Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Neuromancer was the most important book in the short-lived “cyberpunk” movement in 1980’s science fiction. Cyberpunk works share a pessimistic and dystopian view of the future. In Neuromancer, for example, the gap between rich and poor is large. The Tessier-Ashpools live in a luxurious enclave on a space station; in Chiba City, people sleep on the streets. Human life is cheap; Case has killed three people as a street hustler. Safety lies in allegiance to a corporation, a religious sect, a government, or some other organization.
Moreover, many cyberpunk characters have a nihilistic attitude toward life. Linda Lee is the best example in the novel. She is a drug addict and a computer-game devotee. She lives as if there is no tomorrow, and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when she is murdered in the opening scenes.
The novel’s settings are mostly urban, and most of the action takes place at night. There is a definite film noir atmosphere. In Neuromancer, there is a continuous city between Atlanta and Boston. Its official name is the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis (BAMA), and its popular name is the Sprawl. Even the space habitats are more like cities than frontier towns.
There is also a widespread proliferation of technology, especially inside the human body. Case is able to interface with the matrix through a connection to his brain. An implant in Molly’s brain connects her and...
(The entire section is 269 words.)
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Neuromancer envisions the future as a place where humans and machines increasingly interact. Technology invades the human body in the form of grafts, implants, cloning, and carbon sockets which allow machines direct access to the body. Microsofts can be inserted directly into the body like computer disks, making the body in essence a programmable machine. Conversely, machines become more human as well. Technology provides the option of creating artificial "constructs" that recreate a person's intellect, image, and personality so that the person can "live" even after his/her death. The artificial intelligences created by Marie-France Tessier-Ashpool change and adapt to new conditions and desires just as people do.
Neuromancer's technology also allows for humans to interact more closely, Simstim, for instance, allows one person to "ride" along with another, experiencing another's thoughts, sensations, and actions. Entertainment like simstim or Peter Riviera's projected hallucinations become the ultimate form of voyeurism.
Gibson's characters protect consciousness by numbing it through designer drugs, alcohol, or sex. The body is regarded as "meat," weak and vulnerable. Case's body becomes his own enemy, slowly being poisoned by implanted toxin sacs. Characters protect themselves from the pain of life by turning inward into the mind. Cyberspace cowboys even experience occasional brain death from their experiences in the matrix....
(The entire section is 464 words.)