It’s probably not a good sign that the most accurate prognosticator in modern science fiction foresees bad things in the coming decades. Over the course of his career, William Gibson has correctly predicted a broad range of real-life technological advances—from the Web to virtual Japanese pop stars, like the one that just appeared on Letterman—and how human life would change to adapt to them.
Now, after a trilogy of present-day novels steeped in Bush-era paranoia, Gibson returns once again to the future, or more accurately a pair of futures. One is set an unspecified handful of decades from now, when modern civilization, just past its peak, has begun slipping ever faster into decline, with drastic climate change and a teetering global economy the new facts of life. In the other, which takes place the better part of a century later, society has finally collapsed catastrophically and its remnants are ruled by ruthless elites who are able to stay in their positions because they possess some miraculously powerful nanotechnology.
Thanks to one of the most fantastical plot devices the author has ever used, the two eras come into direct contact with each other when a typically Gibsonian crew of scrappy working-class underdogs find themselves recruited into the kleptocratic power struggle. While the two sides engage in a dirty war run through with high technology and surreal temporal kinkiness, Gibson sketches a frightening near-future whose most disturbing aspect is how familiar it feels. A