In an effort to get back into reading recreationally while making use of the new Kindle I got for Christmas, I’ve begun reading William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984). It’s supposed to be a pioneering text in the way Gibson uses it to portray notions of “cyberspace” (a term he apparently coined) and the possibilities of future human-computer interaction. It is easy to see Neuromancer as a predecessor to contemporary movies and television shows like The Matrix, Reboot, Surrogates and Minority Report, but only if these movies were encased in a drug-enduced stupor similar to that seen in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The combination of a futuristic world, human-electronic interaction, prosthetics, cyberspace and a copious amount of drugs makes Neuromancer a deep and detailed exploration of the senses and the wonders of the human mind.

The first chapter walks Case, the anti-hero of the novel, through a futuristic city in Japan that is full of bright lights, techno-biological chop shops, black market dealers, arcades, prostitutes and drugs. Japan is the perfect locale for this story, since it was in 1984 (and still is) a major technological center with a vibrant “technoculture.” Gibson’s description of the city that Case stumbles through is amazing, and so far my favourite part of the story. It is amazing how I am able to hear the electronic hum of neon lights or the whimsical, chaotic beeping and boinking of arcades in the back of my mind, or feel the dark and dangerous streets of Japan around me as I read. Apart from being extremely effective, Gibson’s descriptions are a combination of intellectual techno-speak and teenage street-slang, making Neuromancer somewhat high-brow while it avoids pretentiousness.

Case is described as a “console cowboy” and hacker, someone who has had a successful history of moving through cyberspace and selling drugs. But he’s since fallen on hard times due to a deal-gone-wrong that left him physically–but more importantly, mentally–damaged. At first glance, Case appears to be a typical sleazeball, even a loser. He wanders the streets short on money, morality, physical stature and a home. But the reader sympathizes with him due to the fact that he is somewhat of a fallen star, and thanks to the comical opening dialogue that he exchanges with a cyborg bartender named Ratz. Plus, Case isn’t all that bad a guy when one compares him to the rest of Gibson’s characters, including Linda Lee (Case’s girlfriend, who takes advantage of Case early on), Wage (a high-level drug dealer) and Molly, who we are introduced to late in the first chapter. Molly, like Ratz and many other characters, is a cyborg in the most basic sense of the term. Her eyes appear to have a sunglass-like covering (possibly to enhance vision in some way?) and she has 4cm razor blades that retract from under her finger nails. It is unclear whether we can trust Molly, but she is enough of a badass for the reader to easily become attached to her character.

I think that’s a good, basic introduction of the novel for now. I’ll continue to post updates of my reading here on the blog while trying not to give too much away…

So far, I can recommend Neuromancer to anyone with an interest in technology, or to anyone who’s simply looking for something unique.

– Dyldebeest