Early in 2021, I decided that this would be the year I’d finally finish the Sprawl Trilogy. I’d already read Neuromancer and Count Zero more than once but this was the first time I read Mona Lisa Overdrive.
You know, I try not to spoil works but I can’t really discuss Mona Lisa Overdrive without spoilers. So…
Like Count Zero before it, MLO follows multiple characters. We have Kumiko, a Yakuza princess who is mourning her dead mother. Her father sends her to England to get her away from one gang war, only to land her in another. There is Mona, a drug addict and prostitute, who is pulled into a scheme and a world bigger than she’s ever known. We also have Slick Henry, a damaged artist and ex-con in the middle of nowhere whose nowhere turns into the epicenter of a world changing event. And finally, Angie Mitchell from Count Zero. She is at the center of the two conflicts: a plot to kidnap her and the next evolutionary step of cyberspace.
And the supporting character who runs through all of the plots is Molly Millions, the original street samurai. Except she is older and wiser and not so street. But, while she doesn’t pull any Wolverine fight scenes, she is clearly a lot more in control and a lot deadlier than she was in Neuromancer.
One of my observations (not criticisms) of Count Zero was that it was almost a standalone work from its predecessor, Neuromancer. Mona Lisa Overdrive, the third and concluding volume of the Sprawl Trilogy, ties those two books together. It makes the three books a series.
A definite part of the overall arc of the Sprawl trilogy is that the ‘human’ level conflict gets smaller while the ‘internet’ level gets bigger. While the human conflict in MLO involved lots of death and money and power, it feels petty compared to the gestalt mind of the internet making its next big step.
Count Zero is still my favorite work in the trilogy. It is tighter and the danger of the stakes getting lost is stronger. And Neuromancer informed an entire genre. Mona Lisa Overdrive is honestly the weakest of the trilogy but only because it stands next to such giants.