Twenty years ago, it was as if someone turned on a light. The future blazed into existence with each deliberate word that William Gibson laid down. The winner of Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Awards, Neuromancer didn't just explode onto the science fiction scene - it permeated into the collective consciousness, culture, science, and technology.Today, there is only one science fiction masterpiece to thank for the term "cyberpunk," for easing the way into the information age and Internet society. Neuromancer's virtual reality has become real. And yet, William Gibson's gritty, sophisticated vision still manages to inspire the minds that lead mankind ever further into the future.
©1984 William Gibson (P)2011 Penguin Audio
This is a book that, if you are approaching it for the first time, suffers from having been imitated so much that it seems derivative of its own successors. Neuromancer was genre-defining and it blew a million little geeky minds back in the day, but reading it in 2012, I failed to be enthralled by the goshwow factor. 'Cyberspace' is mainstream now, and stripped away of the novelty that made fans back in 1984 say "This is so freaking cool!" the book is kind of a techy-tech high concept thrill ride with cardboard characters.
So, Case is a 'cyberspace cowboy' who used to "jack in" to the Matrix and go on 'runs' (stealing data from big corporations, governments, etc.) in a near-future where the U.S. has fragmented into tribal/corporate nation-states, but the USSR is still around. (In the foreword to this edition, Gibson comments on his own prescience or lack thereof, acknowledging also all the other things he didn't get right which will strike modern readers, like the existence of payphones and the lack of cell phones.) He tried to steal from one of his employers, and in retaliation they poisoned him in a way that left him unable to jack into the matrix again. Now he's a down-and-outer in Chiba City (yes, there's a taste of 80s "Japan is so cool!" weeabooism here) when he gets recruited for a job by a mysterious guy named Armitage who says he can fix him up. Case also meets Molly, a "razor girl" street samurai. With the rest of his motley crew, Case goes on an adventure that takes him into high orbit to the playground of the super-rich. There are futuristic ninjas, artificial intelligences, and your basic cyberpunk RPG adventure. Again, not really fair to dismiss it like that, because this book invented cyberpunk RPGing and cyberpunk everything else, but unless you really love all things cyberpunk and/or Gibson, you may find, as I did, that Neuromancer just doesn't quite live up to the hype it earned in 1984 with its Hugo and Nebula awards.
William Gibson's writing is superbly clever and descriptive, and boy does he spin ideas. But this is the third book of his I've read, and while I appreciate his craft on a technical level, his stories just don't do much for me. I don't care about his characters.
For SF fans, this may be a good book to read to be familiar with, you know, the "seminal" works of the genre, but I just don't feel compelled to go read the rest of the Sprawl trilogy.
No. I've had a poor track record recommending anything of Gibson's to my friends. They just don't get it. Reading (or listening to) his work is like reading poetry: either you get inside his headspace and understand, or you scratch your head and wonder why other people like this drivel.
No. Robertson Dean's narration suits the Bigend Trilogy far better than it does the Sprawl Trilogy. He's laconic and doesn't have much variation to his voice to differentiate between characters. Neuromancer builds to a fever pitch, and Dean can't match it. If you can manage it, listen to the abridged version that's read by Gibson himself. It's out of print, but can occasionally be found on eBay. It's worth it. (Note to Audible - please obtain the rights to that version!!!)
Despite the narration, I'm glad to have this version as well. Unabridged is always more fun.
I enjoyed reading Neuromancer as a twenty year old when it first came out. I didn't know if I would still enjoy it twenty years down the road. Well, it's still love! It's obvious to me now that this is noir. it has more in common with The Maltese Falcon than with most sci-fi. It is just the right blend of melodrama, action, mystery, and campiness. I also really like the setting. Having grown up in the 80s, it makes sense to me. I dont know what it would seem like to a current twenty year old.
I couldn't even get through the first 30 minutes of this book. The reader chose a voice that was supposed to be gritty, dark, cynical. To me, it was an unlistenable reading -- bland, too slow, substanceless, even disrespectful to an audience trusting the audiobook narrator to interpret character voices and drama. I've had a similar cringy reaction listening to authors reading their own fiction. It was just terrible.
And, even more sad for me (I'm feeling pretty silly, considering the other positive reviews and overall legacy of the book), I.... just didn't like the writing. As far as I could force myself to listen, the author's skill in this case was not worthy of the intelligence and concept of his vision -- which was brilliant. Even within the initial pages/words of the book I recognized his creations as conventions now folded into our whole cultural consciousness. From other reader comments here and elsewhere, it's obvious this book is the genesis of a subgenre of fantasy and science fiction we now take for granted. I love the idea, I'm fascinated by the creativity, and I am passionate about great stories that helped shape fiction.
