Thursday, 28 November 2013

Book Review: Neuromancer - William Gibson

Portrait of author William Gibson taken on his...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I came to this particular party almost thirty years late. But oh, my, what a party it was!

I romped, giggling, through this book. I read it standing up, I read it waiting in the car, I read it when I should have been editing my own work. I devoured it with glee. It's so very well done, you see.

I gave up reading sci-fi decades ago. I can't remember what did it in the end, I think it might have been Frank Herbert's 'Yet another Dune book that milks that last drop from something that used to be better', but sci-fi became 'just not quite my thing.'

I'm going back now.

William Gibson's book invented 'cyberpunk' and gave us the setting for films like The Matrix, Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. Cyber-thief Case has had his ability to 'jack in' to the matrix burned out of his cortex by his vengeful employers and is on a fast track to drink, drug and crime fuelled suicide when he's rescued by a mysterious chap called Armitage.

Armitage fixes the damage, but he's got a purpose for Case who embarks on a race against time as Armitage complements his repair job with sacs of time-release neurotoxin placed in Case's veins. Do the job fast or get fried is the message. Case and murderous sexbomb Molly (Who calls a murderous sexbomb 'Molly' for pity's sakes? Only a lunatic or a genius, I figured) embark on a rampage through spaceports and Case gets down and dirty inside the cyber-world of the 3D realised network that is the Matrix. And oh my, it's fun stuff.

That I could be so blown away by this book today only had me wondering what this did to readers back in 1984. And that Gibson only trips up twice with his future technologies, as far as I could see, is little short of miraculous. In one scene, Case is fencing a valuable contraband of three megabytes of RAM. Well, I remember in 1984 three meg of RAM was like ten Yottabytes now. It was a huge amount. We were creating pioneering samplers using an Apple IIe with, wait for it, 64k of memory. My car key's probably got 3 meg in it.

In another technoflub, Case uses a payphone. Cute. But that just added to the fun for me, a little like playing a vintage synth that still sounds better than today's smartest sampler. This book is truly a classic and I'm very glad indeed I picked it up in a 'don't know what to put on the Kindle next' random moment.

If you hadn't got the message by now, let me just add I can't recommend it highly enough.

Five Stars.

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Martyn Cornell said...

Well-caught-up, Al. Now read "Burning Chrome". You'll be glad you did.

Alexander McNabb said...

Martyn, this sparked a Gibson splurge on the Kindle and I ripped through Count Zero, Pattern Recognition, All Tomorrow's Parties, Spook Country, Idoru, Virtual Light and, of course, Mona Lisa Overdrive (not, clearly, in that order).

Burning Chrome I shall now add to the Kindle on your recommendation! :)

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