“In the nonspace of the matrix, the interior of a given data construct possessed unlimited subjective dimension; a child’s toy calculator, accessed through Case’s Sendai, would have presented limitless gulfs of nothingness hung with a few basic commands.” (p.63)
Harper Voyager 2015 edition
As part of my 2017 William Gibson Read-Along, I reread Neuromancer in February. This was my third time to read it. (I posted a review on this blog in November 2015 after reading it for the second time.) So, this is more of an update than a new review.
Am I crazy to read the same book 3 times? Maybe, maybe not. What I will say is that after my third reading I’ve upped my rating of the novel from 4 to 5 stars. In my opinion, Neuromancer is a staggering piece of fiction that deserves all the praise and plaudits it has picked up since its publication all those years ago. But instead of waffling on with my own thoughts on this seminal work, I will post some quotes about the book by critics and authors made over the last 30+ years. Continue reading
“It was one of those nights, I quickly decided, when you slip into an alternate continuum, a city that looks exactly like the one you live, except for the peculiar difference that it contains not one person you love or know or have spoken to before.” – The Winter Market (p.161)
Released two years after Gibson’s Hugo Award winning debut novel Neuromancer (1984), Burning Chrome is a collection of ten short stories penned by the author between 1977 and 1985. Three of the stories are collaborations: The Belonging Kind (1981) with John Shirley, Red Star, Winter Orbit (1983) with Bruce Sterling, and Dogfight (1985) with Michael Swanwick. This collection also includes Gibson’s first published story Fragments of a Hologram Rose (1977). I will limit my review to the stories which impressed me the most.
“The fixed idea of madness is fascinating, if you are inclined toward viewing with interest something that is palpably impossible yet nonetheless exists.” (p.97)
The Transmigration of Timothy Archer is the final novel Philip K. Dick completed before his untimely death in March 1982. Often listed as the third part of the VALIS Trilogy, it bears little relation to the first two VALIS books. (Dick’s intended third part of the trilogy, The Owl in Daylight, never progressed beyond a rough outline.) It is classed as being both a postmodern and philosophical novel which Dick was quoted as saying “is in no way science fiction.” Interestingly, his agent had a different interpretation of the book:
“in your science fiction they drive things called flobbles and quibbles, and in this one they drive Hondas — but it’s still essentially a science fiction novel. Although I can’t explain exactly how.”
These quotes are taken from an interview the author gave to Twilight Zone magazine at the beginning of 1982. At that time the interviewer remarked that Dick “was in excellent spirits and was looking forward to the premiere of Blade Runner […] with considerable excitement”. It is sad that he didn’t live to see it. Continue reading
“When has the government ever told anyone the truth?” (p.76)
The Divine Invasion was published in the same year as VALIS. It is the second book in the VALIS Trilogy, although there is only a brief mention of VALIS in the story. Like VALIS it addresses religion and philosophy, but it’s not as tightly structured or plotted as the first book. In fact, some parts of The Divine Invasion feel like they belong to a completely different story. According to Jonathan Lethem, one of the editors of Dick’s Exegesis, this book was written in only four weeks. It would be easy to say it shows.
The Divine Invasion tells the story of two distant-planet colonists, Herb Asher and Rybys Romney. We follow them on their journey back to Earth as Rybys is due to give birth to a son, Emmanuel. The book goes on to chronicle a battle between the forces of good and evil in which Emmanuel will play a major role. He is joined by a young girl called Zina, an old man, Elias, who acts as his guardian, and a kid goat. I kid you not. Continue reading
“14. The universe is information and we are stationary in it, not three-dimensional and not in space or time. The information fed to us we hypostatize into the phenomenal world.” -from the Tractate, VALIS
VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System) was published in 1981. It follows Dick’s A Scanner Darkly and precedes The Divine Invasion. It’s difficult to write a spoiler-free synopsis of this novel but here goes:
Horselover Fat, a *friend* of the author Philip K. Dick, has a nervous breakdown. His friends help him attempt to deal with it. They talk a lot about theology, reality and extra-terrestrials. Towards the end of the book they watch a movie called ‘Valis’, then meet the movie’s makers.
I read this as the third book in Book Punks mind-warping “Exegesis with a side of fiction: the 2016 PKD read along”. It was interesting to read VALIS after reading Radio Free Albemuth, as VALIS is considered to be a rewrite or reworking of Albemuth. Both books include Philip K. Dick as a major character in the stories. They also contain a lot of autobiographical details that touch on Dick’s experiences leading up to and after February & March 1974, (mystical experience or onset of schizophrenia??).
“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.” – Terry Pratchett
Art by Josh Kirby
Terry Pratchett’s seventh Discworld novel Pyramids won the BSFA Best Novel award in 1989. I re-read it as part of my BSFA Reading Challenge. It is the first book in the Discworld series that can be read as a standalone story. That is, there aren’t any recurring characters in this book, but it is set in the Discword universe. (If you are new to the Discworld experience then here is a link to the Wikipedia page.)
Pyramids tells the story of Teppic, a young man who is heir to the throne of “Djelibaybi”, a kingdom which is a caricature of ancient Egypt. At the beginning of the story, we join Teppic as a trainee assassin attending the Assassin’s Guild in the city of Ankh-Morpork.
“All assassins had a full-length mirror in their rooms, because it would be a terrible insult to anyone to kill them when you were badly dressed.”
“I think the best writing is done with what enters you and takes possession of you and doesn’t let go of you until you get the job done.” – Russell Hoban
Riddley Walker is the 12 year old narrator of this tale set in a post-apocalyptic England two thousand years after nuclear war has wiped out most of civilization. It is written in a vernacular English that often needs to be read out loud to understand. It tells the story of Riddley’s journey as he travels to Canterbury and back, trying to piece together what happened by seeking a “Little Shynin Truth” in the remnants of an old Saint’s story and the Punch & Judy show.
First things first, this book is not an easy read. I don’t think it is meant to be. Only 214 pages long, yet it took me months to read it through. I kept putting it down and reading other books, becoming too easily distracted by more “popular” fare. But when I did read it, I quickly found myself immersed in the grim, primitive, pitiless world that Hoban creates. Imagine muddy paths winding through a sparse, broken landscape, endless rain falling at dusk, packs of starving wild dogs waiting just out of bow range. Perhaps there was only so much darkness that I was willing to take at one time? Continue reading