"Neuromancer" - Mania.com



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  • Author: William Gibson
  • Publisher: Ace Books
  • Pages: 271
  • Price: $6.99

"Neuromancer"

By Pat Ferrara     April 23, 2007


Neuromancer of The Sprawl Trilogy
© N/A

To those familiar with William Gibson’s work, Neuromancer is one of SF’s most definitive masterpieces and a foundational stone of the cyperpunk subgenre. To those who’ve never even heard of the triple crown award-winning author (Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Awards), I can imagine that the title sounds a little cheesy, conjuring images of a new role-playing character class rather than the pages of a formative science fiction novel. 

I’m ashamed to say that up until a few weeks ago I was situated in the latter camp, yet after reading this book I feel compelled to share my thoughts with the rest of you Maniac readers. 

Originally penned in 1984, Gibson’s Neuromancer kicks off The Sprawl Trilogy that’s set on and around a future, post-World War III Earth. The story follows Henry Dorsett Case, a former computer hacker who had his neurons fried after double-crossing a previous employer. Now broke, addicted to amphetamines, and unable to jack into the web of cyberspace, Case wanders the streets of Chiba City, treading water and dealing drugs in the urban center known as “an unsupervised playground for technology itself.” 

But before Case can run himself into an early grave a not-so-chance encounter gives him a second shot at the glory days of his hotshot cowboy youth. Recruited by Armitage, a shadowy ex-military colonel, Case signs on for a job that pays the impossible: an unheard of operation that can repair his extensive nerve damage. After the surgery’s success Case tackles his assignment with the renewed vigor of a man freed from the flesh. 

Together with Molly, a highly augmented razorgirl with mirrored insets for eyes, Case travels around the world and through the distance-less void of cyberspace on Armitage’s mission. Things get complicated, however, when Case realizes that their operation pits them against one of the most powerful artificial intelligences known to man… and no one’s sure whether their ultimate goal is to help or hinder it. 

Although verbose at times and laden with words and concepts unique to Gibson’s vision of the future, Neuromancer’s diction is some of the most descriptive and imaginative I’ve read in any genre of novel. The author’s ability to depict Case and the world around him is inspiring in its poetics; by describing the physical, emotional, and sociocultural settings of an environment in a single sentence, Gibson establishes tone and mood that are fantastical and realistic at the same time. 

Case and Molly are regarded as some of the greatest archetypes of cyberpunk character and it’s easy to see why. Layered with snippets of individual back story, the cowboy hacker and street samurai are loaded with turbulent emotion and weighted motives. In a nutshell they are the products of an increasingly saturated and over-stimulated future, yet Gibson somehow manages to keep them accessible amidst all their complexity. 

