This classic cyberpunk novel takes the reader on a wild journey through a dystopian future. While the world of Neuromancer is garish and neon, the characters are stark and brutal.
It’s the ultimate Cyberpunk novel and it’s so good that we’re not the only ones to include it on a list of best science fiction books.
Neuromancer sees the ‘hacker’ Case team up with cybernetically souped-up assassin Molly Millions to carry out a series of shady heists under the leadership of the mysterious Armitage. They do not know the ultimate purpose of the tasks they are asked to carry out. But it’s clear it isn’t pleasant.
Body Modification and the Soul in Neuromancer
What is striking in Neuromancer is how the characters have modified their bodies to match their primary motivations rather than to widen the boundaries of their experience. In this universe, every body modification enhances the physical form while stripping the individual down to their basic essence.
Molly Millions, who has her body altered to make her a killing machine, is a perfect example of this. Throughout the novel, she says the refrain “it’s just the way I’m wired” in relation to her actions. This is true both in the sense of ‘this is the way she is’ and in the literal sense of the way she is actually wired. Another character is so obsessed with manipulation that he has modified his body to enable him to cause others to hallucinate what he wishes them to, therefore further indulging his obsession with deception. The protagonist, Case, at one point says how hackers despise their own bodies: viewing them as mere meat. Through this Gibson shines a harsh light on the individuals’ wish to annihilate their souls in order to make them more secure in themselves.
Think of how people online become a characture of themselves by closing off thier minds to challenging arguments. Or how celebreties will go to any lenghs to make sure thier outer form matches thier self-image. Even if the price of doing these things is emotional growth and understanding. Gibson takes this idea one step further in Neuromancer, with the characters happy to warp their physical being to gain a technological advantage in line with their own personalities. The tragedy being that they become less than human in the process.
Setting and prose in Neuromancer
The setting for Neuromancer can be challenging. That Gibson refuses to offer any more detail than absolutely necessary does not help. He is also rather stingy when it comes to exposition, with the plot jerking from one scene to the next without warning or explanation. So don’t be surprised if you are occasionally scratching your head as to what is going on. It is worth struggling through these sections as they help create a very real connection both to the characters and the world they inhabit. The style of storytelling also works well to convey the sense of a world in a constant state of flux, which is a key element of Neuromancer.
Neuromancer is a science fiction classic for a reason, and I hope that if you haven’t read this book this post will lead you to. For those who have read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts on Neuromancer, even if you are telling me I have completely missed the point. You can find Neuromancer on Amazon.
Neuromancer is also one of our top ten cyberpunk novels of all time.
- Neuromancer Review