Gibson, William. "Neuromancer"


swinging to the tunes
May 30, 2003
Not that I'm trying to start a crusade for award winning books here, but the next book I'd like to introduce is William Gibson's Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick award winning novel 'Neuromancer'.

This book is widely known for starting the Cyberpunk genre, and for better or worse a slew of cyperspace noir has followed in its wake. Cyberpunk is all but dead now however; the idea of society's low life starring in a book has lost its initial novelty, and there was just so much that could be said about an artificial world it seems. Whatever the reason for its demise, cyberpunk has left its mark in SF. At its peak, cyberpunk was the in, hip thing in town, and it drew authors who added popular appeal to SF. SF became more stylish and artsier to cater to the gen-X crowd, raising the bar on what could be done within the realm of SF. Gen-X may slowly be finding their way, and the need for cybernoir may have abated. Hopefully SF authors have taken something from it though, and SF can maintain some of its pop appeal.

I'll always associate this book with a particular stormy night in posh downtown Tokyo, six years and lifetime ago. A freak thunderstorm caused most people around me to shelter against the rain, but I had an umbrella, and didn't care about getting wet. The night was warm, and it wasn't like I had any plans that night, so I continued walking through the rain. Skyscrapers stood around me in all their geometric glory, immense pillars outlined by brilliant daggers of lightning, while thunder rolled across the city. Even as the rain wet my face, I grinned, feeing this massive clash of power around me, of man against nature. Then in the next moment as lightning lit the sky, I felt the incredible might of the corporations these buildings represented, and simultaneously my own inadequacy. Raised in suburban Canada and lacking the social graces or education of the Japanese around me, I was overcome with the despair of knowing I would never be a part of what those buildings represented.

If I'd lived my whole life in suburban Canada I don't think I could have empathized with the main character of this book. A lot of readers hate this book and I guess I can see some of the reasons. If you've never felt an outcast, or lived in a large city, or experienced the overwhelming economic power of large corporations, then I guess you could have a hard time relating to the book. I'd first read this book in my late teens when I had no idea about my future, and back then the story was realer than life.

The basic plot is simple; hired help gets greedy and steals from his employer, employer cripples help, help slowly rots. Help is hired to do a job by mysterious and powerful employer, and is paid by getting cripple removed. By doing the job, help causes The Matrix. Book leaves room for sequel. Ok, not much of a summary, but I don't want to spoil the book.

For all of its strengths, this was Gibson's first novel, and it shows. The writing is often hard to follow in places, and the almost poetic descriptive technique of his later books has yet to be established. Even then, the writing is incredibly slick, and contains the gritty realism that's become a hallmark of Gibson's best work. "Flows like quicksilver" is the way one reviewer described it, and I think that does an excellent job of describing the hi-tech feel and uniquely quick transitions of the book.

Taken in a one or two large doses, this book can offer the reader all of the thrill and intense realism of the best movies on the screen today. The post-read disorientation when you realize you're back in the real world, was far greater than anything I've experienced to date. While it won't appeal to all readers, it's still worth reading to experience a piece of SF history.
Read most of W.Gibsons' work and for myself,this novel or the two that continue it are in my personal Top Ten.:cool:
Small story that brings a large world to life.
Still read them now and then,just for the way they read.
I agree with most of what you said, except for cyberpunk being completely dead. "Altered Carbon," by Richard Morgan is a somewhat recent cyberpunk book, extremely recent if you compare it to a timeline of cyberpunk. The genre is one that is lesser known, and for that it appeals to a smaller crowd. Authors might be hesitant to write something that will appeal to such a small crowd, and be compared to the works of Gibson, Stephenson, Philip K. Dick...

When Gibson wrote his books, he coined the term cyberspace, and there were many new concepts he made up. The best reason I have heard why cyberpunk is dead, is that we are living in it. Cyberpunk books take place in the near future, and that near future Gibson and Stephenson write about is now.

In a way I like cyberpunk being a lesser known, smaller genre, because it feels more manageable. I can become familiar with the history of it, the writers that were able to write succesful cyberpunk, and other things.
Read Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive and Count Zero pretty much back to back many moons ago. At that time the books opened the door to a whole new world. A very vast world encompassed in really, very few pages. Gibson in that sense was very much a pioneer. I don't think the genre has faded away or died. It's always been a niche sector catering to a fairly small number of readers. The other thing as Hiro pointed out is that the future as they wrote about is what we are living in now and that might be might perhaps explain why not so many books are written and why not many new reders are entering the field.

For me personally, Gibson's books stand out and will always do so.
Read "Pattern Recognition" and you'll agree with those who say that cyberpunk is dead, and not because we're living it.... If we're living a WG book, we're probably closer to living in "Idoru" than anything else.... (Personally I'd rather live in "New Rose Hotel" LOL)

Rent "No Maps For These Territories" (or get it from your local public library... if they don't have it, ask why not) an hour and a half interview with William Gibson from a few years ago that is fantastic.

Cyberpunk died because it had to.... Its very nature was such that when it became popular it was no longer cuberpunk. Like being a 'punk rocker' in the late 70's or a 'hacker' in the late 80's, you were something not a lot of people knew anything about, but in the late 90's and early 00's, you were just another computer geek. Limited shelf-life, coupled with a complete and total lack of modern 'bohemias' for such 'counter-cultures' to really mature in before being branded, homogonized, sanitized and distributed to sububan white kids in safe, boring ol' North America....

Reread Neuromancer, and note the total lack of (just for an example) cellphones.... William Gibson (And most other cyberpunk authors) sure missed the boat on that one! LOL

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