on January 4, 2004
Neuromancer is seen as a cyberpunk classic, so it's disappointing that I didn't enjoy it more. The IDEAS in this book are more interesting than the book itself, I'm afraid. But I'll give credit where it's due - Gibson innovated the concepts that are behind The Matrix and other science fiction.
Gibson's world is flashy and fashion forward. Boundaries are meaningless as characters zoom around the globe, through space, and leap into virtual reality. They're fitted with implanted lenses and inventive weapons. Described in stylized detail, these settings are Neuromancer's strength.
It takes work to understand what's going on, however. The author throws out foreign and fictional words without explaining what they are. We're expected to deduce their meanings, resulting in some confusion. I don't want to be spoon fed, but with some more explanation I could have enjoyed Neuromancer instead of trying to figure out what was going on.
If this book was written today, I would not have been impressed. However, I'll still recommend Neuromancer because it was far ahead of its time in 1984.
on September 22, 2003
Wow, what a disappointment this book turned out to be. Don't get me wrong, it's a solid book but not near the amazing piece of literature I was expecting. I suppose this book started the cyberpunk revolution, but I didn't find him near as "cutting edge" as everyone made him out to be - even taking into account the year it was published.
First, the plot felt like it was "tacked" on so Gibson could show us his, admittedly, good use of imagery (the main character is hired by someone to do a job, but his employer is not quite what he seems - original eh?). Imagery does not a novel make, though, and I've read earlier stuff from many authors (e.g. Harlan Ellison) that had better imagery and even seemed more "punk".
Secondly, although the style was strong, it masked a lack of depth to the characters. The style was reminiscent of dark mystery writing, without the personality of some of the characters in those novels.
Finally, I was surprised how the computer stuff wasn't even that original - even in the year it was published. I believe, however, it did coin some phrases including "matrix".
So why did it sweep all those awards? I suppose because at the time it was published it was viewed as "prophetic" - probably the fact that it got a lot of mainstream attention helped too.
on June 20, 2003
From a brief survey of the reviews on this site, people either love this book or hate it. It's a work that leaves little room for ambivalence. Yet that is the reaction that it provokes in me.
Gibson's world is imaginative, his prose taut, his imagery vivid, his attitude a cocky swagger shoved in your face. So what's not to like?
Its very surfeit of style, is what. In fact, there's so much style that it overwhelms the substance. This, I suspect, is what his detractors can't stand. This book is smothered in style, from the various settings all reeking of decay to the punk fashion in the characters' dress to the throw-away jargon and mannered ennui that inform their speech to the staccato fragments that comprise Gibson's prose. Gibson's decision to enthrone style turns this book into the literary equivalent of a high fashion strut. Those who love it admire its flaunt, its poise, its very excess. Those who hate it despise it for the same reasons. Shouldn't science fiction be more intellectual fare?
I suppose it depends on your tolerance for excess. While Gibson overdoses on style, he doesn't vacate substance. His dystopian vision is as disturbing as Brave New World or 1984 (the very year this book was published). Neuromancer cautions us against corporatism, rampant consumerism, the seduction of immortality and the hive mind. It also speculates about artificial intelligence, bio-techno symbiosis, universal information matrices and the nature of reality. Such a substantive collection of themes is nothing to sneer at. But this book doesn't deserve the boatload of awards that it garnered either.
Personally, I have little tolerance for excess. I value restraint over indulgence, introspection over flamboyance. Brilliance shines brightest when freed from artifice. There is brilliance in this book, but it is buried under the mass of all that cool posturing.
Ultimately, this book is worth reading, not least for its numerous firsts. But discerning readers must steel themselves against its cynical, oh-so-hip nihilism.
on August 12, 2002
Perhaps the only thing worse than reading a bad book is reading a book that has the blaring potential to be great, but somehow falls short.
