William Gibson, greatest of the sci fi writers?

lin robinson

Science fiction fantasy
Jun 18, 2007
I have a hard time understanding why Gibson is not more discussed here.
I am not even concerned with the whole "cyberpunk" tag that got penned on him: this is one of the really fine North American writers in any genre.

The Neuromancer Trilogy and Virtual Light are certainly not short on Big Ideas, many of them spun off genres, popular phrases, mentalities and cybernetic paradigms.

But across those ideas are characters of deep and subtle realization, strong emotions evoked so seamlessly as to be un-noticeable, and a beautiful, precise prose that is as transparent as it is impactive.

Almost every sentence turns a lapidary phrase, some of them defining experiences: jack into the matrix and it opens like "neon origami" To immerse the user in "consensual hallucination"...as good a metaphor for our reality as anything in The Matrix.

His throw-away tributes to Steely Dan ("Gentleman Loser" bar, etc.) creation of weapon ordinance before the fact, deep evocations of Japanese culture, stylish portraits of underground Londoners, are all candy for the reading eye.

As much as the gigantic tasks he pulls off so effortlessly: like the creation of an AI that becomes the world and discusses it as it acheives self-awareness. Or a chase across space to trace an artist that evokes the entire echoing, gorgeous rot of the family who built a world in orbit.

The guy is just a wonderful writer and doesn't seem to get any credit for it.
I haven't read Bill for a long time. I have a copy of Idoru on my book case and Neuromancer is on my book shelf.

I remember that Gibson was kinda hard going. There were so many ideas expressed in such subtle prose that sometimes I had trouble following the story. I guess I was overawed by the neon that was his writing.

What I do remember is that I felt Gibson turned the sci-fi world upside down, at least in my head. I stopped reading SF after Gibson. Idoru was the last SF book I bought for a long time (until December last year to be precise). His vision was such and expansive and detailed one, but the thing that did my head in was that it was all coming true, and still is. I think of SF books as being pre or post Gibson.

But as to his skills as a writer? I shall have to read him again and tell you what I think.

btw. Despite being jacked in to the future of computers and the internet, he wrote his books (at least his early ones) on a good old fashioned manual typewriter.
The only book I've read by William Gibson is Neuromancer, so I don't consider myself qualified to judge his writing skills in general. However, I agree with gully foyle that he is hard to follow. His ideas are brilliant, especially considering his lack of knowledge about computers at the time. The book is worthy for it's philosophical value, a piece of fiction you can learn from if you give it a chance. It isn't an easy read, though, and I think this can be very off-putting for many people.
I devoured the Sprawl trilogy and Gibson's collection, Burning Chrome, when they were published. But subsequent books have not grabbed me as much. I think it was mostly a matter of timing. In the mid-Eighties, Gibson was big and fresh. The genre moved on. So did Gibson. And I wasn't too keen on the direction he took.
For another new twist, check out "Pattern Recognition". Not sci-fi.

Or should I say it further blurs the line between present and future fiction.

I'm surprised by these comments. I have no problem following him, and always admired the way his stuff flows along so smoothly.
Well, he only wrote one book in the last seven or eight years, and he doesn't have enough of a body of work or history to have his older works discussed on a regular basis, the way Asimov or Heinlein might. Plus, I'm not a big fan of his last novel. He has something new coming out in a few months, so I'll probably pick that up, and you'll likely see more discussion about him with something new to read.

I definitely loved his older stuff, and I'm sure it gets brought up often while discussing other things. I really do wish he was a little more prolific. =)
The only one of William Gibson's books I've read so far has been Idoru, and I enjoyed it. Perhaps I'll have a look for some of these other titles.
I have decided to get his Neuromancer cause of it being so respected in the genre and i will get back to you when i have read what i think of him.
The Neuromancer Trilogy is major. Seminal, intellectually awesome, artistically gorgeous.
If someone says that Gibson is an unrewarding,or even dull,read,think nothing of it

Oh, I don't. I guess it's kind of a shock to think of him as an "oldie". And really a mindblower to think he'd be regarded in a lesser light than Heinlein.
really a mindblower to think he'd be regarded in a lesser light than Heinlein.

Its understandle though no matter how good Gibson and his books are.

Very few SF writers has as huge body of work and is as much respected as Heinlein.
I thought his later books were jokes. But I'll never forget what when all my junior high buddies were reading the Hardy Boys and stories about basketball and drag racing and cute dogs I was blasting around between planets like a tunnel in the sky, a space cadet born in freefall with spacesuit will travel. One of the really great writers for boys.
For another new twist, check out "Pattern Recognition". Not sci-fi.

Or should I say it further blurs the line between present and future fiction.

I'm surprised by these comments. I have no problem following him, and always admired the way his stuff flows along so smoothly.

Pattern Recognition is the only Gibson I've read, but I loved that. As you say, it isn't exactly science fiction, even though I felt that in the final analysis it is more than it isn't. Then again, I like books that blur the lines between genres.

I keep meaning to pick up some of his other work, espeically after seeing a rather odd documentary about him a few years ago, but I've never quite gotten around to it.
I'll bet it was odd. Wish I'd caught it.

If you like Pattern Recognition, I'd urge you try the Neuromancer series. And Virtual Light if you like those.

One element of PR is a sort of major motif for Gibson...a search that ends up leading to the arcane motivations of an artist. It's sounded over and again in the Neuromancer books, and some of the artistes there are some of the most intriquing and dwarfing in the field.
I liked Neuromancer though I kept stopping and it took me a good six weeks to read, the secound half is much better as the pace picks up.
Calling someone the greatest anything can be very subjetive. Enjoyment of a book depends on the person and the time/place they read it.
I wait for each new Gibson novel with the anticipation of a kid. I've loved everything he's written thus far - and Pattern Recognition just left me aching for more. He's one of the few writers I always check up on when I go into a bookshop, even if I know he doesn't have anything coming out.
My first exposure to Gibson was through Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. They were so impressed by Count Zero that they chose this as the only novel they had ever serialized.
Along with Sterling and a few others, "Cyberpunk" was highly influential for quite a long time.
I've enjoyed all his novels, even the rather-dismissed "Difference Engine".

I've read through the related trilogy (Count Zero, Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive) half a dozen times at least.
I like the two related near-future novels, Virtual Light and All Tomorrow's Parties as well.

I would have liked Pattern Recognition more had I not read all his previous stuff. Frankly, I felt he stole plot elements from himself. Pattern Recognition reads a lot like Count Zero, to my mind.

I'm the guy they warned you about. I dislike Gibson and Cyber Punk intensely. Neuromancer and Mona Lisa OverDrive just about did me in on Science Fiction. He does have unique ideas but they reminded me of the the so-called movies of the psychadelic era. You almost have to be high to think you understand and when you aren't, you don't; and realize you never did.

Obvious question: If I disliked Neuromancer so much why did I read Mona Lisa Overdrive? Answer: There was so much "buzz" about Gibson I thought I'd give him another chance. He won't get a third one.

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