One of the most striking features of Neuromancer is its surface texture. Gibson creates the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of a landscape never before experienced. This is primarily an urban world — crowded, poisoned, and dangerous. The famous first line of Neuromancer describes Chiba City: "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." Case participates in the buzz of the city, flowing with the crowds, performing his role in the "biz" of the streets. He sleeps in a "coffin," a tiny box situated among Hers of similar cubicles.
As is apparent in the image of the Chiba City sky above, nature is often described in terms of technology. In Neuromancer nature has receded, evidently contaminated by some nuclear devastation. It only appears in fringe zones between population centers like the Sprawl, which reaches from Boston to Atlanta, or in recreated hallucinations like the beach in Morocco where Case's dead girlfriend, Linda Lee, appears to him in a version of paradise designed to prevent him from carrying out his mission.
Gibson creates his setting through dense tactile detail. He uses specific brand names: Case lights a Yeheyuan, not a cigarette; he jacks into an Ono-Sendai deck attached to a Hosaka, not just into a computer; the artificial sky above Freeport is created by a Lado-Acheson lighting system. Gibson pays attention to color and texture as well. Clothing is described in...
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Ideas for Group Discussions
Gibson's work provokes the same strong responses generated by punk music and punk fashion. His work attracts an audience beyond those who normally read science fiction because of his unique vision of computer cyberspace, a vision that has begun to become reality in the lives of many readers. Gibson has consciously tried to react against what he saw as a number of sterile conventions of science fiction. Although Gibson does not present his near-future world as either utopic or dystopic, clearly his vision of one possible near-future invites discussion of such topics as the impact of technology and war on society, the role of multinational corporations, and the impact of living in a world where nature has receded.
1. Describe the world of Chiba City and the Sprawl, How do these cities carry out certain contemporary tendencies?
2. Freeport and the spindle is an artificially created spaceport that is touted as the ultimate vacation destination. Describe its enticements and compare it to contemporary vacation paradises.
3. What happens when the two AI's, Wintermute and Neuromancer, unite?
4. Discuss the role of female characters in the novel (e.g., Molly, 3Jane, Marie-France, Linda Lee).
5. Characters in the novel are frequently enhanced or changed through technology. Describe various instances where this occurs and discuss whether these uses of technology are helpful or dehumanizing.
6. Fashion in...
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Arguably, Gibson's novel Neuromancer became a best seller not because it allows a glimpse of the future but because it provides a glimpse of the present. Technology and how that technology affects lives has been central to human concerns since the use of the first tool. Neuromancer explores the increasing interaction between humans and machines and its possible consequences for political and economic power, the environment, popular culture, and the quality of life in general. The pace of change has increased with each passing decade as humans struggle to determine the priorities in their lives and how the future relates to the past.
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Neuromancer comes from the twin traditions of the heist caper and science fiction but with a postmodern twist. Gibson uses the plot of the team of criminals gathered for their individual skills by a mastermind on a mission. Suspense builds concerning whether the intricate plans will succeed and whether the team will coalesce. Plot twists and surprises are common elements, and the possibility of a traitor in the midst of the team threatens the plan. Who can really be trusted?
Neuromancer also continues science fiction traditions in its creation of a future world and in its reliance on speculative technologies. Neuromancer breaks the mold of recent science fiction, however, by rejecting the trend toward space fantasy and mythic struggles between good and evil for the fate of the universe.
Gibson's work has frequently been linked with trends in postmodern fiction, characterized by such authors as William Burroughs and Thomas Pynchon. Postmodernism questions the novel's role in creating an ordered, realistic universe. Postmodernism instead experiments with disintegration and uncertainty as primary modes of expression. Gibson's kaleidoscopic setting, fast pace, fragmented style, and enigmatic ending all point to postmodern influences.
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Neuromancer is the first book in Gibson's Sprawl (or Matrix) trilogy. Count Zero (1986) and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) complete the series. Certain characters like Molly and the Finn recur, but the novels are independent works. Molly reappears under the alias Sally Shears in Mona Lisa Overdrive and plays a central role in that novel. Certain characters like Case make only brief appearances in later novels. The characters of Angie Mitchell and Bobby Newmark, introduced in Count Zero, reappear in Mona Lisa Overdrive. The trilogy is also related to Gibson's early story, "Johnny Mnemonic." In Neuromancer Molly refers to a friend named Johnny who was killed by the Yakuza.
The novels can be read separately without relying on previous information, but familiarity with Gibson's style and previous settings and characters helps make reading the later novels less confusing.
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Delany, Samuel. Silent Interviews: On Language, Race, Sex, Science Fiction, and Some Comics. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1994. Pages 172-174 deal specifically with Gibson, and there are other comments on Gibson and cyberpunk sprinkled through the book. By an author often associated with the New Wave.
Dozois, Gardner, ed. Modern Classics of Science Fiction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. The editor’s introduction to Gibson’s story “The Winter Market” summarizes Gibson’s career until 1991.
Hartwell, David, ed. The Science Fiction Century. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1997. Hartwell’s introductory remarks to Gibson’s story “Johnny Mnemonic” and the overall concept of this anthology put Gibson’s work in historical context.
Hartwell, David, and Kathryn Kramer, eds. The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1994. The editors, along with contributor Gregory Benford, place Gibson’s work in relationship to traditional science fiction.
Sterling, Bruce, ed. Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology. New York: Arbor House, 1986. The preface provides a good overview of cyberpunk writings.
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