I can’t imagine what it would have been like to read William Gibson’s Neuromancer in 1984. It’s so absurdly dense and riddled with cryptic terms which have since become commonplace, that it must have been virtually hieroglyphic at the time. Part of the experience of Neuromancer is this incredible recent-history disconnect: to know that the course of 24 years have brought us a substantial step closer to Gibson’s world than we might have anticipated, that it would make concepts like “cyberspace” and “matrix” the stuff of pop-culture movies and general, undisputed understanding. Is that the ultimate litmus test of science fiction, that it starts to come true while it’s still fresh in the memory of its readers? Or maybe it’s because of Neuromancer that any of these things happened. Either way, it’s almost shocking to see how heavy-handedly the novel’s themes have been borrowed over the years: The Matrix took most of it and tossed in some plagiarized Baudrillard, Blade Runner took Chiba, took Case, the look of the book and its the self-loathing antihero.

Whatever, I suppose that’s selling Gibson short: reading Neuromancer in the light of its descendants is hardly fair, and the book isn’t about extrapolation or future-conjecture anyway. It lacks the earnest explanatory nature of many “hard” sci-fi books or even the Popular Mechanics-zeal of Arthur C. Clarke, who always seems to be tugging on your t-shirt and whispering, “It could happen, and I’m going to kind of bore you with the details!” Gibson is just…already there, and he has little intention of drawing a reassuring point from A to B. In a way, that’s what advances him beyond the genre, and why it makes sense that he’s writing regular fiction now: he has nothing to prove. The world is fucked up and he knows it.

It’s hard to talk about how good it is without feeling like I’m two decades late to a party I forgot to go to.

Here is a really awesome Neuromancer-related art project, in the works, from Brody Condon, which is a really cyberpunk kind of name, if you ask me.


This entry was posted in Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Neuromancer

  1. Mikey says:

    The first time I tried to read this as a kid I gave up. I read Burning Chrome and Virtual Light and then came back to it.

  2. Mikey says:

    Also, you should tell us what the next book is, because I am getting motivated to re-read all this stuff, and it would be more enjoyable to have the book fresh in my mind.

  3. JoDee says:

    It’s a fine book and definitely broke some ground, but Bladerunner was released two years before it was published, and that in turn was based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep written about 25 years earlier. I fully realize that this is a geeky comment, and now I have to go reread both. And buy the dvd that has 3000+ versions of the movie.

  4. Claire Evans says:

    Whoa. No way! I’m already getting schooled by my readers. Thank you.I know that Blade Runner is loosely based on Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep — sometimes it seems that every decent sci-fi movie has at least a little Dick in it — but I genuinely thought the scenery, that muggy, crime-ridden, techno-Japanese slum, came from Gibson. I wonder if it was the other way around? What a trip.There are so many other similarities, too! The “off-world” nature of human colonial future (Freeside, in the case of Neuromancer). There’s a lot of interesting parallels here: you hear this amazingly garbage rumor about Neuromancer being made into a movie starring Hayden Christensen? Somebody get this guy away from the classics!

  5. evan says:

    the trip is figuring out whether or not the atmosphere of blade runner and neuromancer actually share that many links to begin with, or if its just some pre existing association that generated before your exposure to either thing. i’m having the same problem with raymond chandler books and humphrey bogart movies right now. how much do they ACTUALLY have in common…?but you’re right, gibson doesn’t really spend pages explaining what things are like, that is left up to the reader. so its not his fault we all imagine that it looks like blade runner…

  6. Claire Evans says:

    I guess it just depends which one you heard of first, right?

  7. Garrett says:

    I actually read in an interview somewhere (I’ll try to find it) that Gibson saw Blade Runner when it first came out and was so dismayed that he almost stopped writing Neuromancer. Blade Runner had captured the aesthetic he had in mind, and he was afraid of being accused of plagiarism when he completed and released his book.

  8. Claire Evans says:

    Wow, thank you for this link! This is a very exciting further muddle of the relationship between Blade Runner and Neuromancer.

  9. Garrett says:

    No problem! Supposedly there’s a movie version in the works starring the (adult) Anakin dude. I’m sure it’ll rip off Blade Runner’s visual sensibilities!

    • TM says:

      I never felt that much association between Blade Runner and Neuromancer. The first line of the book sets the atmosphere for the trilogy; the rest is texture. Blade Runner certainly saturates your pores, and I think it does so in a way that Neuromancer doesn’t even attempt. Ridley Scott’s film world is dense and oppressive, as is The Sprawl, but Blade Runner almost leaves you feeling like you need a shower to wash off the residue of that world. Sure they’re similar, but I think they share much in common with so many other dystopian near-futures. It’s not quite on-topic, but I heard Scott in interview explain that he never read Do Androids … ? because he didn’t want PKD’s world to influence the one he was trying to create. At the time I found that incredibly arrogant, but maybe Scott’s is truly a stand-alone creation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *