I think Complicity did a much better job with the same sorts of themes
and main character.
Also went from Dead Air to Patter Recognition - not finished yet but
finding the characterisation a bit thin.
I think Gibson's characters are often a bit lacking in colour. he
seems to be really good at textures and locations, but never makes you
feel much sympathy with his protagonists. I aways feel like an
observer in his stories, rather than a participant.
He does a brilliant job of describing just how major jetlag feels,
though! I also felt that the conclusion of PR felt very simlar to one
of his other books. Forgotten the title, but it's the one with the
mysterious boxes. The conclusion where both artists are revealed is
sort of low-key and somehow inevitable........
Gibson doesn't really use characters as such, he uses archetypes. Weirdly
pre-modern archetypes too, involving alchemy or (in the case of all those
Finders of Art finding the Hidden Artists) renaissance mystic themes. As a
result, his characters don't really have individual depth, they are more or
less interchangeable within their roles, and they don't really have any
ideology. Which is *not* merely a characteristic of the cyberpunk
sub-genre; Bruce Sterling's characters are routinely motivated by their own
ideologies and personalities.
Some of those archetypes are:
The Thug With a Heart of Gold: Just like the hooker with a heart of gold,
this thug routinely beats people up, works for money, yet when the chips are
down strangely enough commits to follow through by destroy the Evil Hegemon
long after any canny mercenary would have given up. Sometimes the
The Evil Hegemon: Cyberpunk is full of the idea of power becoming
impersonal, corporatized. Yet that doesn't leave room for a personal
villain. So the Evil Hegemon pops up, a guy (always a guy) who personally
runs a megacorp or something similar, who we can personally dislike. Never
The Finder of Art: This person has a mystic ability to find art --
representing the source of all value in a world where everything else is a
commodity. Whatever their specialty -- sculpture, watches, and movies have
appeared in three different books so far -- they are the equivalent of the
mystic who can find God within the ordinary. Sometimes the protagonist.
The Ordinary Guy With A Skill, or The Innocent: This person is an ordinary
product of the cyberpunk society, with no really unusual qualities and no
strong personal beliefs. Except that they have one thing they are good at.
Usually, this is manipulation of computer security, the archetypal job for
people who are skilled in intuitive operation of abstract systems but who
don't care what those systems contain. But sometimes, the skill is
innocence itself -- a capacity to be manipulated, which is valuable to the
shapers of events -- and all of these characters have a fundamental
innocence at their core. This archetype allows Gibson gets to put Joe
Everyman into his book, yet give him a reason for being there. Often the
The Wizard: A manipulator of events, someone whose major purpose is to be
in the know as much as possible, who functions either as an adjunct of the
Evil Hegemon or of the good guys depending on how the plot needs to be moved
along. Sometimes functions as an oracle. Some of the lesser thug
characters hired by the Evil Hegemon would like to be of this type, but
aren't quite there yet. Never the protagonist.
If you go through all the Gibson books, I'd bet that nearly all the major
characters can be placed easily within these categories.