Home > Genre, scifi > Book Review: Neuromancer by William Gibson

Book Review: Neuromancer by William Gibson

Blue book coverSummary:
Billy Case used to be the best cowboy in the matrix–the digital world you plug yourself into.  But then he pissed off the wrong boss who had his neurons fried so he can’t jack in anymore.  Case has been biding his time waiting to die in Japan, until a mysterious woman named Molly shows up.  She’s tricked out with blades that emerge from under her fingernails and sunglasses built into her skull.  She says her boss has a job for Case and will fix his neurons, beginning the adventure of Case’s life.

This is a good example of how to effectively drop a reader into a completely unfamiliar world and explain nothing and yet have enough make sense for the reader to be invested in the outcome for the characters.  Gibson doesn’t explain much to the reader, and yet what doesn’t make sense eventually clicks into place if the reader is persistent enough in the reading.

The settings vary from a creatively imagined future Japan to a Rastafarian space station to what is essentially Miami in outer space.  They are all immediately engrossing and intriguing.  What led the world to develop this way in Gibson’s imagination?  That is never entirely clear, but that’s part of the fun.  After all, when is it ever entirely clear why the world works out the way it does?

By far the most interesting character is Molly.  Like a Whedon heroine, she kicks ass and takes no names.  She is not just brains or brawn; she is both.  Case pales abundantly in comparison to her, and he knows it.  Although they do hook up, he states that Molly could never really be anyone’s woman.  She is her own.  Molly’s life is incredibly more interesting than Case’s, and perhaps one of the more frustrating parts of the book is that we only get to see of her what Case gets to see.  The book is not about her; it is about Case’s experiences with her.  Yet that is also what makes the book intriguing.  She flits into and out of Case’s life and yet will linger forever in his memory as someone significant.

Of course, I would be remiss to review this classic piece of scifi without mentioning the impact its imaginings of the internet would have.  Obviously there is the matrix and plugging in concepts.  The idea of the internet as something that you participate in in a 3D manner.  The concept of AI as a computer rather than as a robot.  The list goes on and on.  If you’re a scifi fan and have not read this book, you really need to.  It is clear from page one what an impact Gibson has had on the genre.

The plot itself is convoluted and confusing.  I’m still not entirely sure I understand exactly what happened.  Yet I’m also not sure Case understands exactly what happened either.  This is one of the few times I’ve finished a book and instantly wanted to re-read it, hoping to understand it a bit better the second time around.  Yet such a convoluted plot is a bit distracting when there is so much else wonderful going on.  It holds the book back from being superb.

Overall, this piece of classic scifi is an interesting character study and immersion in a different world.  It would be interesting to anyone who enjoys that type of experience in their reading, but is also a must-read for anyone who considers themselves a scifi fanatic.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: SwapTree

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  1. geekylibrarian
    March 28, 2011 at 4:57 am

    Read this twice and I agree with your review entirely. It’s a really fun book, and maybe the best one ever written about life in 1984 (which certainly puts the future Miami thing into context), but it’s really more interesting for his role in establishing the cyberpunk genre than it is as a work of literature itself.

    Instead of rereading it (personally at least I didn’t get a whole lot more out of it the second time through) I recommend moving on to some of the stuff it influenced, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, and Gibson’s later novels (Pattern Recognition in particular is fantastic).

    • March 28, 2011 at 8:56 am

      It’s good to know you didn’t get anything more from a second read. I think I’ll take your advice and just continue on reading the trajectory of influence. Probably more valuable to know anyway, right? 🙂

  2. March 28, 2011 at 8:04 am

    One of my favorite books. 😀

  3. March 28, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I read this years ago, and although I don’t think I understood a word of it, it got interested in reading more Gibson and into Charlie Stross. good stuff, and i think it’s time for a re-read!

    • March 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm

      It’s definitely gotten me more interested in the cyberpunk section of scifi! 🙂

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