William Gibson coined the term cyberspace and turned SF inside-out in the 1980s with the original Cyberpunk Trilogy. Idoru, his mid-nineties thriller, looks at the emerging future. It contains some exceptional writing, interesting concepts, and a plausible (though satiric) world, but will likely prove most engaging to people who have not read Gibson’s other work.

Title: Idoru

Author: William Gibson

Original Publication Date: September 1996.

ISBN: 0-425-15864-0

Cover Price (paperback): $7.50 U.S./$9.99 Canadian

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The announced marriage between Rez, a rock star and a Japanese “idoru,” a virtual-reality media creation, brings together several characters. These include Chia Pet Mckenzie, a 14-year-old fan who becomes entangled in a smuggling plot, and Colin Laney, a data analyst whose altered brain permits him to read the future in cyberspace.

High Points:

Like a lot of SF, Idoru functions both as prediction of the future and commentary on the present. The entertainment mega-corporate- entity Slitscan, in particular, works best a satiric look at corporate ethics in general and the enter/info-tainment industry in particular. Other aspects of the world Gibson has created (which previously appeared in Virtual Light) still hold up, nearly a decade later. The early portions of the book continually dislocate the reader, and yet the various uses of computer technology will (or have) become reality. The particular Idoru we eventually meet may be far- fetched, but the novel requires her. Gibson deserves praise (here and elsewhere) for the casual manner with which his characters interact with their world.

Also, the name “Chia Pet McKenzie”– definitely a high point.

Low Points:

Gibson makes meticulous use of detail to realize his imaginary world; the plot buried in those details isn’t terribly original. There’s a thriller plot revolving around a McGuffin , which attracts the obligatory Gibson lowlifes with hi-tech. Other plot elements include an evil corporation, nanotechnology, and sentience emerging in virtual reality. Sound familiar? Gibson is as free as Hemingway was to reuse his favourite stock elements, but an author has to do something new with them.

The Scores

Originality: 4/6 I recognize Gibson created a good many of the conventions found in this book, but the fact is, they’ve been used before, and to better effect. There’s no denying his brilliance with inventing casual detail, however.

Story: 4/6 Initially difficult to follow, the events engaged me, and the final chapters had me turning pages. The overall plot hangs on fairly worn elements, however, and the ending doesn’t measure up.

Characterization: 4/6 Gibson can write well, but he doesn’t always create believable or memorable characters. Chia Pet, and the Idoru herself, come the closest to engaging my interest. Character may not be his strongest point, but he’s done better elsewhere.

Imagery: 5/6

Emotional Response: 4/6.

Editing: 6/6.

Overall Score: 4/6.

In total, Idoru receives 31 out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments:

This book will appeal to diehard fans of Gibson or cyberpunk, and to people less familiar with his better work. Better Gibson exists, however, and I highly recommend it.

One reply

  1. Trilogies
    Idoru, it might be noted, is the second book of a group of three, the other two being Virtual Light and the more recent All Tomorrow’s Parties.

    To my knowledge, these books are no more connected with his recent work, Pattern Recognition, than they are with his earlier novels (The “Cyberpunk trilogy of Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive, and Count Zero).

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