William Gibson published Neuromancer in 1984. I didn’t read it until I bought the used paperback at The Book Exchange in Philadelphia around 1988. The book altered the way that I think about Science Fiction and inspired me to write a Cyberpunk novella (lost in a failed backup about 15 years ago). Neuromancer was the first book that, when I finished the last page, I went back to the first page and started reading again. I bought Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive as soon as I could find them. I even had to buy the last one in hardcover, because the paperback wasn’t out yet.
These books are hard as diamonds and not an easy read. They are dense with information and full of assumptions about the reader’s ability to keep up with difficult concepts. I sometimes hesitate to recommend them.
I identify most with character Gentry in Mona Lisa Overdrive who is searching for the shape of the nets. Here’s one of my favorite quotes:
“Well, then,” Gentry said, turning, click as the beam died, the light of his obsession burning bright, bright behind his eyes, amplified so powerfully by Kid Afrika’s derm that it seemed to Slick that the Shape must be right there, blazing through Gentry’s forehead, for anyone at all to see except Gentry himself, “that must be just what it is. . . .”
My favorite character is Molly Millions, who first appears in the short story Johnny Mnemonic (avoid the movie – not like the story at all). Molly starts out in the early works as an young woman who has lost the love of her life and is full of anger. She is the love interest of Case, the hacker. By the end of the last book, she is much older and quite jaded, but risks all to save the lives of two young lovers. Did I mention that she has fingernails that extend into razors when she needs to kill someone?
Gibson’s influence on SF is amazing, even twenty years later when the genre seems to be much softer. I prefer the hard edgy writing of the cyberpunks, even now, when many of their themes have turned into cliches. I have a bunch of cyberpunk themed stories in the trunk that I know I can’t sell because the sub-genre is so compelling to new authors. The Matrix and Blade Runner have ruined it for writers like me who admire Gibson’s sentences, which read like well written computer code.
Gibson’s books after the Neuromancer Trilogy are less than interesting. Gibson gave hundreds of interviews, but began to believe his own press. I read Virtual Light, and tried to read Idoru and Pattern Recognition, but I couldn’t get interested in them. I am not going to buy Spook Country, his latest. The CNN blurb reeks of hype. The book can’t be as good as the press is painting it.
It’s time to read Gibson’s Trilogy again.