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.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Gibson injected new life into a science fiction genre that seemed tired to many in the 1980s. As Bruce Sterling accurately noted in the...

(The entire section is 338 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

1. Drastic cosmetic surgery is the norm in the world of "Johnny Mnemonic" and "Burning Chrome." Johnny Mnemonic wants to keep a "Caucasoid"...

(The entire section is 281 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Burning Chrome is a collection of William Gibson's science-fiction short stories. He wrote this collection in the 1980s as the...

(The entire section is 1442 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote "Artist of the Beautiful," "Rappaccini's Daughter," "The Birthmark," House of the Seven Gables. One of...

(The entire section is 288 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Burning Chrome presents a broad spectrum of Gibson's capabilities. The Strand stories set the stage for his most acclaimed novel,...

(The entire section is 168 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Johnny Mnemonic. Dir. Robert Longo. Perf. Keanu Reeves, Dina Meyer, Dolph Lungren, Takeshi Kitano, Ice-T, Henry Rollins. Screenplay by...

(The entire section is 918 words.)


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Cavallaro, Dani. Cyberpunk and Cyberculture: Science Fiction and the Work of William Gibson. New Brunswick, N.J.: Athlone Press, 2000.

Easterbrook, Neil. “The Arc of Our Destruction: Reversal and Erasure in Cyberpunk.” Science Fiction Studies 19, no. 3 (November, 1992): 378-394.

McCaffery, Larry, ed. Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Science Fiction. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1991.

Olsen, Lance. William Gibson. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1992.

Slusser, George, and Tom Shippey, eds. Fiction 2000: Cyberpunk and the Future of Narrative. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992.

Tabbi, Joseph. Postmodern Sublime: Technology and American Writing from Mailer to Cyberpunk. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995.