Neuromancer

Monday, March 14, 2016


Neuromancer
William Gibson, 1984

Hugo Winner - 1985

Challenge Book! Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016 - Read a book originally published in the decade you were born

Premise: Case used to be a hacker, until a job gone wrong caused an angry client to damage his nervous system, making it impossible for him to interface with cyberspace. He’s picked up by a new patron, though, who wants his particular skill-set, and drawn into a mission beyond earth and beyond humanity.

The first line of Neuromancer is extremely evocative, and I’ve heard it cited as such many times. But, it now occurs to me: Disregard the issues of which technologies in this book have come to pass, which are functionally similar and technically different, and which are still strictly fiction. Instead, consider what color “a television tuned to a dead channel” is, how that has changed and is still changing, and how long that phrase will have meaning.

This is another one of those books that is more important than good, although it is still pretty good. The setting is more interesting than the plot. Molly the ‘razorgirl’s body modifications, the way cyberspace is described across multiple senses, the tangible picture painted of everything from the high-tech slums to the luxurious satellite resort… all these are why this is the seminal work of cyberpunk, and why it has been so influential.

Neuromancer flirts with themes involving the limits of an artificial mind, ethics of copying a mind into a computer, cultural reactions to a high-tech, plugged-in society, and more. It’s a fun, fast read, but I admit I prefer many of the works it spawned over it itself.

I enjoyed the read, although I more enjoyed wondering about the influences. For example, does the overly visual idea of ‘hacking’ in movies (think Jurassic Park for a good example) have its roots here?

This came out in the early 80s, and yes, there’s some dated material, mostly involving a lack of women, and minor characters of color all being fairly ‘weird’ in stereotypical ways. Other than that, it’s a well-written sci-fi thriller with great flavor, but one that doesn’t loom as large on the cultural landscape as it once did.

3 Stars - A Good Book


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