Patrickon Wednesday, September 10, 2014
I first read William Gibson's Neuromancer when I was a teenager more than 25 years ago. Other than a few vague images imprinted inside my brain, I'm afraid that I almost forgot everything about it and I've been meaning to give it another shot for a long time. I bought a copy of the mass market paperback last year and I felt that it was time to finally give it a go. To see if I would enjoy it as much as my adolescent self, of course, but mostly to see if this science fiction classic had aged well and could still amaze a new generation of SFF readers.
As was the case when I reread James Clavell's Shogun, I was afraid that it wouldn't live up to the lofty expectations associated with such a seminal work. After all, Neuromancer sold millions of copies and earned Gibson the science-fiction "triple crown" by winning the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. It was the very first novel to win all three awards. But that was in 1984. Would it be as good thirty years down the line?
Here's the blurb:
The Matrix is a world within the world, a global consensus-hallucination, the representation of every byte of data in cyberspace . . . 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.
William Gibson popularised the concept of cyberspace and even coined the word. Gibson's debut also launched the cyberpunk subgenre.Thirty years ago, the idea of a junkie-hacker forced to hack the computer system of a major corporation was something edgy. What was so futuristic in 1984 now sounds incredibly familiar, right? Which goes to prove just how avant-gardeNeuromancer was when it was initially released. Three decades later, Gibson's vision of the future may not be as noir, but it is quite recognizable in several aspects of our lives.
The author's prose creates a vividly realized imagery. That, as much as the plot itself, makes Neuromancer such an unforgettable read. Caught stealing from his last employer, Case, the main protagonist, found himself with a crippled nervous system preventing him from accessing the Matrix. Unemployed, addicted to hard drugs, and suicidal, Case desperately searches for a miracle cure in various illegal clinics. Case is saved by Molly, an augmented mercenary for a mysterious ex-military officer known as Armitage. The man offers to cure Case in exchange for his services as a hacker. What follows is the kind of rollercoaster ride that captured the imagination of a generation of genre readers.
Case, drug addict, douchebag, and cyberspace hacker, is the book's anti-hero. He forms an unlikely duo with Molly, a Razorgirl with extensive cybernetic modifications. Blackmailed and with his death assured if he doesn't follow Armitage's orders, Case has no choice to to go along with the other man's schemes. But it soon appears that Wintermute, a powerful artificial intelligence created by the Tessier-Ashpool family, is in control. Soon, Case and Molly find themselves in something that could change the world forever. The supporting cast don't always play a major role as the story progresses, and yet Neuromancer would never have been such a memorable read without the presence of characters such as the Finn, Dixie Flatline, Maelcum, and Peter Riviera.
The pace is brisk throughout. The relatively short and quick chapters keep the plot moving forward, often at breakneck speed. Weighing in at only 271 pages, one gets through Neuromancer in no time. The vivid setting, the disparate characters, and the rhythm make this novel a true page-turner! Neuromancer may have been published in 1984, yet William Gibson's debut is still a thoroughly enjoyable book today, even if it may not be as edgy and prophetic as it was thirty years ago.
Give it a shot and see why it remained in print for three decades and has astonished countless readers around the world!