The Log of the Mustang Sally, William Gibson (Lancer 0-2468-357-9, $7.99,
527pp, pb) July 2001. Cover by Josh Kirby.
Odds are you never even heard of it, but back in the eighties, William
Gibson wrote a first novel called Neuromancer, which some of us thought
pretty darned highly of. It was bright, action-filled, and bulging with
nifty ideas. Unfortunately, it was also "literary." The hero was an
affectless junky, his best friend was dead, and the language itself was a
pretentious melange of hipster lingo and noir detective-speak. It sold about
fifteen copies, and Gibson disappeared for almost two decades.
But now he's back, and triumphantly so with the first of a new adventure
series featuring the captain and crew of the StarSurveyor Mustang Sally. The
clotted prose of his first book has been replaced by short, clean sentences
of an almost Asimovian clarity. Gone are such weird and unlikely neologisms
as "flatline" and "cyberspace," replaced by infinitely more plausible
coinages such as "plasteel" and "lasegun." Gone, above all, is the
negativity. Commander Bobby Rydell is a hero for our times. Strong as a
lion and yet cunning as well, a "Hannibal of Space," as Gibson puts it, the
infinitely competent Rydell faces challenge after challenge with daring and
The plot, it has to be admitted, is a little slapdash. Essentially, the
crew of the Mustang Sally travel from planet to planet, encountering alien
monsters which, after initial setbacks, they kill. But so what? This is
space opera in the grand manner, and surely only the first in a very long
series. You can see the groundwork being laid. Will Nurse Chevette admit
her feelings for Commander Rydell? Will Idoru (the ship's computer) ever get
the physical body she yearns for? What terrible secret is the alien boy
Silencio hiding? There's enough here to keep the pots boiling and the plots
churning for decades to come.
I don't think I'm going out on a limb here when I say that William Gibson
is the A. E. Van Vogt, the E. E. "Doc" Smith, possibly even the Gene
Roddenberry of the new Millennium. Just remember, you heard it here first!