Book Report: Neuromancer by William Gibson

September 1, 2008 at 7:23 am (Books Galore) (, )

I finished reading Neuromancer for the first time today. And my mind? Is totally blown.

(Minor spoilers abound.)

Reading it is a strange experience. Slang is dropped every which way, casual; sometimes explained, sometimes not, and it’s best not to go back and look for definitions — just keep rolling, man, keep moving forward, or the story will leave you behind. There’s no glossary; closing the book feels like closing the lid on an interdimensional peephole.

This is my first real taste of cyberpunk, so excuse me if I’m incoherent. I just–I don’t know how to summarize the experience of reading Neuromancer. It’s totally mindblowing. You can see the seeds of tropes we take for granted these days–AI, shared consciousness, city-of-light representations of the internet, sending your mind into the Net–but it feels as fresh as if it were the first time I’d read any of it, and when you think about how, when this book first came out, it really was the first of its kind…yeah.

The characters are protagonists only because we’re in their viewpoint; there are no actually good people in it, which I suppose makes it rather thrilling. They’re all in their own ways broken, heroic and villainous, and it’s just a joy to read them, to feel the dirt and grime and grit of them and their world in your bones as you go through the story.

I realized that the flip switch was a way of letting the reader see what was happening to Molly while maintaining Case as the only POV character and holy shit does it work. It’s a storytelling device of such seamless elegance, of allowing two POVs without actually allowing it, and I wish I’d thought of it first. I didn’t even realize until halfway through the book, and it was a little like rumbling an old magician’s trick–there’s beauty in seeing it work, but there’s also a thrill at see why it does.

The plot leaves me with a sense of “and then what?” but that’s okay because like I said. There’s a sense that the world moves on, that the reader has only seen through the smallest of lenses the tiniest of glimpses of this vast world that lives and breathes and dies behind the scenes; you’ve seen the puzzle piece and must infer the puzzle. It’s breathtaking. It’s just. Whoa.

I almost don’t want to read sequels, because I’m afraid of destroying this magic (it seems weird to speak of magic when talking about cyberpunk, but oh well) that the book has created, like a self-contained bubble. If I seek more, if I look for more information, more stories, more answers–the bubble with burst, the magic will unravel. It just won’t be the same.

All I can say is, if you haven’t read this book yet–do so as soon as possible. This is the book that spawned a genre, isn’t it? If you enjoy fantasy, if you like sci-fi, you owe it to yourself to read Neuromancer.

That is all.

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