Monday, February 13, 2012

Book review: Neuromancer by William Gibson

X posted to Cannonball Read IV 

Oof. Okay, I picked this up recently to try to make amends for never having read it, despite it placing on so many “Best of SciFi” lists. Basic plot points first: the novel follows Case as he is hired for what is essentially a hacking-job in two worlds. His partner Molly operates in the physical realm, and Case’s talents lie in navigation of “cyberspace” — a virtual milieu that one must jack into. Throughout, Case struggles against the difficulty of the job, the anonymity and intrigue of his boss, and his own demons — namely, rampant drug use and the consequences of his outlaw status.

Cyberspace, a habitable, nearly tangible world is famously described in the novel as “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.”

Neuromancer is often credited for being ahead of its time. Words like “cyberspace” did in fact enter our lexicon after being coined by Gibson in Neuromancer. There are also some themes explored here that have become increasingly relevant to us: cyber-security, un/reality, invasive and involuntary medicine and medical procedures, and socioeconomic class are all interwoven over the course of the narrative. In that way, I credit Neuromancer for being a thinker, and for indeed being rather visionary at the time it was published in 1984.

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