Neuromancer by William Gibson was published in 1984; it won the 1985 Hugo Award and the 1984 Nebula Award. The book also won the Philip K. Dick Award, though I haven’t been paying much attention to the “Dick” award yet. Anyway, most people know that this book is classic sci-fi and has been recognized as the origin of the “cyberpunk” genre. After reading it, I can see how things like Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash, Ian McDonald’s Terminal Cafe, and even the Matrix movies may have been influenced by this novel.
Apparently the Washington Post called this book, “KALEIDOSCOPIC, PICARESQUE, FLASHY AND DECADENT… AN AMAZING VIRTUOSO PERFORMANCE… STATE-OF-THE-ART!” Glowing praise for the book spans a number of pages at the beginning as well as the back cover. This is a must-read for any sci-fi fan, and would probably appeal to those who aren’t too fond of the genre. This book hit me hard, moreso because I’d been reading the emotionally light, somewhat vacant beginnings of Asimov’s Foundation series. Neuromancer is dark, full of dark characters with dark passions, and rich, compelling prose. The writing is mature as are the maligned characters.
In many ways this is a sort of James Bondian or Mission Impossible spy thriller. But the characters aren’t fighting for the side of “good”. They are basically mercenaries using their skills for monetary gain, though most have been coerced into their position. Case is the main character, interfacing his brain with cyberspace to perform hacker-like feats. Molly is another major character, a woman with heightened reflexes, Wolverine-like claw implants, and eye implants for enhanced vision and information. The setting is in the mid-future, with major body modifications, extended life, space station resorts, and scheming Artificial Intelligences.
As far as criticisms go, I’ll mention one of the things my brother has complained of when talking about William Gibson novels. Gibson avoids obvious exposition at the cost of leaving you trying to figure out what the hell is going on. He’ll introduce terms or concepts, sometimes at a rapid pace, and you have to discover what these things are via context. This is hard, especially in the beginning of the book. A character will rattle off a bunch of street slang and you have no idea what they’re saying. I also found the representations of cyberspace to be somewhat unfulfilling. They were interesting, but I never quite felt that the character was actually doing something productive in there. Much more interesting was when Case would switch perspectives to Molly via an implant she had.
The book really is spectacular and I found myself swept up in it. But now, after having been immersed in these complex, disaffected, drug-laden characters, I look forward to returning to the simplicity of Asimov’s Foundation series.