Neuromancer by William Gibson

Ethan Schiller

The Brazilian Cover (Wikipedia)
The Brazilian Cover (Wikipedia)

Neuromancer is a book written in 1984 by William Gibson noted by critics as the book behind the Cyberpunk movement. (A great example of Cyberpunk is the 1999 film The Matrix, Neuromancer and Cyberpunk are all over that movie.) It won the Nebula Award, the Phillip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award, the three most prestigious achievements available for written science fiction.

About The Author
William Gibson (Wikipedia)
William Gibson (Wikipedia)

William Gibson was born on March 17th, 1948 in Conway, South Carolina. He was known to be really into drugs as a young guy, which probably gave him some of his crazy imagery ideas. He moved to Vancouver during the Vietnam War to dodge the draft and became immersed in the counter-culture movement. His first published work, Burning Chrome, immediately preceded Neuromancer, his most widely recognized work. Neuromancer started his Sprawl series, which contained the novels Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive. These solidified his reputation and he continued to write prolifically but none of his works ever achieved the same degree of fame as Neuromancer. (Ivison)


One of the most common criticisms about Neuromancer is how the text is fast paced and jargon is interspersed in such short intervals that it makes reading hard for the average un-zealot/fiend. Because of this, I will give you a nice plot rundown without the serious confusions and re readings. Here we go.

Case was once a talented computer hacker until he broke his cardinal rule and stole from an employer. The employer was quick to destroy the part of his nervous system that allowed him to hack. The employer used something called a mycotoxin for this job. This mycotoxin was so effective because in order to hack in this world, one needs to "jack in", or attach one's consciousness to a computer main frame. After surgeons tell him his problem is unfixable, he goes on a drug crazed romp through the crime dens of the East Coast (called the Sprawl), doing small jobs and trying to stay afloat. He is seriously damaged by the loss of his hacking ability. Suicidal and very near the end of his life, Case is saved by my personal favorite character, Molly Millions. Molly is an interesting little fishy. She is a physically augmented Street Samurai; a mercenary who deals with nasty underworld people. She has finger blades, kind of like that one girl from X men, Lady Deathstrike. She also has cool little sunglasses thingies, but they are surgically implanted and presumably provide some kind of display. She saves him from his destructive life and brings him to her employer, a man named Armitage. Armitage cures Case somehow and also gives him a new and improved pancreas and liver which ends his drug addiction without his consent. I liked that part. Case is supposed to work for Armitage to steal a construct of his former mentor, Dixie Flatline. Molly and Case have sex, (duh) and they start investigating things like where Armitage is from and other mysteries. They get the Flatline construct. They realize that there is some connection between Armitage and an obscenely wealthy space Dynasty. They are humans, if that wasn't clear. That's where I have to stop, because I will give stuff away if I write more.


Joe Sanders reviews this book in the best, most intelligently written article on my book that i have read. Sanders opens, as almost all sources open, with the first line in the book. However, instead of uttering words of blind adoration for Gibson's eloquence in metaphors, Sanders instead shows how effective Gibson's sparse words are. He discusses how Gibson doesn't even have to describe things in detail, because the way he phrases things allow for people to create their own situations accurately. Sanders says that technical innaccuracies don't need to be excused because there are so few! The science rings true. I seriously like this review. I love how Sanders points out verbal tricks that Gibson uses to convey things on more than one level to the reader. (Sanders)

Flow charting modern cyberspace ideas from Neuromancer and Gibson's works. Daniel Punday

This article is mainly a reflection on what the invention of cyberspace implies for the modern cyber community. Part of the importance of Gibson's invention is not the invention itself, but how he used it. In Neuromancer, he arrives at a point where cyberspace can be anywhere. Case can tail people in the real world in a weird "ghost form" or be anywhere he wants in cyberspace, in crazy new situations. Part of the great way this book is written is how Case isn't really alive without being able to jack in. He chooses to live in a place where he has control over his situation; cyberspace. Punday and I both think that this really struck what has become the modern cyberspace community; they can escape the awful Sprawl like modern life and live in their own virtual worlds. What Case is really sounds a lot like those nerds who live in virtual communities and pay real money for virtual things, but really Gibson influenced them by making Case's life sound gritty and awesome. (Punday)

