Monday, April 1, 2013

Neuromancer: Silver lenses, finger blades, can't lose

I was working in a bookstore last September when William Gibson popped in to have a little chat and promote his book of articles and essays, Distrust That Particular Flavor. The sizable store was packed; people had traveled from San Diego and farther just for the opportunity to see this bespectacled man with the sneakers and sideways smile. And I had no idea who he was.

But I liked him.

That was the day I stood in front of the sci-fi section, full of titles and authors that sounded only vaguely familiar to me, and declared, "THIS SHALL NOT PASS."

And 4 months laterbecause I stick to my convictions eventually, dammitI picked up Neuromancer. This book, the first in the Sprawl series, came out in 1984 and has clearly been influencing contemporary sci fi ever since.

Our hero (or antihero, depending on how you feel about him) is Case, a 24-year-old ex-data-thief.
He'd operated on an almost permanent adrenaline high, a byproduct of youth and proficiency, jacked into a custom cyberspace deck that projected disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination that was the matrix. A thief, he'd worked for other, wealthier thieves, employers who provided the exotic software required to penetrate the bright walls of corporate systems, opening windows into rich fields of data. (p. 5)
Case: Working Data-Thief

When we find Case, he's stumbling around Japan's Night City with a weensy drug problem. You see, when he was 22, he broke the cardinal rule: Never steal from your employer. When they found out, they used a nerve agent to make sure he would never work in his chosen field again.
Strapped to a bed in a Memphis hotel, his talent burning out micron by micron, he hallucinated for thirty hours. . . .
For Case, who'd lived for the bodiless exultation of cyberspace, it was the Fall. In the bars he'd frequented as a cowboy hotshot, the elite stance involved a certain relaxed contempt for the flesh. The body was meat. Case fell into the prison of his own flesh. (p. 6)
Case: Meat Prisoner
So when Molly, an assassin with silver lenses surgically inset over her eyes and retractable scalpel blades embedded under her nails, shows up with a seemingly impossible job that comes with an offer to get him back into the matrix, he figures he has nothing better to do. Plus, he rather likes the way her bum looks in those leather pants.

I'll be honest, guys. I didn't get into this book right away. I'm not used to sci fi, and this one definitely throws you into a Future World full of unfamiliar terminology and concepts, and offers very little explanation along the way. But I stuck with it, and the going got easier. And Molly got awesomer.

And I was glad for the chance to be in the same room with William Gibson before I knew who he was.


  1. So, Molly sounds fucking awesome. I really have to read this -- Gibson's PATTERN RECOGNITION is one of my all-time favourites. And NEUROMANCER is like a sci-fi Bible now. Also, "Meat Prison"? Hilarious and HORRIFYING.


    I think it's on my shelf. I think. I have some Gibson book on there. ALSO you should know that he wrote an X-Files episode called Kill Switch and it's really awesome and X-Files is the best The End.

  3. Poor JGL and his meat prison.

    I agree with Alice's shoutiness about this being an important sci fi book I also have not read. And one I know I should but the thing that really makes me want to is that quote from Gibson.

  4. She is SUPER awesome. She does not do the typical girl things that we find annoying.

    I need to read Pattern Recognition. I need to read ALL the Gibson.

  5. That is new information! I like him even more now for being involved in X-Files, which delighted and terrified me throughout my adolescent years.

  6. But such a fetching meat prison, don't you think?

    Read some Gibson! Any Gibson...because they are all apparently quite good.

  7. This movie would make so much money.