatched characters end up working toether to achive their goals. In these previous novels, the emphesis doest seam to be characterisation so much, as the actual description of the world in all its various aspects, the plots are typically fast paced and visually stunning, but always chatacterisation has been lacking.
One of the major reasons for be atracted to Idoru so much is that this book seams to mark the beginning of some sort of maturity within gibsons writing. It seams almost impossible for the concepts he not only deals with, but on many occasions actually creates, in neuromancer to possibly be improved upon, but 7 novels later, each and every one has become more visionary – as the various blurbs say – he just keeps getting better. All tomorrows parties (his most recent) is no exception, however it is Idoru that is the turning point.
In Idoru the reletivy simple forumlea of strong character convienienlty contracting and comparing against the weaker one is gone. There are at least four main characters, all with about as many different aspects as they have different perspectives on the event in the novel. As always he comments on the reality of the world through his characters – there is one particually interesting character in Idoru called Yamazaki, who is a student of “excistential sosciology” and continually coments on his surroundings – at one point in a bar he makes a note of the waitresses costume, offering the explanation: “I am a student of such things. It is my habit to record ephemera of popular cultre. Her costume raises the question: does it merely reflect the theme of this club, or does it represent some deeper response to trauma of earthquake and subiquent reconstruction?”
Gibson paints for us a world which really does seem to be a breath away from our present. His depections of various comminities in the near future being very believable, but with enough credebility give them the cyberpunk technoreal edge. As many of his themes deal with computing, technology, ai etc, a great deal of time is spent in japan, his vision of nanotech reconstructed tokyo is almost nightmarish, with buildings that you can actually watch grow as you lie in bed, yet he seams to have pinned down popular culture (in its near-future guise) expertly – not to mention japan’s long fascination with technology and the minature – his world is intrinsically intertwined with buissness, economy, rival mafia, powerful multinationals, sentient ai, multitudes of elite underground factions etc etc – this canvas (while by now might seem stale) alows his to paint a potenital reality where technology and hmanity become closer together, he explores wealth, power, comunication, psychology, everything that would touch humanity one way or another. The notsable exception obviously being religion – perhaps such is the density of what he explores in his novels doesnt allow him enough room to tackle such enourmous questions – but he constantly hints at religion, the human spirit, and humanity throughout his world, and perhaps it is that what makes his work so enjoyble in the end; perhaps the real test of a scifi writer is to let us enter their wonderfullly imaginitave world without leaving us cold at the end – that there will always be humanity, no matter what happens in the future – Isacc Assimov did this remarcably well also…
Idoru brings a much more contempory future to us – one that in many aspects is already here – those who live extramly close to technology and its spured underground cultures know this. Yet Idoru is fresh – his writing style might be unpalatable to enthusiasts of classical liturature, but it has an increadable punch to it – he sends us right into the middle of his world where we are invited to inteperate and reconstruct – above all it stimulates the imagination – one might well find oneself following wild visions of our future after readin even a few chapters. I know i did, and the ability of Idoru to that is a major factor in my liking it so much.