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VWN Product Reviews: Virtual Light

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Site Shop > Virtual Light




"Those VL glasses. Virtual light.
She'd heard of it, but she wasn't sure what it was. "They expensive, Sammy Sal?"
"Shit, yes. Bout as much as a Japanese car. Not all that much more though. Got these little EMP drivers around the lenses, work your optic nerves direct. Friend of mine, he'd bring a pair home from the office where he worked. Landscape architects. Put 'em on, you go out walking, everything looks normal, but every plant you see, every tree, there?s this little label hanging there, what its name is. Latin under that.""

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Virtual Light is classic Cyberpunk in every sense: it is dark, and gritty, a surreal near-future world that sets you on edge, and both the main characters have sunk as low as it is possible to go, before attempting to change the world for the better.

Berry Rydell used to be a cop, until he used a little too much force taking down a drugged up psychotic. Then he became a rentacop, and held that job for several weeks before hackers hacked the Death Star (south California law enforcement satellite) miss-fed him data on a terrorist operation, and he parked his assault class land rover in a client's front room.

Now he's working for a recovery firm, a firm which is looking for a pair of sunglasses, and will not stop at any means to recover property of value to its client, the all-powerful DatAmerica.

Chevette Washington is a motorbike driving maniac, part of the cutting edge of data delivery. The really important stuff doesn't go by wire, it goes by bike. That is, until she meets a drunk asshole whilst making a delivery, and leaves with the asshole's sunglasses. At least she thought they were sunglasses. They are black frames with black lenses. So black, you cannot see through them. What good are they?

She is about to chuck them when people show up looking for them. People with guns.


Virtual Light is a low-tech cyberpunk. Unlike most, it has no use for the Metaverse whatsoever. Rather the entire book takes place out in the physical world, a physical world not much technologically distant from today's. It chooses to focus on augmented, or mixed reality technologies.

The Virtual Light glasses that make up the book's title, are based on a concept floated once before for glasses that bypass the optic nerve, but never yet taken up commercially.

'Warbaby wiped the glasses and put them back on. They were clear now. "There are drivers in the frames and lenses. They affect the nerves directly."
"It's a virtual light display." Freddie said, eager to change the subject. "Anything can be digitized, you see it here".
"Telepresence." Randall said.
"Naw." Freddie said. "that's
light.. That.s photons coming out and hitting on your eye. This doesn.t work like that, Mr. Warbaby walks around and looks at stuff, he can see the data-feed at the same time. You put those glasses on a man doesn.t have eyes, optic nerve.s okay, he can see the input. That.s why they built the first ones. For blind people."'
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Other sub-plots abound in this vision of our near future. California, where the book is set, no-longer exists. It is broken into sub-states, each functioning like a separate country with little or no laws in common. This is true throughout all of the US: U.S. has devolved into independent region-nations, and wealth and power enforce the divisions in society.

Mr. Yamazaki, a Japanese student of social psychology and anthropology, is fascinated by the squatter community that took over the Oakland Bay Bridge, which was abandoned after the big quake. This community has made it their home, lashing a squatter town to it, building up from the main decks, to the very peaks of the towers.

 

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