Angela++: the true Cyborg Self

Paul Meier, English 160, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

In Mona Lisa Overdrive, Angela Mitchell (the first human to receive neurological implants allowing instant cyberspace access) often receives visits from powerful and mysterious computer entities. Her power, especially given knowledge of the current state of the Internet, poses many questions by speculating at a time where all of man's collective intelligence can be readily accessed.

Near the end of the novel, the topic gets explored further:

Angela Mitchell comprehends this room and its inhabitants through shifting data planes that represent viewpoints, through of whom or what, she is in most cases in doubt. There is considerable degree of overlap, of contradiction.

The man with the ragged crest of hair, in black-beaded leather, is Thomas Trail Gentry (as birth data and SIN digits cascade through her) of no fixed address (as a different facet informs her that this room is his). Past a gray wash of official data traces, faintly marbled with the Fission Authority's repeated pink suspicions of utilities fraud, she finds him in a different light: he is like one of Bobby's cowboys; though young, he is like the old men of the Gentleman Loser; he is an autodidact, an eccentric, obsessed, by his own lights a scholar; he is mad, a nightrunner, guilty (in Mamman's view, in Legba's) of manifold heresies; Lady 3Jane, in her own eccentric scheme, has filed him under RIMBAUD. (Another face flares out at Angie from RIMBAUD; his name is Riviera, a minor player in the dreams.) Molly has deliberately stunned him, causing an explosive fléchette to detonate eighteen centimeters from his skull.

Molly, like the girl Mona, is SINless, her birth unregistered, yet around her name (names) swarm galaxies of supposition, rumor, conflicting data. Streetgirl, prostitute, bodyguard, assassin, she mingles on the manifold planes with the shadows of heroes and villains whose names mean nothing to Angie, though their residual images have long since been woven through the global culture (and this too belonged to 3Jane, and now belongs to Angie.) [284-285]

1. What information about the narrator and her surroundings does the reader derive from this style of description?

2. What clues in the text suggest where the information flow comes from? Does Angie necessarily want this information, or does she receive it regardless of her will?

3. Given Google Earth, mySpace, and the plethora of other information services, how distant do you perceive Angie's information input to be from ours?

4. Should information be so easily accessible, or is the risk of abuse too prevalent?

5. Massive availability and manipulation of information often drives the plot in the Cyberspace Trilogy, but its use is usually restricted to AI's. What specific importance does Angie's realization of it hold?


Gibson, William.Mona Lisa Overdrive. New York: Bantam Books, 1989.

Cyberspace OV Cyborg  Mona Lisa Overdrive

Last modified 1 October 2006