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 Case. Cosmetic surgery, hormone therapy, and genetic engineering are also common.
Gibson’s vision of the future is a fascinating one, but no one would want to live there unless they had a lot of money.