Neuromancer is a book that was so far ahead of it’s time that you wonder if author William Gibson sold his soul for a glimpse of the future.
We’re in classic cyberpunk territory with William Gibson’s Neuromancer. Published in 1984, this breakthrough for Gibson was the first novel to win the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. High praise indeed. And as you leaf through its pages you realise how big an influence this book has been on the writers of some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster movies.
Gibson paints a picture of a Blade Runner esque futuristic Japan, where humans are increasingly upgrading their minds and bodies with technology. But it’s worth noting that the book was reportedly two-thirds finished when Blade Runner hit cinemas. The author was horrified, thinking that readers would draw the conclusion that Gibson was ripping off the film’s look.
He needn’t have worried. The author was decades ahead of his time with his vision of society’s reliance on technology, and how we might navigate cyberspace through virtual reality.
Following the plight of anti-hero Henry Dorsett Case, the author vividly brings to life the gritty underworld the protagonist inhabits. Case is a former hacker. Caught stealing from his employer the company ensured he’s never be able to ‘jack-in’ to cyberspace again by damaging his nervous system with a Russian mycotoxin.
Existing as a low-level hustler, Case is recruited – somewhat under duress – for one last hacking job. His reward would be the permanent reversal of his debilitation.
Without doubt this is a page-turner and Neuromancer moves at lightning speed. The plot takes you from the mean streets of Chiba City to the expanse of ‘The Matrix’ (yep, Gibson coined the term for cyberspace long before Neo learned Kung-Fu), to zero-gravity space travel and even to the peaceful haven of ‘Zion’ (I’m guessing the Wachowski’s read Neuromancer more than a couple of times).
Fast-paced real-world action, gun fights and solicitous activities permeate the narrative as Case forms part of a team recruited to simultaneously break into Tessier-Ashpool, a huge corporation, to access information that will allow the hacker to break the company’s A.I.
A compelling story, Gibson manages to confuse the reader by introducing names of things, places and entities without much explanation. It’s confusing at first, but by keeping faith and reading on the author manages to bring everything together in a number of ‘Ohhhh! I get it!‘ moments.
A fascinating story made even more interesting with the benefit of hindsight to see how many elements from Neuromancer have surfaced in films like ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Ghost In The Shell’.
Long the inspiration for movie makers, word is that after several failed attempts, Neuromancer will finally be adapted for the big screen with Deadpool’s, Tim Miller, lined up to direct.