Hello, friends! It’s time for another book review! Hooray! Today we’re talking about The Neuromancer by William Gibson. I just recently read this book in January of this year after having it on my to read list for a solid decade. It might have been longer, actually, because I remember buying my copy at Borders when I was in high school. Let’s all have a moment of silence for the loss of the beloved Borders.
Aaaand we’re back. Back to The Neuromancer. A little about me first: I LOVE cyberpunk. Anything with the kind of dirty, gritty, back alley, plugged into virtual reality type story is bound to steal my heart. Ready Player One, Snow Crash, I love them all so much. Enough to read them over and over again.
So of course, I loved this book. It was such a wild ride. Really, this story is absolutely insane, and I loved it. It’s like the craziest rollercoaster in the amusement park. You get off, hair a rats nest, missing your sunglasses and think “How the hell did I get here?” Yep, that’s The Neuromancer.
You can probably guess that I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this book, and you’re right. I don’t. It’s absolutely impeccable from start to finish, so while I can’t tell you what I didn’t like about it I can go on and on about what I loved. This review is only mildly spoiler free.
The first thing you notice when you start reading this book is that you have absolutely no idea what’s going on. Gibson is the kind of author that drops you right into the middle of his story, and you either figure out where you are or you don’t. There is essentially no exposition in this book beyond the back story of the main character, Case. It took me several chapters to gain my bearings, and I’m still not sure I caught everything. Which means I’ll have to read it again. Woe is me.
As you can guess, the lack of exposition means a quick paced story. Chapter 1 is about 4 pages, and in chapter 2 we are already in the middle of the story, essentially. Not only that, but you don’t stay in one place very long here. One minute they have some hurdle to clear, and then next they’re on a different planet, then on the next page they’re on another.
And these aren’t really the planets you know and love. Sure, we’ve got Earth, but it’s a very gritty Earth, with different sectors of life blooming in cities unrecognizable apart from their names. There’s the Sprawl, a lowly and depraved type of city where the shadiest of deals happen in plain sight, where once great hackers go to die. Traveling the world is easy with these mega tram lines connecting continents once separated by vast oceans. The characters in the novel, both major and in the background, are all modified by computers, implants, and other things that allow them to do amazingly superhuman things like scan a crowded room for other implants or allow others to watch things happen through their eyes. It’s the kind of modern society that one would expect from our move toward digital culture.
In fact, characters themselves can be digital. Case’s best friend Dixie Flatline is just that. Once a brilliant hacker, he flatlined while trying to crack an AI. After his death the Sense/Net saved his personality onto a ROM drive, which is then recovered by Case and Molly.
Molly is herself an interesting character. She seems to be Case’s very hard fighting muse. She definitely doesn’t take anyone’s BS, and her fighting skills mean she hasn’t been taking it for a long time. She’s had many implants and modifications and an absolutely incredible backstory.
The entire plot focuses on what may be one of the most fascinating set of characters I’ve ever met, which are the residents of the Villa Straylight. In this world, it seems, a family can not only live forever, but also pass their legacy on through these super AI systems they’ve created, while spending their days nestled in a huge mansion on a Vegas style planet of their own creation.
Although this novel looks and feels very different than the world we know, there are always going to be the same problems and challenges that we also deal with in our society.
For example, the inhabitants of the Villa Straylight are now only vastly wealthy, but they have this absolutely tremendous power over a large sector of this society, namely the AI they’ve created. They have the resources to live well beyond their normal life span, and live well.
There’s also the issue of artificial intelligence and its role in society. While we as a culture are both fascinated and afraid of what AI could do for and to us, the AI in this novel has the ability to ensnare minds, control other technology (such as small, lawn mowing robots) and manipulate basically anything in the digital world such as bank accounts. They have a sort of ultimate power that can only be created by a culture obsessed with technology.
And of course, there’s always a character that isn’t quite who they seem to be, throwing wrench after wrench in front of our heroes, a foe beyond their end game. And I use the term heroes loosely here, because Case and Molly are anything but. They really aren’t trying to save the city or rescue the damsel in distress. They are just trying to steal some information and get paid.
This book is really just incredible, and if you haven’t read it I cannot imagine why.
10/10. Really. Here’s a cat. Okay, two: