Twenty years ago, it was as if someone turned on a light. The future blazed into existence with each deliberate word that William Gibson laid down. The winner of Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Awards, Neuromancer didn't just explode onto the science fiction scene - it permeated into the collective consciousness, culture, science, and technology.Today, there is only one science fiction masterpiece to thank for the term "cyberpunk," for easing the way into the information age and Internet society. Neuromancer's virtual reality has become real. And yet, William Gibson's gritty, sophisticated vision still manages to inspire the minds that lead mankind ever further into the future.
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This is a book that, if you are approaching it for the first time, suffers from having been imitated so much that it seems derivative of its own successors. Neuromancer was genre-defining and it blew a million little geeky minds back in the day, but reading it in 2012, I failed to be enthralled by the goshwow factor. 'Cyberspace' is mainstream now, and stripped away of the novelty that made fans back in 1984 say "This is so freaking cool!" the book is kind of a techy-tech high concept thrill ride with cardboard characters.
So, Case is a 'cyberspace cowboy' who used to "jack in" to the Matrix and go on 'runs' (stealing data from big corporations, governments, etc.) in a near-future where the U.S. has fragmented into tribal/corporate nation-states, but the USSR is still around. (In the foreword to this edition, Gibson comments on his own prescience or lack thereof, acknowledging also all the other things he didn't get right which will strike modern readers, like the existence of payphones and the lack of cell phones.) He tried to steal from one of his employers, and in retaliation they poisoned him in a way that left him unable to jack into the matrix again. Now he's a down-and-outer in Chiba City (yes, there's a taste of 80s "Japan is so cool!" weeabooism here) when he gets recruited for a job by a mysterious guy named Armitage who says he can fix him up. Case also meets Molly, a "razor girl" street samurai. With the rest of his motley crew, Case goes on an adventure that takes him into high orbit to the playground of the super-rich. There are futuristic ninjas, artificial intelligences, and your basic cyberpunk RPG adventure. Again, not really fair to dismiss it like that, because this book invented cyberpunk RPGing and cyberpunk everything else, but unless you really love all things cyberpunk and/or Gibson, you may find, as I did, that Neuromancer just doesn't quite live up to the hype it earned in 1984 with its Hugo and Nebula awards.
William Gibson's writing is superbly clever and descriptive, and boy does he spin ideas. But this is the third book of his I've read, and while I appreciate his craft on a technical level, his stories just don't do much for me. I don't care about his characters.
For SF fans, this may be a good book to read to be familiar with, you know, the "seminal" works of the genre, but I just don't feel compelled to go read the rest of the Sprawl trilogy.
I couldn't even get through the first 30 minutes of this book. The reader chose a voice that was supposed to be gritty, dark, cynical. To me, it was an unlistenable reading -- bland, too slow, substanceless, even disrespectful to an audience trusting the audiobook narrator to interpret character voices and drama. I've had a similar cringy reaction listening to authors reading their own fiction. It was just terrible.
And, even more sad for me (I'm feeling pretty silly, considering the other positive reviews and overall legacy of the book), I.... just didn't like the writing. As far as I could force myself to listen, the author's skill in this case was not worthy of the intelligence and concept of his vision -- which was brilliant. Even within the initial pages/words of the book I recognized his creations as conventions now folded into our whole cultural consciousness. From other reader comments here and elsewhere, it's obvious this book is the genesis of a subgenre of fantasy and science fiction we now take for granted. I love the idea, I'm fascinated by the creativity, and I am passionate about great stories that helped shape fiction.
But I just couldn't get through this spoken book.
I started it again thinking I had been distracted and would tie into it the second time. Nope. So I paused the book. I listened to traffic and my head for awhile. I flipped off a driver who cut me off. I called a friend on speakerphone. I tried the radio. That was even worse. I was procrastinating at that point. I turned the book back on. Still not doing it.
I'm going to take advantage of the new Audible "exchange" feature and exchange this book for something by Neil Gaiman, and then try Necromancer again in ink to see if shaping my own voice and style for the book brings me to the epiphany everyone else had. If you got through my review, thanks for reading.