But I just couldn't get through this spoken book.
I started it again thinking I had been distracted and would tie into it the second time. Nope. So I paused the book. I listened to traffic and my head for awhile. I flipped off a driver who cut me off. I called a friend on speakerphone. I tried the radio. That was even worse. I was procrastinating at that point. I turned the book back on. Still not doing it.
I'm going to take advantage of the new Audible "exchange" feature and exchange this book for something by Neil Gaiman, and then try Necromancer again in ink to see if shaping my own voice and style for the book brings me to the epiphany everyone else had. If you got through my review, thanks for reading.
What is there to say about Neuromancer that hasn't already been said better by someone else? It defined a genre, and so much more. So much of what the internet is has been defined by Gibson's Sprawl books that it's hard to believe none of the terminology therein existed before he wrote it. Any fan of science fiction is morally obligated to read this book.
The reading takes a little getting used to. My husband joked that he sounded like a "computer voice," like the voice that Apple OS "reads" in. Once he gets going, Dean gets a bit easier to listen to, but the voice he uses for Molly is utterly ridiculous. In all fairness, it's probably pretty hard for a man to deliver her lines in any way that does not come off as ridiculous.
Still, I have an abridged audiobook as read by the author, and that is probably the best way to listen to this book. Unfortunately, it's abridged. This reading does make a nice compromise.
The one liners. So much disposable wisdom, it will always remain relevant because Gibson is a talented author.
It's like a western bank robbery set in the future, with Rastafarian pilots and girls with razors in their fingers. Sex and drugs and violence. Exotic locations, and realistic fantasies. Why hasn't this been turned into a movie yet?
Molly's voice. I actually wanted a different actress to step in and read her lines, because Robertson Dean sticks with the voice he's created for her well, but there are some lines that shouldn't be read softly. A dude speaking softly can never sound like a pissed off woman.
When Case see's the third figure standing with the boy, and Jane, and knows who it is, I actually got chills, the hard cold kind that cling to your back.
I listened to this because I've listened to Ready Player One about seven times now, and wanted something similar, so if you want cyber adventure, I'd say you should also check out Ernest Cline's masterpiece.
The amazing language used by the author created vivid and realistic images in my mind. The reader's voice was a little creepy, at first, when he attempted the female character voices, but I became accustomed to the sound and compensated.
I can easily see that this was a primary source for many other stories and movies since it was released. Why have I never seen a Neuromancer movie? I mean, we definitely have the technology to create most of what I saw in my own mind. Johnny Mnemonic is the closest thing I have seen in the way of this style of story. Suddenly, The Matrix seems like a cheap copy-cat. I absolutely wish this story would be made into a movie.
This was a book that I had to read twice. It was so packed with descriptive passages that I just couldn't seem to absorb them all at once. Also, the world being described was both similar to our present world as well as totally alien. It was a unique blend of science fact and science fiction.
The story takes place sometime in the not to distant future, and the main character is named Case. Case was a man with a troubled past. He had been a computer jockey, similar to what we would today call a hacker. Case was hired to break into computer systems, usually owned by corporations, and steal specific data. But when he "jacked in" to the web, he was actually in it - a la the movie TRON. He would move around cyberspace through his mind as people move through the physical world.
Case was doing well. He was one of the best at what he did and was making a good living. But then he made a mistake. He decided to steal from his employer, and they injected him with toxins that damaged his nervous system, making it impossible for him to jack in. He went to Japan for surgery to repair his nerve damage, but all were unsuccessful. After running out of money, he turned to hustling to survive and support his burgeoning drug habit.
Enter Armitage, a wealthy man who did not technically exist. Armitage offer Case a cure in exchange for breaking into a highly secure structure. Case is skeptical, but the surgery is a success. Accompanied by Molly, Armitage's security expert, and a motley group of unforgettable characters, Case takes on the nearly impossible task.
This was a great read, science fiction fan or not. The most amazing thing to me was that William Gibson wrote this in 1983! It almost perfectly describes the internet during a time when it wasn't even a concept yet. Many things in this book have come to pass already. How many more will be reality in our future? This is a truly groundbreaking work and a must read for anyone interested in seeing what the future may be like.
Not a huge sci-fi fan but was curious about this book because many reference it as part of the digital culture "origin story" that spawned things like the Matrix movies and other digital world creation stories. It's impressive that this book was written so long ago and still got so much right about the future. Yes, there's a bunch of tangent story lines and sequels I won't be reading but it's good to know the context behind books like this, which you can only get by reading them. I'd recommend it for that reason alone.
A story of a future that never quite made it, littered with the detritus of a past only half remembered. Don't miss this one, its everything we are and nothing we've ever seen.
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