Neuromancer

Neuromancer is about a bank job. Case used to be an ace safe cracker, until he got cocky and took off with his customer’s money. They broke both his hands in retaliation. But that is what makes him perfect for this job: nobody will suspect he is involved.

The team that is collected around him is an equally unlikely bunch. The team leader is an ex-army colonel with a grudge against the world. The driver of the get-away car is hired from a rastafari colony. And the client? Case will find out who the client is when he finds out what it is he is supposed to steal.

Except of course that Case is not a safe cracker but a computer hacker. It wasn’t his hands that were broken, but his mind. The safe is a networked system. And the rastafari colony is in an orbit around Earth. Still, doesn’t sound very original, does it? It’s still a bank job, by any other name.

You want original? How about this for original: this book coined the term cyberspace. This book coined the term matrix (and “jacking into the matrix”), long before the makers of a certain movie went on a borrowing spree. This book coined the term meatspace. It is chock-full of concepts that even today, twenty years later, when many of them are becoming reality, many people still do not understand. The author is one of the founding fathers of the Cyberpunk genre.

I should have read this 20 years ago, when I needed to read it. I won’t say that it has aged badly, but I have gotten used to the concepts of cyberspace without Neuromancer’s aid. The intimate relationship I could and should have forged with this novel is no longer possible, and what is worse is that I know this.

If you haven’t done so before, you should still read it.

Neuromancer, by William Gibson, 6/10.


Review of Neuromancer published on Aug 13, 2006 by Branko Collin.

3 responses to “Neuromancer”

  1. Martin Wisse says:

    To be honest, a lot of people who were familiar with what was then the internet/usenet when Neuromancer came out immediately realised Gibson didn’t have clue one about what a computer network would really be like… His vision, when you start to think about it, is fairly ridiculous and overtly complicated, but also genuinely compelling.

    I did read it only a few years after it came out (’88 or ’89) and it made me want to “jack into the mainframe” to coin a phrase –five years later and I could. Thank you cs.vu.nl for introducing me to the internet!

  2. brankl says:

    Please tell me more. The book was at times hard to read, and I am sure I will have to read it a second time to get the finer points, so I am curious: what is ridiculous about his vision?

    Sure, the future is likely not as bleak as he is painting it, but I consider pessimistic and optimistic world views recurring fads in SF, I am guessing you weren’t talking about that.

  3. Ross Presser says:

    What is ridiculous — or at least seemed ridiculous at the time:
    1) the idea that such vast computing resources would be “wasted” on the audiovisual shared hallucination of the Matrix. What’s the point of rendering a firewall as a medieval castle? In the Real Internet you can tell “where” things are without having to see them.
    2) the further idea of “jacking in” — that neural-computer interfaces could possibly be so advanced, easy to use, and safe that almost everyone would one one. Why bother? Video displays plus speakers have done a great job so far, and you can’t fry your brain with them. At least not directly.

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