Neuromancer by William Gibson

Anthony G Williams

Apr 18, 2007
Now a quarter of a century old, Neuromancer is widely regarded as a classic of modern SF (if that isn't a tautology). It won just about every award going for its portrayal of a future in which skilled people could be "jacked in" to the information technology network, able to experience it as a virtual landscape and navigate around its programmes and data storage nodes, evading defensive systems and stealing data. Old hat now, but not at the time.

I read it when it first came out, and frankly had forgotten everything about it - even reading it again rang no bells at all. I find these inconsistencies from time to time; sometimes I can clearly remember stories even if they're not much good, at other times even a good tale slips through the gaps in my memory.

Anyway, what did I think of it this time? I was deeply impressed; I found it much better than I had expected. This is not mainly due to the virtual world concepts but simply because the tale of Case, a former cyberspace expert recruited to a dangerous mission, is a rattling good thriller, told with a blend of pace and style which would be equally successful in other genres. The language is often terrific:

"Gravity came down on him like a great soft hand with bones of ancient stone."


"Case's consciousness divided like beads of mercury, arcing above an endless beach the color of the dark silver clouds. His vision was spherical, as if a single retina lined the inner surface of a globe that contained all things…"

If I have any criticism it is that the plot is so densely packed, the writing so laconic, that you really have to stay on your mental toes to keep up with everything that's going on. This is not a book to fill an idle moment, you need to settle down and concentrate. In fact, I was tempted to read it again immediately, in order to savour it in a more leisurely fashion and pick up on the nuances that I suspect slipped by me the first time. Why it made so little impression on me on first reading I don't know; but this one is now added to my pantheon of the SF greats. If you've never read it, treat yourself.

(An extract from my SFF blog)
Ye Gods! It can't really be 25 years, can it?

(Weeps for his stolen youth and then remembers he's now 51)
This book epitomizes the kind of SF I dislike; too much techno-babble. Each to their own I suppose...
My review is simply this: "One of the most over rated books ever."
It's probably one of the least future-proofed books ever written. The protagonist is being pursued for 4MB of hot RAM!

I wish I'd read it in my youth, rather than a couple of years ago.
Go for it, AE!

I read it for the first time in June/July 2008. Okay, it may be a little dated, but it's fast paced, so I didn't find anything too jarring.

(And it's not as if SF from bygone ages has always got it right about our time, is it?)
I have to agree with Ursa on the view of the future; expecting anyone to be spot on about computer specifications that will be technologically impressive even 5 years into the future is a bit of a tall order.

As for overrated, not a chance! The book helped give birth to a genre, and had few (if any) peers at the time that were as eerily close in their descriptions of the modern day net. Gibson's prose added touch to the descriptions of his foresight, as noted by AGW above. It won Hugo, Nebula and Phillip K. Dick awards upon its release. I'm not a huge fan of this genre, but I give this book the credit it's due.
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I agree that it's a classic that makes for an excellent re-read. Probably hard for first timers though. The writing is pure prose. The opening line sets the tone perfectly.

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."
I like cyperpunk i have read a lot of shorter stories in the subgenre. I have wanted to read this book for so long i just havent done it yet. To me it cant be a hard read for first timers today if its a real classic. Doesnt matter how cybperspace,alot of elements are old news today.

Every book is dated by its times,the true classics are the ones that goes above its times no matter if its a 200 years old book or 25 years old book.

I wont except too much just because it won many awards i dont care about awards usually. The hype of a book is usually what makes people say a book is overrated.

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