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Review – Gibson’s Burning Chrome

March 9, 2011

sooo. I have read 3 books in the last two weeks, but the coffee and sanity mixture in my brain did not allow for any new reviews to be written. I did get the chance to go listen to Patrick Rothfuss speak at Powell’s Beaverton, but that was neither here nor there as reading and listening to authors just proves that I should have made time for a new review.

INSTEAD, I shall recycle some content. please see below, a review of William Gibson’s short story collection ‘Burning Chrome’.

Chalk this one up as “Jason owes you all a non-scheduled post in the near future”.

William Gibson’s Burning Chrome, 1986

Public transit actually made this a more enjoyable read than I would otherwise think. It is not so much that the bumping and swerving of bus drivers, or the low pitched drone of a rail system enhanced the book. Instead, there was more that there was time to mull it over.

A couple weeks back, I finished reading Burning Chrome on my way to work. When finished, I was surprisingly lucky that I did not have a “back up book” with me. It is very rare that i do not have a second book available to me. In this case, it had slipped my mind that I would be finished soon. Half of the last story was left when I just gave up. When i arrived at work, I handed the book to a coworker who wanted to read it and wrote it off as unfinishable.

As far as collections of short stories go, I tend to stay away from them. They seem like teases to a larger plot line, the story that i would prefer to read. They often seem either too rushed to make a point, or too slow and thus meandering about, ultimately showing an authors inability to create a shortened and cohesive tale.

When I read this collection, it did not swayed from my typical short story experience. In fact, I had difficulty reading every story as each one fell into one of the categories. As stated earlier, it was bad enough that when I got to the last tale in the book (having read only 3-4 pages)  I just called it quits. I didn’t feel bad about it, I felt victorious. I had beat the compulsion to finish reading it,  regardless that my level of enjoyment was minimal.

Cue the ride home: Bare handed and unable to zone out. I kept staring at the folks riding the train and I found myself comparing individuals to characters from the book, each taking on a life that was not previously associated. As we passed under the freeway overpasses and through Portland’s Washington/Zoo tunnel, I recalled details from the underworld of Johnny Mnemonic. Certain shops we went past brought forth an art deco alternate reality. Homeless people on the street became computer geniuses in a slovenly and grimy future or juiced up cybernetic fiends needing a fix. Each tale became bigger and more lifelike than when I read it.

When I got back to work the following day I picked up the book from my coworkers desk and finished reading the last story. It seemed appropriate, as opposed to compulsory.

Like Neal Stephenson, Gibson is given a lot of glory for the darker side of our modern sci-fi future, for the cyber punk hell holes where everything is better, provided you never scratch the surface or wish for autonomy. I don’t think that my mind had fully absorbed what I was reading.

This book was like a good a good local or home brew porter. Underneath a perfect, cream colored head, you find a dark nectar and perhaps some sediment suspended, trying to sink but unable to. With the right recipe and the proper delivery, even a pessimist given a half glass would still say, “That’s a damn fine brew”.


One Comment leave one →
  1. March 10, 2011 1:26 am

    Wow, what a nice metaphor at the end!

    I recently read Gibson for the first time—Neuromancer—a couple of months ago, and wasn’t enthralled. However, there was awesome world-building involved, so if I try your trick—turning strangers into characters—maybe I’ll connect that world to some real feeling. Intriguing.

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