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Burning Chrome Paperback – July 29, 2003
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From the Inside Flap
Best-known for his seminal sf novel Neuromancer, William Gibson is actually best when writing short fiction. Tautly-written and suspenseful, Burning Chrome collects 10 of his best short stories with a preface from Bruce Sterling, now available for the first time in trade paperback. These brilliant, high-resolution stories show Gibson's characters and intensely-realized worlds at his absolute best, from the chip-enhanced couriers of Johnny Mnemonic to the street-tech melancholy of Burning Chrome.
From the Back Cover
Best-known for his seminal sf novel Neuromancer, William Gibson is actually best when writing short fiction. Tautly-written and suspenseful, Burning Chrome collects 10 of his best short stories with a preface from Bruce Sterling, now available for the first time in trade paperback. These brilliant, high-resolution stories show Gibson's characters and intensely-realized worlds at his absolute best, from the chip-enhanced couriers of "Johnny Mnemonic" to the street-tech melancholy of "Burning Chrome."
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I've read this book at least 5 times over the past 10 years, and at different points in my own life almost every individual story has been my favorite story from the collection at one point or another, as my own perspective and interests change over the years. This is the highest praise I can give a short story collection.
If you haven't read anything by William Gibson, this is the perfect place to start, since the stories are brief and accessible. Johnny Mnemonic and Burning Chrome give the best preview of his later work. But I'm very enamored of New Rose Hotel and Fragments of a Hologram Rose. It's amazing how prescient they seem now; it feels like the events depicted could happen in the next five years, possibly sooner.
If you are already familiar with Gibson's work and haven't read Burning Chrome yet, what the hell is wrong with you?!? Drop everything and read it now.
Burning Chrome is rated 90%.
8 good / 2 average / 0 poor.
Good. This is probably the best story in the collection. Far superior to the awful film of the same title. The story crackles with excitement, razor sharp writing, and lots of speculation about the future. It is great first cyberpunk story for any reader as you follow Johnny with a secret trapped in his brain that he can’t access and many people want to kill him for.
The Gernsback Continuum
Good. A fantasy fable of science fiction’s past as Hugo-Gernsback-era design bleeds enticingly into the present world.
Fragments of a Hologram Rose
Average. A little scattershot as the main character reminisces about a girl he knew
The Belonging Kind. By John Shirley and William Gibson
Good. A dreamlike fantasy story as a man follows a mysterious woman through a hypnotic cityscape.
Good. Atmospheric tale of the horrible price of space exploration
Red Star, Winter Orbit. by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson
Average. Mutiny aboard a Soviet-controlled space station.
New Rose Hotel
Good. Enough invention here for another writer’s trilogy of novels. This is a crime story and spy story and a love story - within a complex cyberpunk world.
The Winter Market
Good. Another spectacular story. This one tells about a man who writes dreams in to VR entertainment and an artist genius of a \ woman at the end of her rope.
Dogfight. by Michael Swanwick and William Gibson
Good. The dogfights here are the airplanes of world wars past. A transient man with dreams of winning money from virtual dogfights meets a privileged college girl and begins a friendship. Visceral and heartbreaking.
Good. Another classic. A deep run in the Matrix against a brutal mob figure. A beautiful girl caught up in transhuman technological upgrades. Love, betrayal, and greed.
The idea behind many stories is "high tech / low life," telling stories of people who'd stepped out of the slums, denizens of the underworld, a world where even the residents of a derelict space station in the story "Red Star, Winter Orbit" seem as shabby and rundown as the station they inhabit. But at the end, all of the stories here (and one might argue, all stories in general) are ultimately about people and their struggle with the world contrasted against their struggles with themselves and each other.
I liked the three last stories in the anthology the best, with "Dogfight," written in collaboration with Michael Swanwick, being possibly the most depressing story I'd ever read. It's also one of the best.
No sentence is ordinary; details flourish; cyberjoints crack. If you like SF, if you like cyberpunk, if you like good stories ... read this book.
Top international reviews
I'm glad I took the bait on this collection, however. Gibson gives us a variety of writing styles, with my anticipated jumps into his trademark Cyberpunk genre (Johnny Mnemonic, New Rose Hotel Burning Chrome) with other stories in universes not unlike our own, though always with an edge that makes the book very difficult to put down.
I first came across Gibson in the Omni Magazine, a publication that is sadly no longer with us, feasting on the dark world presented to us in Johnny Mnemonic. Years later, I read through all his early Cyberpunk (Sprawl Trilogy) work, becoming a huge fan in the process.
The Difference Engine was the next publication I found, which puzzled me. A completely different style, which I must admit, took me several attempts over many months before I finished to book. It’s still not a favorite, I’m afraid.
Virtual Light was different again, and I started to appreciate that Gibson’s skill set was much wider than I had first appreciated. For me, Gibson reverts back to a far more readily absorbed idiom, and I quickly became absorbed in the characters and storylines that are compelling and absorbing.
More recently, The Peripheral was another book I found very difficult to read initially. It took me three attempts to read it, finally managing to comprehend the language and piece together a vision of the story. I’m so glad I persevered too. The story is stunning, with well-maintained consistency to a complex multi-dimensional storyline and a thoroughly engaging group of characters. I must have re-read that five or six times now and I get something new from it every time.
In conclusion, Gibson is an amazing author, with the skills to render his compelling characters in a stupefying collection of different worlds/ages/environments with a narrative that's consistently gripping and emotive.
If you’ve not read any of his work before, or if you have and just want more, then Burning Chrome is a fabulous introduction/addition to a collection of William Gibson novels. I can’t recommend his work highly enough.
Just done with the collection this morning and as a proper grown up I loved it. I have grown up reading Gibson and his own fiction has developed in parallel. This collection of short stories shows no sign of being first published in 1986, his ideas are still bleeding edge today. It informs and deepens the world of the sprawl so is required reading for anyone wanting to understand Gibson's fiction. When I got to the end of the book I have realised I need to revisit the sprawl yet again for th 'nth' time. Time to settle the trodes on the temples and jack in methinks...
The short story format means that it is really easy to dip in and out of, so if you are looking for a book to read on your commute, or if you only get a few minutes to read each day, your enjoyment of Burning Chrome won't suffer.