The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

A collection of primarily near-future stories, Burning Chrome demonstrates the style, ambiguity, and dark vision characteristic of William Gibson’s work. The ten stories in this collection can be divided into four groups on the basis of their settings.

“New Rose Hotel,” “Johnny Mnemonic,” and “Burning Chrome” are stories of the Sprawl, set in the early twenty-first century Earth further developed in the novels Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988). High technology, organized crime, powerful megacorporations, and an economy driven by information services dominate a world divided sharply into haves and have-nots. These three short stories set up the basic patterns of Sprawl conflict: individuals against powerful corporations, individuals against organized crime, and low-power individuals against high-power individuals. In “New Rose Hotel,” the nameless narrator details the machinations of corporate headhunters and the inexorable, deadly vengeance of their employer after a defection goes wrong. The title character of “Johnny Mnemonic” is a walking safebox for other people’s data. He is left with data stolen from the Yakuza, the Japanese crime syndicate, locked in his head after a client is killed. With the help of Molly Millions, a surgically enhanced bodyguard/assassin, and Jones, a drug-addicted former Navy Dolphin, Johnny evades the Yakuza and begins to make use of all the data he has ever stored. In “Burning Chrome,” Bobby Quine and Automatic Jack, hot-shot computer jockeys, use stolen Russian military software to break into the computer...

(The entire section is 673 words.)