Mona Lisa Overdrive
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55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2003
First: read NEUROMANCER, and COUNT ZERO, also by Gibson. Then: read MONA LISA OVERDRIVE. Read the three books in that order, and without reading other books intermittently. Actually, consider them one large novel. This will increase your comprehension and enjoyment of these books, which have come to be called The Sprawl Trilogy.
MLO mainly follows the same pattern as COUNT ZERO. Several different characters are notable: Bobby Newmark, aka Count Zero, who is jacked into cyberspace. Kumiko, daughter of a Yakuza, supposedly protected in London. Sally Shears, aka Molly, who may attempt to kill or kidnap Angie Mitchell, a star of Internet simulation programs, and various other bit players. Of course there is Mona, an illegitimate human, since she exists without an ID number in the digital age. Mona is almost a street person, a nonentity, but she looks much like Angie Mitchell. Sinister persons have plans for Mona and Angie: they plot (apparently) to kidnap one and kill the other. Cyberspace cowboys, Yakuza, Londoner thugs, and weird freakish types populate the plot, with The Finn from COUNT ZERO playing a minor role in this novel as well. Gibson, as always, manages to make the various plots converge at the end.
Gibson's world is futuristic, both fantastic and somewhat scientifically plausible, dystopic and frightening. London is trapped in a time warp. Japan is shiny and ultra-modern. Cleveland is a dump. The Sprawl is forbidding, amazing, huge, and imposing. Cyberspace is where everyone wants to be. In MONA LISA OVERDRIVE, he mainly succeeds at delivering his vision and an entertaining plot. Kudos to Gibson for creating this amazing fictional universe; this is his forte. I found the novel's ending somewhat confusing and unsatisfying. Don't let me dissuade you! MONA LISA OVERDRIVE is a fine novel and a successful conclusion to The Sprawl Trilogy; however, if you're new to Gibson, start with BURNING CHROME (short stories) or NEUROMANCER.
ken32
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2000
The third in the Sprawl trilogy, I'd really recommend reading this but preferably if you've read Neuromancer and Count Zero first. It's an awesome book, but without the background knowledge from the two previous books it could be a struggle. The imagery Gibson concocts for us is exquisite, from the neon and chrome plated Sprawl, to the urban junkyard of the Factory, the dilapidated future London stuck in a time warp and of course the wonders of Gibson's Cyberspace, made even more fantastic here by some clever plot twists. It's all so real you're right there with his characters yet he doesn't bore you with over description - that's quite an achievement. His characters are complex and breathe life and aren't just mono dimensional cardboard cutouts - they each have their strengths and frailties. And by the end of the book it all makes sense .... almost .... but leaving you to ponder some aspects of the story. Which is just as it should be :) Well recommended.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 1998
I could seriously not put this book down. I read Neuromancer, which I thought was an awesome book, and I read Count Zero, which was good but sort of boring. Mona Lisa Overdrive however was a true masterpiece true to Gibson. The environment, so dark and un-organic paints a dark picture in your mind that is so real and tangible in a way. Cyberspace and the computer-driven networked world also played so much of a part in this simply amazing imaginary world. When it matches with the characters so nicely you can't discount the book because it's so enthralling. I loved this book and I know a lot of others that did too (although most of them tell me it's a cult following to like Gibson's work).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
In Mona Lisa Overdrive, the third and final novel in William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy, it's been seven years since Angie Mitchell (from Count Zero) was taken out of Maas Biolabs and now she's a famous simstim star who's trying to break her designer drug habit. But a jealous Lady 3Jane plans to kidnap Angie and replace her with a cheap prostitute named Mona Lisa who's addicted to stimulants and happens to look like Angie.

In a dilapidated section of New Jersey, Slick Henry makes large animated robotic sculptures out of scrap metal. He owes Kid Afrika a favor, so now he has to hide the comatose body of Bobby Newmark (aka "Count Zero"). Bobby is jacked into an Aleph where he's got some secret project going on. A Cleveland girl named Cherry Chesterfield is Bobby's nurse.

Kumiko is the daughter of a Japanese Yakuza crime boss. Her father has sent her to live in London while the Yakuza war is going on. There she meets Gibson's most iconic character, Molly Millions, who's going by the name Sally Shears. Molly is being blackmailed by Lady 3Jane, so Kumiko inadvertently gets dragged into the kidnapping plot.

