28 Years Late to Neuromancer

From Amazon: Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction. Hotwired to the leading edges of art and technology, Neuromancer ranks with 1984 and Brave New World as one of the century’s most potent visions of the future.

I was six when Neuromancer first came out. Likely, I wouldn’t have appreciated its lack of illustrations and its use of words and concepts like hackers, cyberspace, matrixes, constructs, computer viruses, and virtual reality. I was too busy having my mom roll up my hair in Princess Leia cinnamon buns to worry about what was going on in Tron or Blade Runner. I think I sprayed my hair blue and wore parachute pants for Halloween that year and called myself a punk rocker, but cyberpunk? My tastes in sci-fi tended more towards the operatic or comical as opposed to the dramatic and technical.

Fast-forward a lot of years–past Johnny Mnemonic, Lawnmower Man, and The Net, for instance—to when The Matrix comes out, and it BLOWS MY MIND! I don’t mean in the, “I don’t get it” way. I got it and then I went back and got it two more times in the theater, which is not usual for me.  I’d never seen anything like it. I was so infatuated, I actually researched Gnosticism for goodness sake.

Gibson has said on his blog that, “When I began to write NEUROMANCER, there was no “cyberpunk”. THE MATRIX is arguably the ultimate “cyberpunk” artifact. Or will be, if the sequels don’t blow. I hope they don’t, and somehow have a hunch they won’t, but I’m glad I’m not the one who has to worry about it.”

Ehhh, the sequels pretty much blew, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Fast forward another 13-or-so years and I finally pick up Neuromancer. It’s been hovering in my periphery for a while. I saw references to it in comparison to other works or mentioned in commentaries in sci-fi magazines. It most recently came to my attention when Gibson was quoted on the back of The Magician King, by Lev Grossman. I said to myself, I keep seeing this guy and this book, maybe it’s time I read it. So I did.

28 years after it was published, I think it’s still a good read. It has a noir tone like an old detective or crime thriller novel. Gibson writes in a semi-prose, semi-poetic, semi-flow of consciousness style that really fits (or maybe it establishes) the book’s atmosphere, which was dark, surreal, and sometimes ephemeral. His ideas build in thin layers that become something quite substantial by the end of the book. Much of the time I felt like I didn’t understand what was going on, but I would push through only to find that confusing moment made complete sense later on when more information was revealed. Gibson introduces characters and settings and plot as if like the reader is supposed to already know who, what, and where they are, but Gibson never left me hanging; explanations come, but they come by way of showing rather than telling, and that is a process which requires no mean talent by the writer and a little dedication from the reader. It’s worth it in the end.

I wish I had read Neuromancer in the 90s, but I wonder if I would have been able to fully comprehend it without my modern, internet awareness. In hindsight, Neuromancer is a little dated: data is stored on tapes, for instance, and there’s no real notion of information networks going “wireless”. Its concepts aren’t so cutting edge anymore. In 1984, however, and for at least a decade and a half after it was published, this book must have challenged thinking and pushed boundaries. Now, it’s worth reading if for nothing more than to admire Gibson’s foresight, talented writing skills, and his mastery of the genre.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie
    Oct 22, 2012 @ 20:02:19

    Fun story! Neuromancer is one of my favorite books. I’m glad you gave it a read. 🙂

    Reply

  2. Redhead
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 02:37:34

    I’ve really got to reread Neuromancer. I read it before I was exposed to much cyberpunk (The Matrix, Charles Stross, etc), and most of the tech in the book went right over my head. I’ve enjoyed some of Gibson’s newer stuff, so I bet if I picked up Neuromancer in my post-The Matrix life, I’d be just fine with it.

    Reply

    • squee1313
      Oct 23, 2012 @ 23:45:03

      I think I read it at the right time. 28 years late was just right because I believe it would have gone completely over my head in my teenage years. I found it gripping and thrilling and it kept me guessing all the way to the end. Try it again, I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve read Gibson’s other stuff.

      Reply

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