‘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.)