Jump to content
rllmuk
Sign in to follow this  
Asura

Neuromancer - William Gibson

Recommended Posts

Every time I go on holiday, I always take two books - I take something trashy, and something more literary. 2 years ago it was Catcher in the Rye, last year it was Heart of Darkness, last week it was Neuromancer. I finished it on the plane on the way back, and I must say, it's by far one of the best books I've ever read. I'm actually somewhat perplexed by it, because these days, with so many properties getting made into films, a brief book like Neuromancer that revolves around a small cast of characters with really good "action scenes" seems like it would be ripe for such an undertaking.

So much of the fiction I like, be it film, game or anime, has lifted elements from the book. Sticking just with anime, there's the obvious parallel to Ghost in the Shell but even more obscure titles like Outlaw Star seem to have taken some inspiration from it.

So, all I could say is if you ever considered reading it, or if you like any other media that has cyberpunk and/or dystopian future elements, then read it. Right now. Step away from your computer, go find a copy, and read it.

Most of the people who post here are probably much more well-read than myself, so I assume the above isn't news to you. In any case, what do other people think of it?

  • Upvote 3
  • Downvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Every time I go on holiday, I always take two books - I take something trashy, and something more literary. 2 years ago it was Catcher in the Rye, last year it was Heart of Darkness, last week it was Neuromancer. I finished it on the plane on the way back, and I must say, it's by far one of the best books I've ever read. I'm actually somewhat perplexed by it, because these days, with so many properties getting made into films, a brief book like Neuromancer that revolves around a small cast of characters with really good "action scenes" seems like it would be ripe for such an undertaking.

So much of the fiction I like, be it film, game or anime, has lifted elements from the book. Sticking just with anime, there's the obvious parallel to Ghost in the Shell but even more obscure titles like Outlaw Star seem to have taken some inspiration from it.

So, all I could say is if you ever considered reading it, or if you like any other media that has cyberpunk and/or dystopian future elements, then read it. Right now. Step away from your computer, go find a copy, and read it.

Most of the people who post here are probably much more well-read than myself, so I assume the above isn't news to you. In any case, what do other people think of it?

It's a very, very good book. Always find it astonishing to think of actually how much of what Gibson wrote down has come to pass in some form or another. Also, it's very nice that the book doesn't outstay it's welcome and become some turgid 1000+ page mess. It's just the right length and written by a bloke who doesn't waste his words. Which is always a very good thing in my mind.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The third in the series: Mona Lisa Overdrive, despite the horrid title, is also excellent. Count Zero I wasn't so fond of, really.

If you're on any sort of William Gibson kick, pick up All Tomorrow's Parties and Pattern Recognition. He has a lot of 'halfway' books, like Idoru, that you can't help but see as skeletons of later ones.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Probably due for a re-read, but it was one of the best things I'd read back in the early 90s. It's been floating around the movie market for years but nobody seems to be able to nail it, and many of its ideas have filtered through into so much other sci-fi anyway. I also really enjoyed Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, and the Burning Chrome story collection, but I must admit I completely lost track of Gibson since then. I guess I just had a brief, bright cyberpunk phase.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Neuromancer is his best book, and is pretty much perfect. It's my favourite book by a mile, even though I didn't really understand it when I first read it as a teenager. The only bits I don't think work are the space rastas' dialogue, which feels a bit awkward and caricatured ("Alright mon, I fe smoke 'pon dis ganja, irie?"). Some the prose goes a bit purple towards the end as well. The rest though - damn. Every line is a little nerdy-cool epigram, every page has a new amazing idea that he just tosses aside, every scene has a wealth of little details that just feel completely right. The rest of the Sprawl Trilogy (Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive) are excellent too, especially Count Zero, although they aren't as good as his first book.

His other stuff is a bit patchy; the Bridge Trilogy (Virtual Light, Idoru, and All Tomorrow's Parties) starts well with Virtual Light, but the other two books feel a bit aimless and a bit like a collection of details and ideas looking for a story to fit into. His most recent books, the Bigend Trilogy, are even more patchy. I thought Pattern Recognition, the first book, was good when I first read it, but on re-reading I found it a bit dull and inconsequential; not a lot happens, the characters are never in any real danger, and the central mystery isn't that interesting or believable when revealed. Spook Country, the second is incongruously fantastic - a weird, dense, trip through a kind of alt-rock spy story, with parkour, voodoo, and war profiteering all featuring in the plot. His latest, Zero History, has a cool title and a couple of good ideas, but is incredibly dull and inert. Nothing happens for 400 pages; it's like reading someone you don't know's twitter feed.

