Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson

‘Case’s virus had bored a window through the library’s command ice. He punched himself through and found an infinite blue space ranged with color-coded spheres strung on a tight grid of pale blue neon.’ (p.63)

On the most basic level, computers in my books are simply a metaphor for human memory: I’m interested in the hows and whys of memory, the ways it defines who and what we are, in how easily memory is subject to revision.” William Gibson quoted from an interview with Larry McCaffery in 1991.

I first read Neuromancer when I was 18. I don’t recall how much of the book I “got”, but I do remember being impressed by the action scenes involving Molly, the future-noir setting of Chiba City, and the stripped-down strangeness of Gibson’s cyberspace. I was also delighted to find a ninja in the story.

Many years have passed since then and I have read most of Gibson’s novels during that time, including his latest work, The Peripheral. I wanted to return to Neuromancer to see if it still holds up today. Also, if I’m honest, I wanted to rediscover what all the fuss was about and see how much of a story was in there.

First of all, Neuromancer is not an easy read. It is peppered with the kind of terminology that you could do with a glossary to unravel. But it is also a book full of ideas which are worth any extraneous effort to experience. Gibson drops you right in the middle of his fictional world and keeps exposition to a minimum. I like the way he leaves it to the reader to create their own pictures of a lot of the weird and wonderful tech that make up this world.

‘Case sat in the loft with the dermatrodes strapped across his forehead, …’

‘Cowboys didn’t get into simstim … because it was basically a meat toy.’

‘The new switch was patched into his Sendai with a thin ribbon of fiberoptics.’

(Three quotes taken from page 55, Ace Science Fiction edition.)

Taken out of context, these quotes don’t make a lot of sense. But they will if you immerse yourself in the landscape of the book. Yes, you have to work at this book as you progress through it, but I believe it is worth it. Neuromancer isn’t perfect, but it is still referenced and discussed today, over 30 years after publication, for a good reason. In my opinion it does still hold up, which makes it a must-read for anyone interested in the speculative fiction genre.

(The fact that it was written in the days of the Commodore 64, the Sinclair Spectrum, and the first Apple Macintosh with its famous “1984” Orwellian commercial is quite staggering. We should also factor in that the “World Wide Web” wouldn’t become publically accessible until seven years later, in 1991. Reading it in 1984/1985 must have been a mind-blowing experience.)

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson

  1. Mind blowing indeed. As far as we were concerned, the internet didn’t even exist back then. Without the experience of “Blade Runner”, “Neuromancer” may indeed have been too inacessible; but then, I was a sci-fi geek and just enjoyed it as a heist caper with a far-out setting. Reading the trilogy I certainly missed some of what was going on, but later appreciated what Gibson was actually doing. A seminal work, indeed; and you may have whet my appetite to go back to it again… thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was my first Gibson not that long ago and man, that prose was so difficult for me to crack. I love his other books that I’ve read, so I wonder if I would enjoy Neuromancer more now that I better acclimated to.his style. Just looking at those quotes you posted make me crave another dip into the Gibson experience.

    Funny, I just read a criticism by M. John Harrison of Virtual Light and he points out that Terminator and Blade Runner had already hit the scene by the time Neuromancer came along, so it wasn’t all that original. But Mik above makes a good point: without those stepping stones, Neuromancer would have been inaccessible to even more people.

    That quote about Gibson seeing computers as a metaphor for human memory– that’s really interesting. I wonder if he still works from that lens. I’ll have to remember that for the next Gibson I read.

    Really enjoying your blog! Playing catch up! I hardly ever have time to comment…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much for your kind comments. This was a second-read for me and I thought it would be much more accessible this time. Ha! A bit presumptive and foolish of me. I think I got more of the story this time around, but there were still scenes that kind of lost me. There’s just so much going on in there. Gibson crammed a load of ideas into it, perhaps with it being his debut novel.

      I know what you mean about the prose. It crackles with an almost delirious energy at times. Some reviewers have questioned whether Gibson was *artificially stimulated* when he wrote some of the passages. Whatever. I loved a lot of it, despite occasionally losing my way.

      That quote by Gibson is fascinating, isn’t it. “How easily memory is open to revision”. It’s already got me wanting to read more of his earlier works. I like the point you mentioned that M. John Harrison made. Those three similarly themed works all being released around the same time. Was it something in the virtual ether? Your ‘Virtual Light’ review had already got me wanting to re-read that novel too!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson – A 3rd Reading | Who's Dreaming Who

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s