In this weekly series, we bring you the genre novels you really should have read by now…
NEUROMANCER by William Gibson
First Published: 1984
Genre: Science Fiction
A year here and he still dreamed of cyberspace, hope fading nightly. All the speed he took, all the turns he’d taken and the corners he cut in Night City, and he’d still see the matrix in his dreams, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void… The Sprawl was a long, strange way home now over the Pacific, and he was no Console Man, no cyberspace cowboy. Just another hustler, trying to make it through. But the dreams came on in the Japanese night like livewire voodoo, and he’d cry for it, cry in his sleep, and wake alone in the dark, curled in his capsule in some coffin hotel, hands clawed into the bedslab, temper foam bunched between his fingers, trying to reach the console that wasn’t there.
Summary: Henry Dorsett Case and Molly Millions run a heist on the home of a ludicrously wealthy and powerful family at the behest of the shadowy Armitage. Case and Molly are both broken in their way. Case is a hacker prohibited from accessing cyberspace. Molly was a sex worker abused by her handlers (in a truly disturbing way). Neither particularly tries to make anything better of their lives through the heist, neither expects this one big score to improve their lots. Case agrees simply to get plugged back in. Molly’s motives are less clear. Taking place in a near future dystopia, everything about Neuromancer is vaguely unsettling and disturbing. As the plan and the heist proceed the reader is drip-fed details until that which was vaguely unsettling has become downright scary. This is a broken masterpiece. Like all works that start genres, twenty years on there are better examples of cyberpunk with tighter plots and more consistent world-rules. But none of that can diminish the achievement of this book.
Why It’s Must-Read: A masterful perverted, disturbing imagining of our electronic future, and the founding work of its subgenre.
On Screen: Many have tried, none have succeeded in bring Neuromancer to the screen.
In Other Media: A 1988 videogame, about which the less is said the better. A graphic novel published in 1989 covers the first two chapters of the book but was never completed.
In Popular Culture: It is hard to overstate the effect that this book has had on popular culture. From the use of terms like ‘cyberspace’, to the use of hacking as a plot device, to the distrust of where pursuit of technology can take us, Neuromancer provides an important contribution.
Awards and Nominations: This was the first novel to win the triple of the Nebula, the Hugo and the Philip K. Dick Award.