The best character by far, however, is the world itself that Neuromancer introduces us to. If you had to boil down the zeitgeist of Gibson’s universe in a single word it could only be described as mind-expanding. Although the pacing of the novel is lightning fast and at times conceptually complicated, the rewards are boundless for those who stick with it. Having devoured this book in a few days, the only thing I’m wondering is if the next two installments (Count Zero, 1986 & Mona Lisa Overdrive, 1988) are just as good.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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1 
michaelxaviermaelstrom 4/23/2007 2:06:17 AM
A Neuromancer book review in 2007? You just made my millennium 'mate. (when in bloody Wintermute's name are they going to make a movie out of this masterpiece?) (^Raise-Finger-to-comment - Ed) no Ed, Johnny Mnemonic was Gibson short story based and although the Wachowski's admitted they inverted Neuromancer to make The Matrix, it also doesn't count, as it's in effect a "homage") (v-Lower finger - Ed) Welcome to The Sprawl fan-club Pat! (hands Pat membership card - chrome-tinted hologram-protected of course, some microfiche laminate, mirrorshades and a deck - Ed) There is no late'osity with Neuromancer fandom, there are only new visionary inductees. To date Gibson's depicted world has STILL not come entirely to pass, but we can see bits of it already and we all know we're heading there. Although a few authors/artists might pre-date certain elements found in Gibson's work (Vernor Vinge's "True Names", Blade Runner, Tron) Gibson forte' aside from his verbiage and uber-writing capacity is how he takes the present and raises it to the power of 2 or 3. And that's why imo he had/has a praeternatural sense of where we're all heading. If I seem overtly-enthusiastic here it's because Neuromancer classifies as my single favorite SF novel of all time. Intellectually one might be inclined to pause and submit an Asimov vs Bradbury vs Clarke vs Heinlein entry for top SF novel, however based on the number of variant copies of Neuromancer that I have in my possession, and on how often I go back to it to re-read it, Neuromancer wins, hand's down. I find both COUNT ZERO and MONA LISA OVERDRIVE satisfying, though not quite as equally (and I preferred Mona Lisa Overdrive to Count Zero for reasons that would require an extensive review to recount) But over-all, a fantastic journey from beginning to end. Personally in terms of bound Gibson works I'd place Gibson's BURNING CHROME (short-story collection -Ed) en par with Neuromancer. In terms of multiple-copy dog-eared water-logged value, in terms of the poetic kick to the cerebral cortex, it's probably the second most consumed book in my house, next to Neuromancer. -mXm
Halfluck1 4/23/2007 4:55:03 AM
This is a tremendously important book not just for the genre, but for creating the internet and advanced technologies now. Written on a manual typewriter in the early '80s, Gibson created the phrase "cyberspace," and that has made all the difference. I don't know if a Neuromancer film could work in all honesty. Too many illiterate teenagers would see it as ripping off The Matrix.
MrKeith 4/23/2007 11:58:02 AM
I started reading this awhile ago, but had to put it down because the prose seemed so passive. That, or maybe I've just not been in the right mindset for it. I'll have to give it another shot. So, we'll see... I do like reading about versions of the future that were written in the past. Everytime I read the word "arcade", all I could think of was how my niece and nephew will look at those like we look at the 5 cent nickelodeans. Also, the "video rental store" will seem quant.
MrKeith 4/23/2007 12:04:49 PM
I started reading this awhile ago, but had to put it down because the prose seemed so passive. That, or maybe I've just not been in the right mindset for it. I'll have to give it another shot. So, we'll see... I do like reading about versions of the future that were written in the past. Everytime I read the word "arcade", all I could think of was how my niece and nephew will look at those like we look at the 5 cent nickelodeans. Also, the "video rental store" will seem quant.
kaybar 4/23/2007 11:25:24 PM
yeah this book was amazing, but i agree with hal that a film version may not work. Maybe Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, Avalon) could do a good treatment of it, but i doubt any pro. co. would throw enough money into this project to really do the book justice
michaelxaviermaelstrom 4/24/2007 12:10:23 AM
re: "I do like reading about versions of the future that were written in the past. Everytime I read the word "arcade", all I could think of was how my niece and nephew will look at those like we look at the 5 cent nickelodeans." - kgatchel (- kgatchel -) Ironically I have a B movie in my collection nomened "Arcade" that stars John De Lancie (Q of Trek fame -Ed) that involves Gibson influenced virtual reality. It's more of a curio piece than any sort of film to write home about but fun to pop in every now and then. re: "yeah this book was amazing, but i agree with hal that a film version may not work. Maybe Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, Avalon) could do a good treatment of it, but i doubt any pro. co. would throw enough money into this project to really do the book justice" - kaybar (- kaybar -) Excellent choice Kaybar. GITS is itself another author-admitted "homage" to Neuromancer, but it's bloody well done (I'd classify Stand Alone Complex as often amongst the best shows on television in a given week) I think you 'ave the spot on correct instinct for how a Neuromancer movie should be handled Kaybar. Optimally I'd like to see a Neuromancer movie with an what-does-it-mean-to-be-"human"-in-a-world-where-flesh-is-digital _introspection_ is centering a fully fleshed Gibson world. That is after-all, increasingly becoming the real world we live in. The Wachowski's layered on a comic-book cum philosophical surreal veneer to Gibson's world where the central theme is the question "what defines reality and who if anyone is pulling the strings on our reality?" and I personally think the first Matrix film is brilliant (as is The Animatrix -Ed) even if The Matrix heavily borrowed from numerous sources, but it unfortunately devolved into empty double-speak (imo) in the sequels perhaps indicating that the Wachowski's didn't really understand what Gibson or they for that matter were getting at. :) (or that they were simply stretching out a good film mainly for box-office purposes - Ed) I'll leave that for others to judge, but personally I don't find the sequels detract from the high quality of the original Matrix. I'd like to see a more Gibson'esque take in a Neuromancer movie. He explores digital-flesh/digital-identity further in later novels (like Idoru - Ed) and our continually dwarfed and marginalized status (as human beings) in relation to ourselves, eachother and megacorporate entities that view us as ancillary elements that exist to serve their products (imo). ..so perhaps an amalgamation of those themes in a Neuromancer movie might strike the right cinematic background chord, while the foreground elements remain those depicted in the Sprawl trilogy. That'd be what I'd like to see. I certainly think that Gibson has been ripped off uh excuse me, has had homages to his works made *cough* so bloody often that he deserves his moment in the pop-cult cinematic sun. mXm
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