Neuromancer – Book Review

Neuromancer is a book you experience rather than read.

Neuromancer reviewThis 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 Summary

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.

This is the third Classic Science fiction novel we have written about on Stranger Views, after Gateway by Pohl and The Stars My Destination by Bester.

Neuromancer is also one of our top ten cyberpunk novels of all time.

  • Neuromancer Review

3 Comments

Leave a Reply
  1. Impressed by the clarity and simplicity of your analyse.

    Though, I can’t totally agree with the idea of Gibson issuing a warning about the risks of “mutilating the soul” by the use of technology. I see it more as a cynical promise that is in deed becoming true, but maybe not with the lost of one’s humanity, but through the emergence of another kind of humanity. I’d call it a humanity 2.0 if that image had not been used and worn out. There’s no loss, no mutliation. But an evolution.

    From our PoV, it may look like a perdition, but it’s more a new neglect of our self-consciousness, the one that is normally gained through the judgement of the other. It’s the growing trend of rejecting of one’s true self and creating an identity that can merely exist in artificial / technological contexts.

    In that way, I would say that Neuromencer is indeed an authentic work a fictive anticipation.

  2. Thanks for your comment & sorry about the delayed reply (just realised I’ve stopped getting comment notifications on my email).

    On the whole I see your point that it is in on the most part an evolution. After all, that we are using the internet right now to share ideas has to show how enriching it the way we use technology can be. That said, I think Gibson has looked at the side of humanity that wishes to remove the complications of the soul and is willing to make it’s existence simpler through any means necessary. Sadly we see that aspect of humanity all the time.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, really interesting.

  3. “the side of humanity that wishes to remove the complications of the soul”: that description fits to the character Case.
    I like that phrase. Makes the initial hesitation I expressed much weaker.
    Thanks for taking the time to clarify this.
    Cheers!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.