Neuromancer (1984)

tumblr_mdbezzKrfP1rs5bbqo1_500 (2)Neuromancer, written in 1984, was both William Gibson’s debut novel, and the father of the cyberpunk movement in science fiction. The novel is a crowning achievement of literary fiction in every sense of the word, even so far as being the first winner of the science-fiction “triple crown” — the Nebula award, the Phillip K. Dick award, and the Hugo award. How’s that for high praise? William Gibson, if you’re reading this, pat yourself on the back. Neuromancer is a high-octane, adrenaline charged, drug fuelled, violence driven, technology tangled, sex soaked, psychedelic, techno-noire masterpiece. It’s also really quite prophetic for the time it was written, considering its lyrical description/exploration of ‘cyberspace’ (a now common phrase, which Gibson invented) was put to paper when the internet itself wasn’t fully realised and in people’s homes until 1990.

A lot of people claim that ‘The Matrix’ stole, or borrowed a lot from Neuromancer, and you certainly will notice the connections, but Gibson cleared this up in an interview, when he said: “Whatever of my work may be there, it seems to me to have gotten there by exactly the kind of creative cultural osmosis I’ve always depended on myself. If there’s NEUROMANCER in THE MATRIX, there’s THE STARS MY DESTINATION and DHALGREN in NEUROMANCER, and much else besides, down to and including actual bits of embarrassingly undigested gristle. And while I was drawing directly from those originals, and many others, the makers of THE MATRIX were drawing through a pre-existing “cyberpunk” esthetic, which constituted as much of a found object, for them, as “science fiction” did for me.

The tale of ‘Neuromancer’ follows a console cowboy (hacker) named Case who hustles for a living in the neon lit underbelly of Chiba City, Japan. As a result of events that transpire, which I won’t describe, Case is hired by a dark cloaked man named Armitage (cough, Morpheus, cough), and his femme fatale henchwoman, dressed from head to toe in black leather, Molly (cough, Trinity), to crack a military AI system that Case later learns is split into two darkly mysterious, sentient cyber personalities. The book has a gritty edge to it, like a dark alleyway at night, and the world that Neuromancer depicts is bleak and depressing; however, Gibson juxtaposes this sense of dread brilliantly with his subtle, and delicately poetic prose. It’s a world clouded in technology, and one that we seem to be spiralling out of control towards, and yet it doesn’t ever take the ‘Brave New World‘ approach of judging or comparing it to any pre technological society. It is what it is. And it is a bloody good read.

* * * * * 5 stars 

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