Okay, now that I've read VL, I need to go back and reread Idoru, the next book in Gibson's Bridge Trilogy. I enjoyed it at the time, but I think having a basis for some of the characters would open it up a little wider for me.
Let me just say, Virtual Light was a much-needed break after the bleakness of most good dystopian fiction. Gibson didn't write about a society that's worked out all the kinks and put down all the uprisings, but about one not far from our own. Fascist and getting more so all the time, police state on the way, but still with enough wiggle room for the drunks and artists and regular folks to go on about their business without too much hassle. He offers hope-within-despair, such as the "AIDS saint" J. D. Shapely and his life-giving blood, murdered by Christian thugs while still passing his gift on to those who will accept it.
What I enjoyed most about VL were the backdrop and details. The bridge, in all its piecemeal glory, really drew me in. But then, I'm a fan of found space and urban warrens. The religious sect that believes the Lord can be seen in old movies and tv shows could be spun into a whole new book and still keep my interest. The different drugs and dealers, the cargo-ship mall, the Nightmare Art Gallery - that's the kind of story telling I like. Rich and real, even when it's completely off the wall.
And, in the end, the day is saved by the balance struck between the legal and the illegal, both attempting to keep their side in power. I find that telling. You show me a society with no crime but many laws, I will show you a society I'd rather die than join. The underground is as necessary to a full life as sewer systems and literacy.
final thoughts: I honestly can't believe it took me this long to read this one. Not the best thing going, but a damn good read.