(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In Neuromancer, Henry Dorsett Case is a cyberspace cowboy, or computer hacker. He is running toward suicide because the criminals he was working for have chemically altered his brain so he can no longer enter cyberspace, the visualization of the computer universe accessed through a keyboard. He is captured by Molly, who is working for Armitage. Armitage restores Case’s ability and sends him on a “run” into cyberspace, but he also has toxin sacs sewn into his arteries that will maim him again if he fails to complete his assignment. Case and Molly employ the services of the Finn, a fence and computer expert, to find out who is employing Armitage. They all travel to the Sprawl—a vast megalopolis that covers all of the territory between Boston and Atlanta—where Armitage instructs them to steal the Dixie Flatline, the ROM construct (computer-encoded mind) of a dead cyberspace cowboy. Shortly afterward, they discover that an artificial intelligence (AI) called Wintermute is the moving force behind Armitage.

The group travels to Istanbul, where Peter Riviera joins them, and they then take the JAL Shuttle, transferring to Zion Cluster, an orbiting miniworld run by Rastafarians, several of whom Wintermute has coopted. They move on to Freeside, a vast entertainment and commercial vacation paradise in high orbit, where they prepare to enter Straylight Villa, a private enclave at its tip. Straylight Villa is the family home of Lady 3Jane Tessier-Ashpool, and the group has been instructed to force Lady 3Jane to assist them by providing them with a password in the physical side of their run.

The run turns out to be the illegal amalgamation of two AIs, Wintermute and Neuromancer. On the way to its completion, Armitage commits suicide, Riviera dies of poisoned drugs, and Case experiences “flatlining,” a temporary death of the body, while first Wintermute and then Neuromancer place him in virtual worlds. With the assistance of the Dixie Flatline construct and his own immense anger at the manipulations of which he has been a victim, Case finally breaks through and allows the AIs to merge. As the story ends, Molly and Case have been made rich, the toxin sacs have been removed, and the couple go their separate ways. The entity created from the combined AIs announces that it now is the cyberspace matrix and has discovered another intelligence in Alpha Centauri.

In Count Zero, Turner is hired by Conroy to assist in the defection of Christopher Mitchell. The project goes very wrong, as the transfer site is destroyed and only Turner and Mitchell’s daughter Angie escape alive. Unsure of who has betrayed the operation, Turner retreats to his brother Rudy’s rural hideaway and then takes a hovercraft to the New York portion of the Sprawl, constantly on the run from attackers. Angie’s brain has been augmented with biosofts by her father, and she is therefore a target. She has seizures when she is possessed and guided by voodoo gods who dwell in the network matrix of cyberspace.

Meanwhile, Bobby Newark—a would-be cyberspace cowboy living in the slums of Barrytown—nearly loses his life when he tries to run an “icebreaker,” or hacking program. He escapes brain death only when Angie (unbeknown to him) intervenes in cyberspace. Bobby is pursued by those alerted by his attempt, until he is rescued by Two-a-Day’s helpers after he has been badly cut up and robbed. He meets the black lawyer Beauvoir and his friend Lucas, who are interested in him because they think their voodoo god was the source of the voice that saved him in cyberspace. Beauvoir and Lucas shepherd Bobby to the Sprawl, where he ends up in Jammer’s eighth-floor nightclub, under siege from Conroy and Josef Virek. Turner eventually brings Angie to the same club.

Marly’s art gallery has collapsed because her lover Alain perpetuated a fraud. She is hired by Virek to track down the...

(The entire section is 1599 words.)