Saturday, March 15, 2014


Though I reread NEUROMANCER recently, I don't feel moved to give it a "review" as such. 

The book deserves the credit it receives for having effectively launched the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction.  It's also generally well written, though I can't say as much for William Gibson's early short story "Johnny Mnemonic," which introduced one of NEUROMANCER's major characters, the bodyguard "Molly Millions." Both the short story and NEUROMANCER-- the first in Gibson's "Sprawl trilogy" series-- take place in a near-future demimonde where criminality is common and no one seems to have a "regular job."

NEUROMANCER's plot is one reason I prefer not to review the book, as I found it hard to fathom. It seemed complicated for the sake of complication, as opposed to being complex, like an earlier book dealing with a version of "cyber-technology," Samuel R. Delany's NOVA.  I found the characters flat and uninvolving, though I give Gibson full credit for trying to avoid the sort of characters that have been overused in the genre-- the innocent everyman, for example. NEUROMANCER's protagonist is a drug addict and a low-level thief who becomes important only when he gets involved with a burgeoning artificial intelligence and those who seek to prevent the AI from thriving.

What I did appreciate about NEUROMANCER, though, was that in contrast to many naïve heroes, Gibson's protagonist casually accepts the corruption around him, and at no point does the plot suggest that anything will change radically.  And nothing shows this better than this meditation by viewpoint character Case:

Power, in Case's world, meant corporate power. The zaibatsus, the multinationals, that shaped the course of human history, has transcended old barriers. Viewed as organisms, they had attained a kind of immortality.

And a little later:

Case had always taken it for granted that the real bosses, the kingpins in a given industry, would be both more and less than people... He'd always imagined it as a gradual and willing accommodation of the machine, the system the parent organism. It was the root of street coll, too, the knowing posture that implied connection, invisible lines up to hidden levels of influence. 

Someday I may read the other two novels in the Sprawl trilogy to see if Gibson managed to show people more of this intriguing Machiavellian world, or if he just repeated the same idea over and over.

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