Virtual Light

Virtual Light, by William Gibson. New York: Bantam Books. 325 pp. $22.95.

As Bertolt Brecht once pointed out, Hell looks suspiciously like Heaven, and both look like Los Angeles. This is a maxim worth remembering as we are sucked screaming into the dark vortex of the 21st century.

Only a few years ago, of course, pundits were romantically hallucinating the “end of history” as crowds danced on the ruins of the Berlin Wall. McDonalds, not the Internationale, seemed to be uniting the human race. Since then, however, utopian capitalism has sunk up to its metaphysical axles, from Sarajevo to South Central L.A., in historical shit of its own making.

As a result, our perceptions of the future now wrench back and forth between two, seemingly polar visions. On the one hand, techno-hucksters seduce us with hyperboles about data superhighways, global networks, expert systems, and virtual realities. They

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