Buckle up, your in for a trip. Neuromancer by William Gibson is a fast paced thrill ride that holds up incredibly well, long after its creation, and this reviewer honestly does not see any signs of aging on the horizon. This can only be achieved through great forethought, and delicate speaking. I know what you are thinking, William Gibson is far from a delicate speaker. This is a novel that pounds at you that shoves you before you get your bearings and keeps you lost in the dark with just a glint of light at the end of the tunnel. But, for all this, the words he uses to describe the technology and the inner workings of his world are very careful, very deliberate, and as delicate as a flower.
Do not take the word delicate with the wrong meaning. Some authors write delicately, their technology based on half-baked assumptions that will topple in less than a decade. Space ships that work off magic and fairy dust. Really it is all fine and dandy. Wonderful stories can still be crafted in these spaces. But the show that William Gibson puts on has to be seen, or rather read, to be understood and loved. None of his technology wavers. Where he can base a space station on cold hard fact and known principles, he does, cigar worlds with accurate gravity representations, and zero-gravity Jamaican paradises. Where things are a little fuzzy, he keeps them fuzzy, giving the reader just enough to keep the things real without drawing attention to them. The medical optimizations, the cyberspace interfaces, and the mathematical code behind the matrix. It is all beautifully vague and wonderful.
The technology is amazing, but it takes a backseat to the Gibson’s driving writing style. Read the first chapter. Really read it. Take note of everything that happens, and remember too that this is the first chapter, the chapter that sets up Gibson’s entire universe. It is only twenty-five pages, and yet that chapter alone could have been stretched into an entire novel. In fact, for some authors that would have not only have been a valid strategy, but the only strategy, the only way that it could be written. Granted it does not have much in the way of a conclusion, even so, each page could have been ten in the wrong author’s hands.
So what suffers because of this almost frantic pace? That is the wonderful thing, nothing suffers, the story is enhanced by it, driven by it, created by it. Jumping from scene to scene, from climax to climax, we, the readers, are always left in the heart of the matter, always left with our hearts thumping, bleeding for that next word. He leaves most of the descriptions that other authors would spend pages of sweat over, up to the reader’s imagination. Obviously both are valid approaches, and a reader can be drawn to one or the other. They both take skill, but what is more important is that they both create different kinds of stories. He only sets himself to describe something when he has something unique to say, and for this story, that is just wonderful.
I know, I have a lot of words down here already and no quotations. That is partially on purpose, but it is not to say that Gibson’s writing is un-quotable, just that the topics discussed thus far do not lend themselves well to quotes. So, to get some text out of the original, why don’t we take a look at some of his descriptions. How about this one, “then gravity came down on him like a great soft hand with bones of ancient stone” or how about this one, “His brain was deep-fried. No, he decided, it had been thrown into hot fat and left there, and the fat had cooled, a thick dull grease congealing on wrinkled lobes, shot through with greenish purple flashes of pain.” Simply beautiful, and simply unique. Here is a final description to wet your whistle. Case, our antihero, sets foot on a space shuttle destined for Zion. He dislikes it, and in his distaste, he puts forth this description of its smell, “It smelled like an airplane, like new clothes and chewing gum and exhaust.” He could have left it at the first description, the first sensory image, but instead he went deeper, until we, the readers, could smell, and even taste, exactly what he was describing. All that in only thirteen words.
Many give Gibson a great deal of credit for what he created. He had a vision for what computers would one day accomplish, one that, some say, has greatly influenced what we now know as the Internet. He coined the term cyberspace, one that is still used today. For better or worse he created cyberpunk, though many who try to write in this “genre” often miss the point. He wrote about a “matrix” that people could plug into, long before the Wachowskis made millions off of putting a similar idea to film. His brilliant universe will not be forgotten in my lifetime, especially not if I have anything to say about it.
Well, I do not know about you, but I think I need a bit of a come down. I need to fall back from Zion and from Freeside. I need to remember what is like to be bound to Earth and all of its worries. Let us take a trip back into the past a celebrate a bit of an anniversary. It is now officially 2015, unless of course the outside world has been lying to me for the past four days. Now if you were to go back in time, oh say, one-hundred-and-fifty years, you might find an interesting book arriving on bookshelves (okay, okay, so you would have to wait a few months yet and you would have to have a firm grasp on French, but bear with me). That book is From the Earth to the Moon by none other Jules Verne. So break out your Project Gutenberg bookmark and head into the past with me. It is bound to be fun.