Sunday, September 21, 2008
Neuromancer was written in 1984 by William Gibson, his first novel and the beginning of the Sprawl trilogy. His prior projects were short stories, including one co-authored with Bruce Sterling. It is known as the most famous early cyberpunk novel and for winning the three top sci-fi awards.
The hero of the piece is Henry Case, a hustler who was once a hacker of some skill. He has been on a suicide mission since his ability to run in cyberspace was burned out of his head after his bosses discovered he had been skimming funds. He is approached by Molly, a Razor Girl (a.k.a. a bodyguard), on behalf of a man named Armitage. They offer to reverse the damage done to his neural pathways and pay him to hack into a system for them. They fix his neural pathway damage, but plant an enzyme that will restore the damage unless they are satisfied with his work. Molly and Case become close and start investigating Armitage. The group later acquires Peter Riveria, an artist/con-man, to also assist in their heist. Riveria is also a sociopath, who they find while he is in the middle of a gruesome act. They are dealing with an AI, artificial intelligence. This is very dangerous for hackers. They tend to end up brain dead, sometimes briefly, most often permanently.
Gibson starts out very strong with this novel, it has an intense feeling. It heralds back to the days of pulp fiction in pacing and mood. However, in the third quarter of the book, though it was still enjoyable, it seemed to lose some of its momentum. This is probably not unusual in a first novel when the author has previously written short stories. The ending also felt a little forced, and yet at the same time hollow. I’m sure this has to do with the fact that it is the beginning of a trilogy. I found the characters compelling and fairly complex, including the AI. Gibson employs many allusions in his work, and has an expansive imagination. I’d like to read more of his work and see how he grows as he becomes more comfortable with the novel format and length.
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