Mona Lisa Overdrive contains several exciting action scenes which feature kidnappings, shoot-outs, helicopter escapes, remote-controlled robot warriors, collapsing catwalks, and falling refrigerators. These are loosely connected by the continuation and conclusion of the AI plot which began in Neuromancer. I wasn't completely satisfied with the sketchy ending or the wacky reveal on the last page, but that's okay. I was mainly reading Mona Lisa Overdrive for the style, anyway.

So much of Gibson's style and success stems from the mesmerizing world he's built -- a future Earth in which national governments have been replaced by large biotech companies. Japan is modern and glitzy and much of the former United States has fallen into decay. By the time you get to Mona Lisa Overdrive (don't even attempt to read it before reading both Neuromancer and Count Zero), you're feeling rather comfortable (or as comfortable as is possible to feel) in this world, so the setting lacks the force it had in the previous novels. In Mona Lisa Overdrive, you'll visit London, but it seems to be stuck in the 20th century, so it feels instantly (and a little disappointingly) familiar.

But Gibson manages to keep things fresh and highlight his unique style by introducing new characters and delving deep into their psyches. Even minor characters are works of art, such as Eddy, Mona's low-class scheming pimp, and Little Bird, who earned that moniker because of his weird hairdo. Even when the plots don't satisfy, it's entertaining enough just to hang out with Gibson's unforgettable characters. The exception is Kumiko, who has little personality and seems to exist mainly to remind us that Japan has surpassed America, and for an excuse to show us a new bit of cool technology (Colin, the chip-ghost).

In 1989, Mona Lisa Overdrive was nominated for, but did not win, the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and the Locus Award. It lacks the impact of its prequels, but it's still a stylish piece of work and not to be missed if you're a fan of William Gibson. I listened to the audio version narrated by Jonathan Davis. He is excellent, as always, and I recommend this version to audio readers. You may have to work at Neuromancer on audio if you're not familiar with this world and its slang, but by the time you get to Mona Lisa Overdrive, that problem is long gone.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2005
Its 15 years since the straylight run and since "everything in the matrix changed". Case has given up being a cyber cowboy and last heard raising 4 kids. Molly is still around under numerous identities, involved a Casino in Germany but still with an unquenchable thirst for violence, the Fin is dead but running as a construct in cyber space and of course the slightly mixed up, unfathomably powerful and intelligent 3Jane (heir to the huge Tessier Ashpool corp.) is lurking out there in cyberspace pulling numerous strings for her own mysterious/perverted ends.

The book is linked to but does the follow its predecessors - nonetheless, if you've read the others this one will be easier to follow. All the action takes place on earth and the lingo is the same as the other books. Comparatively easy to follow that is except for the end in which the action goes pretty quickly and described from numerous points of view as the 4 stories converge - but being confused is part of the fun and challenge of reading these books.

Another of the main strengths of these books is the portrayal of earth as we know in the future but as a nightmare. This one takes place mainly in the sprawl and dirty old London (which actually seems the same as early 21st century London !) - and again all the settings are very cool. Sadly he doesn't go to much into the seedy nightlife of the future as he did previously (e.g. Case in Tokyo) but my favourite setting in this one is "Dog Solitude" a desolate, probably contaminated wasteland in the sprawl inhabited by one of the main characters into an exaggerated futuristic version of robot wars.

The other strength is the writing. Short, blunt but right on descriptions and (most) characters straight out of the gutter from modern society. Gibson is someone I would love to interview - What sort of friends does he have ? What jobs has he done ? What provided the inspiration for the drug sequences ?

