(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Stylistically, William Gibson draws heavily on the hard-boiled detective fiction of Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, and Dashiell Hammett. The term “cyberpunk” came into being with Bruce Bethke’s 1983 story of the same name, but Gibson and occasional collaborator Bruce Sterling quickly became the most famous writers in the cyberpunk subgenre. As a cyberpunk novelist, Gibson combines gritty realism and violent action with a sophisticated sense of what a computer-saturated world might be like. His language melds streetwise dialogue and hard-hitting narration with technological and consumer jargon.

The Neuromancer novels are mysteries that become increasingly complex, as the multidirectional plots of the later two texts indicate, and difficult to solve. Where a Hammett or Cain novel might involve a missing person or a strange crime, Gibson centers on the pursuit of knowledge, particularly the hidden keys to structures of information and to the nature of consciousness itself. The questions posed by Gibson’s protagonists about themselves or their world remain largely unanswered. Even if some solution is found, it is often abortive, incomplete, or unsatisfying. Often, as in Neuromancer, those involved in a “run” on the matrix or a quest in the physical world are unaware of who employs them, of what they are looking for, or of the exact nature of their task. They simply act according to orders or instinct, sometimes groping blindly with no sense of direction or position. A pervasive sense of confusion and failure...

(The entire section is 631 words.)