So: read the rest of the Sprawl books, read Virtual Light and Spook Country, and then try his short stories.

WRT the Neuromancer film, I think it's basically unfilmable. The book is so firmly routed in an eighties vision of the future that I think the time to film it has long passed. A late eighties / early nineties film would have been amazing, but the ideas and visuals of the film have been mined out by other filmmakers and authors to the extent that the film would seem almost derivative. Plus, a big part of the book's appeal is Gibson's smooth, cool authorial voice, which would obviously be lost in transferring it to film. It's a shame; I'd love to see the raid on Sense/Net portrayed with modern special effects (i.e. have the whole thing shown in first person), and Freeside and the Villa Straylight would look amazing too. But I just think the rest of the book wouldn't translate well.

  • Upvote 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I re-read it a couple of months ago and still loved it. I also think it could make a great movie with the right direction but could end up being a complete mess as well, it would definitely be interesting to see what they did with Peter Riviera in movie form.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

WRT the Neuromancer film, I think it's basically unfilmable. The book is so firmly routed in an eighties vision of the future that I think the time to film it has long passed. A late eighties / early nineties film would have been amazing, but the ideas and visuals of the film have been mined out by other filmmakers and authors to the extent that the film would seem almost derivative. Plus, a big part of the book's appeal is Gibson's smooth, cool authorial voice, which would obviously be lost in transferring it to film. It's a shame; I'd love to see the raid on Sense/Net portrayed with modern special effects (i.e. have the whole thing shown in first person), and Freeside and the Villa Straylight would look amazing too. But I just think the rest of the book wouldn't translate well.

You really think so? I imagine it looking like a darker, grubbier Ghost in the Shell with Blade Runner overtones. The weird thing was that I could really "see" it in my head in the way very few books truly manage.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You really think so? I imagine it looking like a darker, grubbier Ghost in the Shell with Blade Runner overtones. The weird thing was that I could really "see" it in my head in the way very few books truly manage.

1: Exactly! Blade Runner captured the book's aesthetic two years before the book had even been released, and Ghost in the Shell came out 15 years ago. It's been done, unfortunately.

2: Exactly! William Gibson's writing is so vivid that the book's world seems incredibly real and tangible when you read it. You've already seen it in your head, why do you want to see someone else's attempt at describing the images your mind's eye has come up with?

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1: Exactly! Blade Runner captured the book's aesthetic two years before the book had even been released, and Ghost in the Shell came out 15 years ago. It's been done, unfortunately.

2: Exactly! William Gibson's writing is so vivid that the book's world seems incredibly real and tangible when you read it. You've already seen it in your head, why do you want to see someone else's attempt at describing the images your mind's eye has come up with?

I actually meant something closer to the newer Ghost in the Shell Stand-Alone Complex, but with a darker palette. You're right in what you say, however. I suppose the film idea for me was a knee-jerk reaction because the film I picture from the book is cooler than The Matrix, edgier than Ghost in the Shell, deeper than Blade Runner and more tense than Inception.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I picked this up in Bury St. Edmund's Waterstones the other day and just started reading it. Great to finally have the book; it's been on my list for over a dozen years, but I never got round to picking up a copy - it was either unavailable/sold out or I just wouldn't think about it. I do have a bit of a hard time reading it though, I find Gibson's writing style quite hard to follow as he tends to make lots of snappy (semi-)sentences and uses a lot of slang. As English is not my native language it doesn't read 'natural' to me. I can manage though, and the story is interesting enough to pull me through as I'm about 25-30% through and I do enjoy it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I picked this up in Bury St. Edmund's Waterstones the other day and just started reading it. Great to finally have the book; it's been on my list for over a dozen years, but I never got round to picking up a copy - it was either unavailable/sold out or I just wouldn't think about it. I do have a bit of a hard time reading it though, I find Gibson's writing style quite hard to follow as he tends to make lots of snappy (semi-)sentences and uses a lot of slang. As English is not my native language it doesn't read 'natural' to me. I can manage though, and the story is interesting enough to pull me through as I'm about 25-30% through and I do enjoy it.

Yeah, I imagine for a non-native English reader it might be quite tricky. What I would say though is that you might not be missing as much as you think; a lot of the technologies and terms he describes use words he made up anyway, so a lot of it involves using context.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Neuromancer is an amazing, cracking read.

