When Neuromancer was published in 1984, it was immediately recognized as a major breakthrough in science fiction. It won the three major science-fiction novel awards, the Hugo Award (1985), the Nebula Award (1984), and the Philip K. Dick Award (1984). The succeeding volumes of the Neuromancer Trilogy, also called the Sprawl trilogy, were also nominated for Hugo and Nebula awards. William Gibson had succeeded in creating a whole new framework for science fiction that was quickly labeled “cyberpunk.” Its originality lay in the combination of a vision of a world radically altered by computer technology and other scientific developments and a vision of violence frequently perpetrated in the name of transnational commercial groupings. Thus, Gibson’s new subgenre combined “cyber”—derived from cybernetics, the science of control typified by computing—and “punk”—a term used to designate both street violence and a music-based antiestablishment counterculture—while adding a surreal twist to the mixture.
Gibson’s style features a dizzying array of invention and projection of the present into a richly textured world three hundred years in the future. Driven at a terrific narrative pace, a reader is whipped through this violent future without explanation or rationalization. Things simply “are,” as the narratives are driven by chases, mysteries, and revelations.
Gibson coined the word “cyberspace” to describe a shared hallucination of the contents of all networked electronic media. In cyberspace, all data are represented in graphic form as virtual buildings or constellations. “Entering” this space using their computer talents, data thieves such as Case and the Count are future criminals addicted to their own skills. At the end of Neuromancer, there is a brief flash of an idea that beings actually can exist in the net—that it is a space after all, and not merely a hallucinatory representation of a nonspatial data structure. In the two succeeding novels, voodoo gods appear to exist in cyberspace, and then a number of the human characters who jack into cyberspace appear to be able to exist there, within their own illusory environments.
The texture of Gibson’s writing has been likened to that of surrealism because he often takes real phenomena from the present world and twists them in order to represent their future shapes. For example, the housing projects near New York in Mona Lisa Overdrive are called...
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