Neuromancer by William Gibson – A Book Club Review

Neuromancer by William Gibson – A Book Club Review

It feels like a while since I wrote a book club review … in fact its been about 7 weeks. We postponed our last book club meeting until after Easter and then (confession time) I couldn’t attend due to illness! Laura had chosen the 1984 novel Neuromancer by William Gibson. I was disappointed to miss this months book club as this was the one read I really needed to discuss with the group … but more about why later.

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Neuromancer is a science fiction novel written 30 years ago. Gibson is credited with coining the term cyberspace and launching the cyberpunk generation … think of films such as Bladerunner, The Terminator, and The Matrix (which Neuromancer is said to have inspired).

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Set on a futuristic Earth, Gibson’s debut novel tells the story of Case, a washed-up computer hacker hired by a mysterious employer to pull off the ultimate hack.

Matrix is a world within the world, a global consensus-hallucination, the representation of every byte of data in cyberspace . . .

Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction.

I was excited by Gibson’s novel, with his futuristic vision of cyberspace and the Internet … years before we were even aware how much our lives would be changed by online shopping! I love the idea of the author as a visionary. Tapping into a subculture and seeing a alternate future (albeit a bleak one). Imagining what is possible in a way that is entertaining, thought-provoking and creative … before we’re even aware that such a future is imaginable ourselves.

So what was the problem? Why my desperate need to discuss this novel with my book club pals?

I needed someone to explain to me what was going on…

Despite my anticipation to read Gibson’s novel … I grew up watching Bladerunner and I am a great fan of The Matrix … I found the plot confusing. I found myself turning to Wikipedia for a plot outline … never a good sign. Gibson offers no explanation of his characters or the world they inhabit. He throws you into their subculture, slang and concepts. As a reader you’re forced to go along with it and hope it makes sense later on.

Unfortunately for me, I didn’t manage to hack my way into the language or cultural norms of the world Gibson created. While cyberspace has made its way into our everyday language, many of his other terms of reference haven’t. Perhaps this might account for my confusion, as I felt lost for most of the novel and never got into the rhythm of his prose. It was a shame, I really wanted to enjoy Neuromancer. However, looking through Goodreads, there are plenty of people who love Gibson’s novel. There’s no denying its influence.

My recommendation … if sci-fi is your thing or your intrigued by the novel which coined the term cyberspace, give Neuromancer a try. You never know, it may speak to you better than it did to me.

Neuromancer by William Gibson

“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…”
William Gibson, Neuromancer

2 responses

  1. Agree totally, Neuromancer is tough going for a lot of readers, Gibson really was unforgiving in terms of expecting readers to jump right in. I was an impressionable geek when I read it years ago and part of the mind blowing appeal was just how difficult to grasp the sub-culture was. I also didn’t like Case much, he’s a conceited prick at times, and I think that was a deliberate choice by Gibson too.
    I re-read last month and still enjoyed it although it’s presentation of cyberspace hasn’t aged well. Now older, I understand a little more about the interrelationship that Case has with the secondary characters.
    When it all starts going to hell and the war flashbacks begin the writing fell a bit in quality, and I still smile at the concept of Rastafarian space men.


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