Burning Chrome contains Gibson’s short work up to 1986. As do many single-author short-story collections, Burning Chrome presents a summary of Gibson’s early themes and devices. The primary characteristics of the subgenre that became known as cyberpunk are all present: setting, character types, basic conflicts, and pace. In the case of the Sprawl stories, the setting and even some characters of the later Neuromancer novels appear, such as Molly Millions from “Johnny Mnemonic” and The Finn, the fence in “Burning Chrome.”
As represented in this collection, much of Gibson’s work combines elements of three traditions: hard science fiction (technological development), soft science fiction (social change), and New Wave (cynicism and apprehension about the future). These broad elements serve to examine themes such as isolation, relationships, and identity.
Identity in Gibson’s work is fluid. Names and faces, and even data stores, can be changed. The degree of fluidity ranges from Johnny Mnemonic’s temporary assumption of another face and persona to the chameleon-like adaptations of “The Belonging Kind.” Not all fluid identities are conscious or desired. Both Parker in “Fragments of a Hologram Rose” and Fox in “New Rose Hotel” sift through fragments in hopes of seeing an unknown whole. Parker’s fragments are isolated memories of his past; Fox’s are his identification cards.
It is perhaps...
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