My recommendation : read it and take your time, but as other reviewers say - after the other 2.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2001
William Gibson has again proved himself an extraordinary writer with Mona Lisa Overdrive. The story takes place in a futuristic world where big corporations run everything and the entertainment business is the world's largest source of income. It is here that we meet Gibson's remarkable cast of characters including Angie, a famous "stim star" that has the ability to jack-in to cyberspace without any equipment, Slick Henry, an ex-con who seems to have an uncontrollable urge to create killing machines, Sally Shears, one of the few returning characters from Neuromancer, and Mona Lisa, a prostitute who bears an amazing resemblance to Angie.
The bulk of the book is the separate stories of these individuals, bringing them together in the end in a brilliant fashion. Through this format, Gibson is able to tell a nearly omniscient view of the story by giving not only the point of view of one character, but of all of the characters. This gives an overall effect that sucks you into the book, and doesn't let go. Gibson is also easily able to use this format to show what the characters themselves aren't able to figure out. He gives you bits of information from each of the characters, and you are able to put this together while the characters are clueless. Gibson does all of this and keeps the action rolling without any confusion that allows for a very quick read.
Mona Lisa Overdrive is the third installation in Gibson's series, preceded by Neuromancer and Count Zero. Although it is not necessary to read the first two before Mona Lisa Overdrive, I would recommend it. You will understand much more, and will be able to enjoy all of the little references to the previous two. Gibson truly is a great writer, and Mona Lisa Overdrive is his masterpiece.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon May 3, 2001
"Mona Lisa Overdrive" is an insightful look into the meaning of celebrity as it is shaped and distorted in Gibson's cyberspace future. Characters from "Neuromancer" and "Count Zero" return, showing new facets to their already complex personalities. Those who haven't read the previous two books in the "Cyberspace" trilogy should read them first, in sequence, before delving again into richly textured landscapes which Gibson evokes through his sparse, lyrical prose. Yet I can assure you that "Mona Lisa Overdrive" is well worth waiting for. The plot moves along at a more leisurely pace here than before, allowing Gibson time to delve more deeply into his character's minds. Anyone wishing to read a great work of literature that is also classic cyberpunk science fiction won't be disappointed with "Mona Lisa Overdrive".
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 23, 2001
Like other reviewers, I was happy to see Molly again-- can I be an over-thirty razorgirl? Even though all the books were great reads, somehow _Mona Lisa Overdrive_ managed to flow together with every click perfect. The other two were heartbreakingly close to perfect, but for me this one just did everything right. Excellent.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 1998
Gibson has both developed and regressed in this piece, which appears far from the noirish heights of Neuromancer, and yet somehow more mature. Mona Lisa Overdrive is a complex book, which tracks the overlapping stories of five characters, using neat chapter-size sections for each. He develops each character with startling skill, no mean feat for the man who filled Neuromancer's 300 pages with a host of electrifying descriptions, while failing to expand his main character's background beyond several brief paragraphs. The storyline, as per usual, is inane. The book is a cyberspace-Mafia thriller with Gibson's typical conspiratorial edge, and an ending that was meant to be profound - particularly to followers of the trilogy - but misses the spot. But it isn't the storyline which drives a Gibson novel, as any hardened fan will know. Gibson's true talent is growing his nebulous future world into new dimensions - this time into Japanese organized crime and the American 'urban refugee' scenario - and applying to it his extraordinary style; prose that has its roots in 30s detective fiction, yet, in my opinion, far exceeds the questionable efforts of Raymond Chandler and company. And this is where Gibson has failed this time around, inasmuch as he is capable of failing in the stylistic arena. Though in many ways it is a remarkable evolution from his uni-character, monologous works of the past, Overdrive is texturally thin. Unfortunately, Gibson shines mainly in his style, and so while he has stepped forward with this book, he has left many of his readers behind.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2013
Much like the Matrix movies it later inspired, Gibson's Sprawl trilogy consists of a seminal science fiction classic, followed by a fairly good but uninspired sequel, followed by a wholly substandard finale that mostly negates everything that preceded it.

Gibson is best here when he sticks to exploring the fascinating details of the cyberpunk world he created. This is what made Neuromancer so good; nothing felt forced or anachronistic. The introduction of "digital spiritualism" in Count Zero was tolerable because, while it diverted from the core themes and abandoned most of Neuromancer's characters, it at least retained a good amount of action.

Mona Lisa Overdrive removed almost all of the action and replaced it with nebulous spirituality and fatalism (with no hacking and minimal gunplay). It really felt like, on a technical level, things had plateaued since Neuromancer and were now just going to coast across the finish line and call it a day. Get transported off to Heaven for the big happy ending.

I even re-read the first two books and compared them to the ending of Mona Lisa Overdrive to see if I was being unfair, and I actually decided I liked it even less than initially.
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