I have had this book on my TBR (to be read) shelf for ages and ages. Now that Gibson’s new book, Peripheral, is being released (Oct. 28, 2014) I thought I should read his classic.
At first I was really disappointed because, first, I’ve only followed Gibson since Pattern Recognition and I’m used to his books being set in a contemporary world with cutting edge techno/cyber stuff. When a book was written 30 years ago it’s just not going to be that.
Neuromancer is set in a world decades in the future – 2030? – rather than the cutting edge reality of 2014. It’s also about computer and medical technology as well as the world of crime rather than fashion and advertising plus all the above. – heh. I might have enjoyed this when it came out, but maybe not – I’m not big on the medical parts.
Otoh, I understand why this book is important – it’s a classic and as I read on, as well as read about it, I came to realize that it was deservedly so.
Neuromancer was the first cyberpunk novel and it took the sci-fi world by storm winning the big sci-fi awards and becoming a cult classic. It may hold some resonance for those who read it back then or for those who want to know the origins, development and evolution of the genre (sub-genre?) – Gibson has very much “created a world” in the tradition of sci-fi and he did it so well that it’s hard to distinguish which parts were invented and which were real. This was true even in 1984.
When this ground-breaking novel was published in 1984 there were no cell phones as we know them, the first Macintosh was released, video games were in their prime ( home- programers could code simple ones) . The basics of computer programming were becoming known to a larger public, the internet was coming together (networked banks, universities and military) and with Neuromancer, Gibson provided the word “cyberspace.” The development of Artificial Intelligence had stalled, but there was huge interest in some circles. The book was aimed at high school and college age males who popularized it by word of mouth.
The Plot: Henry Case is a low-life convicted computer hacker and drug-dealer in a place called Chiba City, Japan. His body has been poisoned for his crimes and more than anything he wants to find a cure. Thanks to a modified woman named Molly, Case ends up in a trade of his hacker skills for a cure but the cure is deliberately turned against him by Amitage (and they nullify the effects of his drugs), Molly’s boss and the “buyer” of his skills. Molly has Case checked by her old friend and hacker buddy, Finn.
First assignment is to steal the saved consciousness (on a Read-Only Module, ROM) of a dead hacking master, Dixie Flatline. With some underground help, they get the ROM construct). So then they hack into Amitage’s background and find that he’s really one Colonel Corto, a mentally reconstituted anti-Soviet fighter who used drones (!)
Then Amitage (Corto) hires a guy who can project scenarios because he’s been implanted with cybernetic devices. And this is how we come to the deceased Wintermute, an AI, whose consciousness is kept alive in a special habitat in Switzerland by some crazy scientists for the Tessier-Ashpool family some of whom are kept frozen (cryotstasis) awaiting a cure.
But poor Wintermute is only half of what he could be if he were joined with Neuromancer, his counterpart in Rio, kept there by the same family because to join the two AIs would be against the law. Now Amitage’s reconstituted mental condition starts to break down and havoc ensues.
(That’s all you get.)
The narrative is strewn heavily with sci-fi jargon, computerese, bad-boy lingo, slang, patois, etc. It sometimes become tedious to read this kind of ambiguity, but I suppose it adds to the ambiance.
Robertson Dean is a great reader for the Gibson books.
It’s probably been an interesting ride to follow Gibson’s career as he’s written the books – I know I’m looking forward to the new one due out in a few weeks – Peripheral – due Oct. 28, 2014 – but I don’t think I’m going to go back and read his other priors.
Matrix – Macworld : http://www.macworld.com/article/1141500/neuromancer_25.html
Virtual Reality – Cyberarts: http://www.cyberartsweb.org/cpace/scifi/gibson/schwartz.html
30 years later – The Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/05/american-dreams-did-william-gibson-s-neuromancer-blueprint-our-reality.html