"Neuromancer" is filled with thoughts, images, and scenes which are nothing short of brilliant and ground-breaking. Written in 1984, Gibson's ability to imagine the future of technology amazes me. He doesn't craft "Star Trek" worlds--idealized, raceless, places where everybody gets along (although we all love Star Trek, one must admit that its character interaction is a little less than realistic). Neither does Gibson let his technology get out of hand--people can't travel faster than light, nobody mates with aliens, or has an epiphany about the nature of the universe. It's Earth, plain and simple (although it's obvious he wrote it in the middle of the Decade of Excess--mirrored surgical optical insets? ick.). The man who coined the term "Cyberspace" creates a complex future which is ultimately believable.
Unfortunately--and this is where the rating part comes in-- as I was reading, I found myself stopping every page or two, scratching my temple, and going "HUH?" Listen, guys, before you tell me I'm just slamming the novel because it's popular, let's put it into perspective. I'm an experienced reader. I've been able to read Kerouac, Murakami, Vonnegut, and other notoriously confusing writers' works without a hitch. For a few identifiable and probably a few more unidentifiable reasons, "Neuromancer" gave me problems.
I realize it's a matter of style more than anything; Gibson wants to set an atmosphere by using particular words, sentence structures, and chronology techniques. However, the effect is something like that of a dress produced for a fashion show--what looks great on the runway is not necessarily practical or feasible for everyday life. For short bursts, Gibson's prose is lucid, vivid, and startling. However, taken in chunks much longer than a page, the gaps in action frustrate even a patient reader. There were times when I absolutely, positively could not follow what was going on, even after stopping and rereading several times. The experience was similar to trying to solve a puzzle with a hundred pieces missing. The prose, or lack thereof, probably cut my enjoyment of the novel in half.
"Neuromancer", however, is still a ground-breaking book, with so much insight and so many redeeming qualities that I'd still reccomend any SF fan read it. I just wish that Gibson had had a better understanding of prose and literary technique to make his ideas and images _really_ shine.
on May 8, 2002
Neuromancer may be an "important" book, but I don't think it really was the first "cyberpunk" novel. That award would almost surely have to go to Alfred Bester's 'The Stars My Destination', a novel truly ahead of its time, and much better written and far more innovative than 'Neuromancer'. Still, despite all the hype, there are some interesting things here for the SF fan. Other reviews have covered every aspect of the plot--and probably ruined it for folks who ain't read it yet--so I just want to mention a way to make the novel more enjoyable. I recommend putting some mildly disturbing music on in the background as you read. Even though this is a mainstream work of fiction, I don't recommend something obvious like Nine Inch Nails. Instead, any CD by the band Godflesh would be appropriate, especially newer material that sounds less "technoish" and more like stoner rock. I combined the two--the book and the music--and it made for a pretty enjoyable, though slightly depressing, experience.
on May 29, 2001
Neuromancer has its ups and downs. Every reader has to recognize William Gibson's absolute brilliance when it comes to describing Cyberspace, hacking (which should be called Cracking now), and the computer scene. However, written in the 1980s, it is apparent the Gibson was still not able to articulate things as well as an author nowadays could. As a result, Neuromancer is a tricky novel to get into, but worth the read if readers are willing to dedicate more time than usual to each page.
Case's adventure is rather intriguing, but I found that the whole conflict was ambiguous at best. I understood what was happening for the most part, but Gibson's lack of detail and descriptive paragraphs of characters and events hindered Neuromancer's potential.
Nonetheless, Gibson needed to be more precise. Characters' are confusing, his lack of proper noun usage makes Neuromancer hard to follow. In fact, the entire story seems to be unclear to the author. While there are not many inconsistencies, Gibson clearly had to rethink the conflict several time while admist writing Neuromancer.
Being the first Gibson novel I have read, I hope to read more of his books, wishing they will be far more comprehensive than this one.
on October 2, 2000
This was my first cyberpunk novel. I am into sci-fi, and have read authors whose work have some similarities (e.g., Philip K. Dick) but nothing quite like this. Indeed, this is a strange book. William Gibson did two things which made this book somewhat worthwhile. First, it reads very quickly. Second, the dialogue is very good.