It also starts with a brilliantly evocative line:

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
  • Upvote 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Neuromancer is an amazing, cracking read.

It also starts with a brilliantly evocative line:

Although I can't help but think that this will confuse people now who have only ever known TVs to show dead channels as #0000FF

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Neuromancer is an amazing, cracking read.

It also starts with a brilliantly evocative line:

Absolutely. Best opening line of any book ever. MK-1601, you're so right, I've come over all melancholy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hardly ever read these days. But back in the day (8 year or so ago) Neuromancer was one of my favourite books. My only regret is that it ended up getting so tatty and binned, due to overuse on my jaunts from the UK and Sweden.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just finished this. I thought this was supposed to be a timeless classic. It's unequivocally dated to the '80s. "Ice" sounds so silly, and the visualisation of cyberspace is laughable - that Kuang virus with the "stinger", and Case "riding it" ... lol! Overall I just did not get on with Gibson's writing style. At all. And don't get me started on that fucking rastafarian. I can easily imagine the accent, thanks William, I don't need you writing everything Maelcum says phonetically to the point where I can barely understand what he's saying. I really struggled with that, and it's so unnecessary. 

 

I bought the whole trilogy, but I won't be bothering with the rest, especially as many say he never bettered this. So if Neuromancer is his best, I'll pass on the rest.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is a timeless classic, and it is also unarguably the greatest SF novel ever written.

 

In years gone by I would have unmercifully pulled your post apart until you were afraid to venture into this thread (or any other) ever again, but who can be fucked with that noise these days? 

 

Make sure you give the books to a charity shop, they will find a loving home and you will have done some good into the bargain.

  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 minutes ago, Thor said:

I 'an I buy't on Kindle. No can do, mon!

 

I hereby sentence you to three hours sorting used vinyl in a charity shop. 

 

Proceed.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will give him credit for one thing, he sure has imagination. But that's also what I found quite frustrating throughout the book - his wonderful ideas of the future were often at odds with the things he clung to in his then present day. Let's look at Molly's retinal implant that shows her the time and such; that's a great idea for the future. Yet he didn't think of, say, cochlea implants for telephones? Hence the payphones everywhere. Simple mobile phones were already invented by the time he'd written the book, the future of mobile communication shouldn't have been that much of a leap for him. For someone who was seen as a visionary (and credit where it's due, he invented the term cyberspace that is still used today), he was clearly short-sighted in many areas. 

 

I liked the idea of Dixie, storing a version of someone's personality digitally; and I liked Riviera as a particularly vile villain. But I didn't like Case, at all. I get that he's an anti-hero, but anti-heroes tend to have at least something likeable about them. Case is a skinny druggie selfish prick, with no redeeming qualities. Molly was good, but it amused me when, completely out of the blue, she had sex with Case that first time. 

 

Also, regarding my dated comment. Let's not forget I'm reading this for the first time in 2018, some 34 years after publication. So the differences of then and now are going to be quite jarring. However, there are writers out there who can avoid these pitfalls, sadly my example has passed away - Iain M Banks. I've only read Consider Phlebas, and it may have been a while, but I don't recall anything in that which made me think the book was dated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's the thing though, I don't think it's fair to judge an SF novel on what the author did and didn't get right - not many SF authors are actually trying to predict what the future will be like, and of those few, William Gibson definitely isn't one of them. Iain Banks wasn't trying to predict the future either - and he set Consider Phlebas in a non-human alien culture, almost impossibly distant from us in a technological sense, and in a novel that takes place in the 14th century. That's always going to be less of its time than a novel set on Earth in the early 21st century - although Consider Phlebas is still informed by the culture of the time, i.e. holy war, nuclear holocaust, simplistic genre fiction giving way to more complex, nuanced takes on SF, etc. Although I guess you could argue that the idea of a human culture that not only operates  but thrives on the basis of mutual benefit with no greed, cruelty or exploitation is more dated than anything in Neuromancer. Gibson may have portrayed cyberspace in a way that has absolutely no resemblance to the way that people actually use the internet in the 21st century, but he was bang on the money in the sense that any new technology will be used to exploit people and to perpetuate existing power structures. He didn't predict how mobile phones would come to dominate society, but then again nobody did, in the same way that no SF writers managed to predict TV's place in our society.

 

 

  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue. Use of this website is subject to our Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, and Guidelines.