New Rose Hotel • 1984 • Cyberpunk short story by William Gibson


This post reviews the short story, not the 1998 film with Christopher Walken and Willem Dafoe.

Synopsis: The New Rose Hotel is a capsule hotel in Tokyo, where the narrator hides, waiting for assassins to find him while contemplating his life and how he got there.

The narrator is part of a team which extracts scientists from safe harbours of one corporation in order to transfer them to the target corporation. It is the new form of industrial espionage, because the competitive advantage doesn’t reside any longer in patents or merger&acquisitions, but in human capital.

In this case, the target scientist is genius Hiroshi, working for a Berlin based lab. With the help of a call girl, they persuade him to leave and relocate to Marrakech. Given the super-protective corporations with all stuff of security, this is no small feat.

But all of them are getting betrayed.

Review: This short story is set in the same near future Cyberpunk universe as the Sprawl trilogy. Those capsule hotels for example reappear prominently in Neuromancer, which I’ve recently reviewed. It broadens the perspective at this universe with the perfectly believable view on the importance of human capital:

As I work in industrial R&D, I can see that patents and trademarks are still relevant, but it is always a discussion if one would have an invention patented at all, because it gives only a very shallow protection for only a couple of years. With the rising velocity of innovation, the advantage truly lies in building a great team and pitching it with the best players.
Of course, we don’t have the situation of megacorporations overruling human resource acquiring in the violent way that this bleak future describes. But it also isn’t far away giving the importance of GAFAM.

The story’s style is very typical of Gibson: Detailed descriptions, great setting, nearly disregarding plot and character. In this case, we see lots of movements in Europe, visiting Berlin, Barcelona, Vienna, and additionally Marrakech and Tokyo in just a few pages, but lively and colorful nonetheless. At least for the European sites, I can attest that the different cities are instantly recognisable by relying on typical behavior instead of touristic places.

Its plot is a little bit hard to follow with all the complex interactions, but after a few pages, a clear target crystallizes – only to be twisted harshly, leading to the opening scene.

The story is a little bit weak in gender roles and diversity – we have the white guys for all the action, a male genius, and a female prostitute. Some of the technology is dated – stationary phones and floppy disks need a bit of translation to modern terms. But that is negligible and the story in general very readable in our times.

Recommended for readers of Cyberpunk who want another taste of Neuromancer awesomesauce. Go for Gibson’s collection Burning Chrome including a couple of other subgenre defining short stories.

Meta: isfdb. I’ve re-read it it in the Big Book of SF.

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7 Responses to New Rose Hotel • 1984 • Cyberpunk short story by William Gibson

  1. pdtillman says:

    I reread this not too long ago, and agree with (pretty much) all of your comments. I was less struck by the anachronisms — but then, computers still used vacuum tubes when I was a boy! Not to mention, rotary-dial phones. I should re-read Burning Chrome….
    Have you tried his latest novel, which has been getting good reviews? It’s very LONG.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. pdtillman says:

    I’d quit reading Gibson’s novels some years back, finding them depressing PC noodling. So I hope this one isn’t more of that. But the old stuff was GREAT!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks my favorite Gibson Story

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Vintage Month #SoManyLinks | the Little Red Reviewer

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