Neuromancer is another one of those novels that I didn’t appreciate fully the first time I read it. While I clearly remember the ideas and characters being fascinating, I had a hard time deciphering the dense technical language and computer slang that colored most of the dialogue. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m not much of a computer hacker myself (just a lowly humanities loving English-major), but the fact that a lot of the novel takes place in the nebulous realm of “Cyberspace” (a term coined by Gibson himself) made it difficult for me picture the action that was being described. But regardless of my inability to “break the code” of the novel, I still recommend it for anyone who likes their science fiction gritty, dystopic and seeped in the culture and conventions of computer hacking.
Released in 1984, Neuromancer is probably the most famous “Cyper-Punk” novel of all time. Gibson’s masterpiece features all of the conventions of the genre, including a marginalized computer hacker for a hero, a bleak future landscape of mega-corporations and crime infested slums, vast connected data networks that can interface directly with the human brain and the tone of a hard-boiled film noir. While it wasn’t the first to use these elements, it was the first to breakthrough and become a mainstream success, winning the “Triple Crown” of science fiction awards: The Nebula, the Hugo and the Philip K. Dick Awards.
Neuromancer Summary: The novel focuses on disgraced computer hacker Henry Dorsett Case who has been poisoned by his former employer and rendered unable to interface with the global computer network. In exchange for a cure for the poison (and the ability to work again), Case agrees to help a shadowy ex-military officer named Armitage perform a particularly difficult hack. With the help of the beautifully lethal mercenary Molly Millions, Case sets out to uncover the mystery behind his new employer and the true nature of the work that he is being asked to do.
While the sub-genre of Cyber-Punk may not be my favorite, I can certainly appreciate a well told story with unfamiliar elements. Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (#24 on this list) is another cyper-punk styled novel that I enjoyed immensely. And although it may not have resonated with me as much as some of the other novels on this list, I have to admit that Neuromancer is still one of the most thoroughly unique and ambitious books I’ve ever read.
Neuromancer Quotes: “A year here and he still dreamed of cyberspace, hope fading nightly. All the speed he took, all the turns he’d taken and the corners he’d cut in Night City, and he’d still see the matrix in his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void….”
“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding…”