I’m a big fan of the cyberpunk genre especially when it comes to other forms of media. I haven’t read this one in a while but it has kind of stuck in my memory so I thought I’d do a post on it and see what I remember. I have quickly gone through the book before I’ve published this and if I’m being honest there’s better articles out there about Neuromancer I’m just writing my initial thoughts as they come out.
For those of you that don’t know cyberpunk is an offshoot of science fiction. Where as previously there was the likes of Star Trek for example with it’s Federation spreading it’s views on peace and inclusiveness or Rendezvous With Rama with it’s intelligent astronauts discovering alien constructs, cyberpunk focuses on what is known as ‘high tech, low life’. The future settings tend to be closer to our time or at least more recognisable.
The protagonists in cyberpunk tend to be deadbeats or at the least people who are suffering in some way or have some mental torment (with some noticeable exceptions) and they are usually set in dense cities with neon lights and massive class inequality.
Neuromancer was one of the first cyberpunk novels. This is the reason we see words like cyberspace and matrix. Neuromancer is a world with the cyberpunk tropes of computer hackers, ruthless corporations, laissez faire capitalism, concrete jungle metropolises and cyborg humans with major augments. Neuromancer has all these among others but the most important trope arguably is with the focus on AI and what it is to be self conscious. There’s always an underlying philosophical though with cyberpunk where there are robots and gadgets etc but really it ponders questions we’ve been asking since Socrates or at least before we had such a concept of the future.
Before I go any further I’d like to mention the flaws of this book. The first sexual encounter with Molly and Case made me cringe a little bit and it just seems to come out of nowhere, I thought the character of Case could have been written better and I was not a big fan of dialogue being written in an accent. Especially when it comes to Rastafarians. It just seemed unnecessary.
Despite the flaws however, there is a lot to love here. The imagery it gives you in your mind’s eye with characters like Molly and the settingof Chiba city. It starts with the famous line ‘ The sky above the port was the colour of television tuned to a dead channel’. The books main protagonist Case isn’t some elite space ranger, he’s a deadbeat computer hacker in his early twenties with a drug addiction dealing with other deadbeats until someone shows up and offers him a job, a chance at salvation. On his journey we see the tropes as described above and an AI who has such a major influence on both the story and Case himself. It was the story and it’s world that kept me gripped with this book as like I said, I thought Case could been written better but it doesn’t take away from the plot.
My favourite part of the book was the relationship with humans and AI (Artifical Intelligence which is slowly becoming more intelligent in our world every year). We see AI as being conscious entities with their own thoughts and feelings among humans and each other. This adds to the extra layers of the story of the book on top of the description of the environment and the main plot you see with the heist (Case’s Mission). The thoughts and philosophies in the book is what makes it so memorable. There’s a part where a character wishes to be deleted once a mission is done. Whether he does or not however is left unknown.
Because of the depth of the story and the action and Case’s struggle throughout, it has always stayed in my head. I would like to have written more about this book and I probably will (watch this space) . Minor characters like Lady 3Jane, Armitage and Dixie Flatline could easily have books with them as the main character.
Although it predicted many things that we see today like the Internet and how we interact with it and AI which is improving all time it’s not entirely prescient. Gibson didn’t forsee smart phones and we don’t quite ‘jack in’ and it couldn’t have forseen the USSR falling but we are seeing the class divisions and we do see the struggles as described.
Although to my shame I’m not a big fan of anything else William Gibson has written (I did not like the sequels to this) William Gibson created a world in Neuromancer where I wanted to know more. I always leave reading it wanting to go back in.