Now for my negative comments. This book is way too convoluted for the general sci-fi reader. Frank Herbert provided a glossary in his DUNE novel. Why Gibson chose not to do the same is beyond me. By not doing so, Gibson effectively alienates a portion of his audience that simply does not comprehened a wide array of techno-jargon. Gibson could have alleviated this problem, on some level, if he were to actually explain some of the concepts in the book itself. Unfortunately he chose not to. Therefore, if you are not a techno junkie, you have been warned.
The story itself is a little thin, as is the characterization. There are some interesting developments here and there, but generally nothing to knock your socks off.
(I said the book reads fast yet at the same time I said it was confusing. I know that usually doesn't happen, but it did here.)
on January 30, 2000
This is an important book. It is also deeply flawed as a piece of fiction, with clever use of breathless jargon covering up the cracks in the plot and the author's sketchy grasp of the fabric of the world it is set in. Whether the characters are cardboard or iconic, is debatable. However, it was published in 1984, and it seems incredible that Gibson articulated such a lasting and still reasonably coherent vision at all. This book has been stolen from for the last fifteen years until much of its vision now has been molded into the cliches of techno-hypists like George Gilder, and into the products of a generation of Internet entrepreneurs.
Gibson's real forte at the time of publication was short stories, where disjointed writing is an accepted style and sometimes actually adds to the its power. The collection Burning Chrome is a distillation of the crucial ideas in this novel--a series of well-aimed gut punches, to Neuromancer's energetic but drunken flailing. Read the short stories and wonder why Neuromancer received all the awards.
on April 1, 2004
I get the feeling that Neuromancer won the awards and the popularity it did more because of the ideas it presents and its overladen prose than because of a good story or deep characters. Yes, it 'started cyberpunk', and the gritty yet slick setting does have a sense of depth and life.
Unfortunately, it's heavily burdened by prose that has a tendency to blur your eyes and make you shake your head in an effort to pay attention to what you're reading.
Most of the novel, in fact, suffers from an inability to make the reader care about what's happening. Gibson seems more committed to using three adjectives in a row and spewing simile after simile than capturing the reader's interest. I suppose you could call this "film noir" style, but for me, it just didn't work.
Coupled with a severe lack of information about what's going on and a numb, detached approach to its limited third person point of view, it's really hard to turn the next page and reach the end of this short novel that feels like it's three times longer than some of the monstrous tomes I've read.
The story itself is difficult to care about. It revolves around the machinations of a powerful artificial intelligence, but it's hard to understand what the point of the whole thing is, even after you've reached the last dissatisfying sentence. Sure, I understood the story, I just didn't understand why I was supposed to care.
Part of this apathy comes from a fundamental lack of characterization. The point of view is very 'cold'--that is, you don't get much inside the head of Case, and when you do, his thoughts are almost always analytical. When the sole viewpoint character doesn't feel any emotion for 90% of the story, it's kind of hard to feel emotion yourself. It's especially irritating that the novel is structured as a character story about Case's loss of his ability to 'jack in' and his death wish, and yet he never seems to care about much of anything (or Gibson fails to tell us about it if he does).
It seems to me that the appeal of this book is more for those who want to experience a well-developed milieu and pretty surface coating, as it has little power or significance as a story.
If you're looking for a detailed and skillfully constructed world, packaged in wordy description, or you want to see the roots of the cyberpunk genre, this novel is for you. If you're looking for an interesting, powerful story with deep characters, you won't find it here.
on May 27, 2003
This book is brilliant as all the previous reviewers can agree. Gibson does craft an amazing world, blah, blah, blah. We all know how that goes. Unfortunately, yes, this book is very hard to follow. Case, the main character, will randomly slip into dreams because he is either asleep or even more confusingly stuck in the Matrix, and "flatlined". Over all though, this book does get a point across and leads to many questions about Computers and how much faith we do put in them.
Overall though, this book has some heavy philosophy about not only a darker future, but also dealing with issues of technology, poverty and corporate expansion. If your interested in Sci-Fi, or even watched "The Matrix" and wondered where some of these ideas had come from, you should be familiar with this book.