Jason Haslam on The Matrix and Neuromancer

Haslam takes the previous source one step further. He argues that the film The Matrix was the first film that brought to the big screen successfully the real feel of cyberpunk, the movement started by Gibson and Neuromancer. This resurgence of cyberpunk imagery in movies (the space age technology mixed with real world grime and the complete transformation of the human body inside cyberspace) caused a resurgence of cyber communities drawing heavily on both The Matrix and Neuromancer for inspiration. Haslam seems to be hinting at the growing obsolescence of the human body. As long as the mind survives and the body is kept intact, life can infact be lived in a prettier cyberspace. (Haslam)

An Interview with William Gibson by Larry McCaffery

This little item has incredible value. Not only in the interview, but in the introduction as well. It outlines well exactly what makes Neuromancer such a bombshell. It lists possible influences: Lou Reed, many previous science fiction authors, and Rock and Roll. Then the interview comes along. Gibson lists his influences as problematic to list because they are so diverse. He lists a Lou Reed quote as a possible epigraph. "Watch out for worlds behind you." This is a perfect quote because it illustrates the dynamic of worlds colliding in the novel and the time period that the novel was written in. Again I will mention the contrast of grime and high technology in both Neuromancer and The Matrix. Gibson also talks about the incredible conglomeration of all art forms in the coming decades. Gibson says that he doesn't distinguish between all sorts of art forms; literature, painting, and music all went into his works. He describes the process of influence too; the term "meat puppet" was used in Neuromancer to describe the human body as a weak and malleable object controlled by a far vaster force, but Gibson got that term from a British rock band. (McCaffery)

Neil Easterbrook deals with Neuromancer and why it is different from other works.

Easterbrook is one of those people who define something by saying what it is not. He talks about how other authors (Vonnegut, LeGuin) create a situation where technology advances until human irresponsibility causes an apocalypse. However, Gibson examines technology pure for technology's sake. He doesn't go into at all the social implications of cyberspace, but instead, through bright imagery and an incredible metaphors, examines every aspect of the Gibsonian Matrix. Also prominent in this article is the attention payed to the many symbols throughout the book. Molly at one point is asked by a corporate patriarch what would happen if someone made her cry. She responds "I spit. The ducts are routed through my mouth." The patriarch replies "Then you have already learned an important lesson." I find this not only hilarious, but also a perfect example of the fantastic imagery used by Gibson to convey the absolute re writing of all things human through technology. The fact that something so soft and emotional as tears could be transformed into an insulting and "tough guy" gesture is simple and fantastic. (Easterbrook)

Note- the titles of the criticism page are descriptive little tags, not the actual titles of the articles.


One of the most striking and distinct aspects of Neuromancer is the way Gibson deals with descriptions and the pace of the story. The best word to describe the way Gibson moves through Neuromancer is "concisely". Gibson never uses three words if he can use two, and this dramatic shortening can cause confusion. However, once the reader is used to this new style of literary navigation, it becomes easy to embrace. One comes to expect the brief style and realize how it ultimately helps with the basic feel of the novel. Somehow, Gibson has mastered the use of language in depicting his scenarios. His novel points out a flaw in other major works: It's not just the words you use, but how you use them and string them together. This face paced text gives the novel a sense of careening towards an ultimate goal, but not knowing what this goal is. This is the first among many other aspects that contribute towards the whole that is Neuromancer.
Another prominent theme is the contrast between high space age technology and the all consuming grime of the city. This is a mixture of semi-believable technology and a heavily believable city scape that combine to create the gritty technological realism of Neuromancer. The combination of these two major aspects and other great little quirks make for a defining science fiction novel that by itself that started a popular culture movement.


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