Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 682

William Gibson divides Neuromancer into three parts, plus an epilogue. The first takes place in Chiba City, a Japanese industrial town where Case is a street hustler. The second part occurs in New York and Istanbul, and the third takes place on two space stations in orbit around the earth....

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William Gibson divides Neuromancer into three parts, plus an epilogue. The first takes place in Chiba City, a Japanese industrial town where Case is a street hustler. The second part occurs in New York and Istanbul, and the third takes place on two space stations in orbit around the earth. All the events take place within a few months in the late twenty-first century. Gibson uses an omniscient third-person narrator throughout the story, but the narrator describes events only from Case’s point of view and invents jargon and slang.

The European section of Chiba City is a slum with little or no supervision by law enforcement. Anything is available for a price. In addition to the traditional rackets of drug trafficking and prostitution, there is trade in stolen computer hardware and pirated software.

Cash is illegal in Japan and rarely used for legitimate transactions elsewhere in the world. Linda Lee, Case’s girlfriend, steals a memory chip containing money from Case. When she attempts to sell it, the supposed buyer simply kills her rather than pay her price.

The same night, Case meets Molly, a mercenary. Molly escorts Case to Armitage, who is planning some sort of illegal operation. He both bribes and blackmails Case into joining them.

The location then shifts to New York City, now only one part of the Sprawl, officially known as BAMA (Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis). By this time, there is a continuous city stretching from Boston to Atlanta, with the greatest density around Atlanta and New York. Here the conspirators rehearse their plot by breaking into the headquarters of Sense/Net, a corporation. The Panther Moderns, a professional terrorist group, aid them. Molly has an implant in her brain that allows Case to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste everything Molly does. The communication is strictly one-way; Molly gets no information from Case. Molly physically breaks into the building while Case breaks into the computer system to assist her. He does not use a monitor and keyboard. By this time, the Internet has evolved into what Gibson calls the “matrix,” which uses virtual reality. Case directly connects his brain to the matrix. Molly steals a data construct that contains the personality and memories of the late Dixie Flatline, formerly Case’s mentor.

The location shifts once again to Istanbul, where the plotters kidnap a performing holographic artist, Peter Reveira, and recruit him for their conspiracy. Istanbul is also the first place where Wintermute directly contacts Case. Wintermute is an artificial intelligence that controls Armitage and is the driving force behind their plot.

The conspirators then take a space shuttle to a small space habitat called Zion. Earlier in the century, a group of Rastafarians founded Zion for the purpose of providing a refuge for their people. Wintermute has recruited them for his operation by claiming to be a prophet and claiming that the Last Days predicted in the biblical Book of Revelation have arrived. The Rastafarian elders do not trust Wintermute because Revelations also warns that there will be a false prophet in the Last Days. Nevertheless, they provide the conspirators with logistical support for their operation and assign Aerol and Maelcum to help them. The Rastafarians transport them to Freeside, a much larger space habitat.

Peter Reveira’s show attracts the attention of 3Jane Tessier-Ashpool, whose family owns the Tessier-Ashpool Corporation, which controls both Wintermute and Freeside. She invites Reveira into her family’s portion of Freeside, where he helps Molly get inside. However, he then betrays her.

Molly meets Hideo, a Ninja clone who wounds her. At the same time, Case breaks into the computer system with the aid of the Dixie Flatline construct. He meets Neuromancer, another artificial intelligence owned by Tessier-Ashpool. Neuromancer creates a virtual-reality world consisting of a beach house inhabited by Linda Lee. However, Case resists the temptation to live with this virtual-reality version of Linda and exits the system. Case then leaves his console and physically follows Molly into the Tessier-Ashpool enclave. He rescues her, and they confront 3Jane, who knows the codes that can free Wintermute and Neuromancer.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 684

The protagonist of Neuromancer is Case, whom no one calls by his first name. In the opening chapter, he is barely making it as a street hustler in Chiba City, a suburb of Tokyo where many Europeans and Americans live. Case was formerly a cyberspace cowboy who stole data from banks, corporations, and governments, but he was caught double-crossing one of his clients. This client punished him by altering his nervous system so he can no longer use the neural implants required to interface with the world’s computer matrix.

Case is recruited by a mysterious man named Armitage to become a cyberspace cowboy once again. In addition to a generous fee, Armitage arranges for Case’s nervous system to be repaired. However, the surgeons also install sacs of poison with time-release mechanisms into Case’s body so he will not consider disappearing. Armitage promises to remove the poison when Case accomplishes his mission. Case later finds out that Armitage’s real name is Willis Corto and that he is a soldier who lost his eyesight, legs, part of his jaw, and his sanity in World War III. Someone has restored him physically, but Case quickly realizes that Armitage’s apparent sanity is only a facade. Armitage was inspired by the character of Commissioner Hauk in the 1981 film Escape from New York.

Armitage’s principal associate is Molly Millions, a former prostitute who is now a “razor girl.” Gibson originally created Molly for “Johnny Mnemonic” and featured her again in Mona Lisa Overdrive. Retractable razors have been implanted into her hands in place of her fingernails, and her reflexes have been enhanced.

The next person enlisted into the gang is actually a dead man, McCoy Pauley, also known as Dixie Flatline. He was a top cyberspace cowboy who became brain dead when he encountered the electronic defenses of an artificial intelligence (AI). The gang steals a cassette of his recorded memories, skills, and personality to help them crack the defenses of the same AI that killed him.

The last recruit is Peter Riviera, a holographic performing artist and Demerol addict. He is also a psychopath and the least trustworthy member of the team. His mission will be to seduce 3Jane Marie-France Tessier-Ashpool, a member of the Tessier-Ashpool family currently residing at the family home on the space habitat Freeside. The Tessier-Ashpools are one of the wealthiest families in the world, and they own Freeside.

The power behind Armitage is an AI named Wintermute, based in a mainframe in Berne, Switzerland, that is owned by the Tessier-Ashpools. It is akin to the one that killed Pauley, also owned by the Tessier-Ashpools but based in a mainframe in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Since Wintermute is not human, its motivations are mysterious, but in one sense it is the most human of all the characters in the novel. It knows in some way that it is incomplete and that there is more to existence than processing data.

The team is assisted by the inhabitants of Zion, a space colony founded by five Rastafarians convinced that they were living in the Final Days, as described in the Book of Revelations, and who regard the entire earth as a modern-day Babylon. Rasta is an actual religion with about one million adherents. It originated in Jamaica in the 1930’s and is the source of reggae music. The Rastafarians’ space tug is named after Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), a proponent of black nationalism and African American separatism.

Neuromancer shows the influence of film noir, the pre-1960 crime films photographed in black and white, because the novel’s plot takes the form of a caper. In a traditional caper film, such as The Asphalt Jungle (1950), the protagonists are a group of criminals who band together to rob a jewelry store, bank, or other location where valuables are stored. In Neuromancer, the goal is information, not jewelry or cash, but in Gibson’s vision of the year 2035, information can be as valuable as gold. Something goes wrong, of course, and whether the gang succeeds or even survives is in doubt until the last chapter.

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