“New Rose Hotel” by William Gibson: A Burning Chrome Review

Copyright © 1986 by William Gibson.

New Rose Hotel” is a short story by Nebula Award-winning author William Gibson that was originally published in 1984 in Omni.

Plug in, flip the switch, and let’s get this review started!

The Story: How To Meet People, Swindle Them, And Get Swindled Yourself

The narrator and his partner, Fox, have been hired by the Hosaka corporation to steal the most brilliant scientist working for its rival, Maas Biolabs.  To make this plan work, they bring in a girl named Sandii to be the bait that reels Hiroshi, the scientist, in to Hosaka territory.  But while the plan goes well at first, Sandii proves to be a spanner in the works that brings down the wrath of Hosaka on the two spies.  The narrator is left to fend for himself, hiding out inside the titular New Rose Hotel in Japan, trapped by Hosaka and his desperate need to see Sandii once more.

The Cast: Just Your Typical Corporate Spies, Ma’am

The narrator and Fox are both fairly similar as characters, the only notable exception being Fox’s taste for expensive suits and his interest in finding new scientists whose research is on “the Edge.”  Sandii is the third wheel of their partnership, an enigmatic woman whose backstory changes every time she talks about it and who is playing both sides for the sake of her true employer.

The Style: Jumping Like A Frog In A Dynamite Pond (Phrase Courtesy of Hunter S. Thompson)

For the entire story, our narrator is sitting inside a Japanese tenement called the New Rose Hotel, simultaneously recounting how recent events unfolded while talking to Sandii, his betrayer and former lover.  It adds an interesting dimension to the tale, using a little second-person narration when talking to Sandii (whose image is left up to the reader).  The straight narration also keeps the story flowing from one development to the next, rather than using individual scenes to set up mood, dialogue, action, and exposition.  It’s all coming out of the narrator’s mind, laced with the desperation of the present and a way to look back and see just where things went wrong.

Final Verdict: A Quick Shot of Coolness

Although I wasn’t as hooked onto this story as, say, “Johnny Mnemonic,” I did find it to be very hip and happening nonetheless.

I also discovered that “New Rose Hotel” was, like “Mnemonic,” adapted into a 1998 film by Abel Ferrara, which starred Willem Dafoe as the protagonist, Christopher Walken as Fox, and Asia Argento as Sandii.  Although I’d love to see how Walken played that role, from what I hear the film wasn’t entirely faithful to the story, which is a shame.  Gibson’s work has a lot of visual elements embedded in the narration and it would be a treat for both filmmakers and audiences to get the real thing on the silver screen for once.

But with all that said and done, “New Rose Hotel” is a quick and enjoyable read, as well as a treat for anyone who enjoys a good spy thriller.

Bibliography: Gibson, William.  “New Rose Hotel.”  Burning Chrome.  New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1986.

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