Book Review: Neuromancer by William Gibson


Note: This is not on my review list because it is from my scifi/fantasy lit class. But since Elder Gods is a long book–and not one of the best books I’ve read thus far–I don’t know if I’ll be ready to review it until sunday.

Now, Neuromancer is one of those books that has created itself a whole league of copycats and followers–much like Lord of the Rings did. There’s a good reason why: it is possibly the first book to ever suggest that computer technology would advance so far that things similar to ‘The Matrix’ could actually be possible. Gibson coined so many phrases, words, etc. in this one book alone.
That being said, such books are also the type that tend to be a little less accessible to a wider range of audiences, and for good reason. If you aren’t prepared for the most complex, convoluted, and indepth of fantasy worlds, then you’ll likely never like LOTR. This isn’t to say that LOTR was a bad story, but for a wide audience it is not really the type of book that can be simply grasped. Most readers look for books they can just read and not have to think too much about. Neuromancer is one of those less accessible books. Gibson has created a fascinating world that seems on the surface to be a post apocalyptic, or dystopic technologically advanced place where violence, crime, and drugs are as much the norm as corruption and nifty gadgets…
The story is about Case, a ‘cowboy’ as he likes to refer to himself, or at least a ‘former cowboy’. What is a cowboy? Well, think back to what exactly a cowboy is to begin with. Way back in the day, a cowboy wasn’t your run of the mill westerner, rather they were in some ways the outcasts, the rugged people. Well, take that and add technology. Cowboys in Gibson’s novel are essentially your outcasts–illegal hackers if you will. Case is crippled from stealing from his previous employer, who took revenge by damaging Case’s body so much that he can no longer ‘jack in’ to the ‘matrix’–not the same as the movie, but similar in that he has nodes on the back of his head, he visually sees a world of programs and code and even things that seem real, etc.
Now comes Armitage, a rather mysterious figure, who claims to be able to cure Case’s problem provided that Case works for him–and Molly, a cyber-samurai with implants over her eyes to protect them, and a load of other interesting cyber-implants. Case jumps on it. You would too if you were offered your life back. Case soon finds himself in a twisted battle of AI’s and other bizarre things that even now come to me in a haze of confusion.
The book is bold to say the least. Gibson did his research–or I think he did as I am not a computer junky, and neither is Gibson by the way. The world he’s constructed is rather believable–a massive city complex called the Sprawl that is nothing more than a city growth stretching from Boston to Atlanta, illegal hackers, druggies, gangsters, implant ridden henchmen, and the like. There’s so much more to the world he has created that I would likely have to write a rather long paper just to describe it to you in its entirety.
The biggest problem with this book is in Gibson’s style of writing. He is not the most intriguing of prose writers and he has tried hard to tackle a subject that would suggest that there is little need for such prose to begin with. When you’re talking technojargon it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the literary style many of us are accustomed to in speculative fiction. Because of this onset of massive new slang and the like, I found it very hard to keep track of everything that was going on. This is one of those novels that you should probably read a couple times to get a better idea of what exactly is going on.
Needless to say, this book is mind boggling. I did enjoy it quite a bit, and the discussion in class was rather riveting.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Neuromancer by William Gibson

  1. I’ve just finished reading Gibson’s Burning Chrome (also for uni) and thoroughly enjoyed it once I got used to his style of writing, I didn’t read all of your review because Neuromancer is sitting on my desk waiting to be read next, so I’ll check back when I’ve read it and compare notes.

    A point about Lord of the Rings (and this always gets me in trouble) I like complicated, complex plots and indepth worlds (I love Steven Erikson for example) but Lord of the Rings bored me silly when I tried to read it.

  2. No worries. I got bored with LotR too. It is just one of those books that you ‘have’ to read, but isn’t necessarily ‘good’ in the sense of a fiction book. It’s more ‘good’ in the sense of a mythology or old time book.
    A note on my reviews, I tend to not give away endings or too many details. So don’t expect tremendous spoilers. This only relies on my actually liking the book in some form. If I hate the the book I am less likely to bite my tongue.

  3. Neuromancer is my all-time favourite SF novel. I read it for the first time back in high school, and it’s largely responsible for my writing shifting from space opera and fantasy to stuff that’s more closely aligned with cyberpunk.

    Personally, I’m a big fan of his prose style. He owes a lot to the hard-boiled detective novels and that more stilted, fragmentary style really lends itself to a grittier novel (which, at the time, was sorely needed in SF). I’d definitely recommend picking up Burning Chrome, too.

Leave a Reply