This is the fourth in a series of 52. For more information on this personal project go here: 52 Reads Project
Bob is Arch Rival’s primary photographer, and it’s been neat-o to see his artistic skill develop as the league/team has also improved. When I am bedridden at 45, his oeuvre will remind me that it was all worth it. He’s also legitimately smart. I carry an aura of intelligence but am secretly kind of dumb. I am always hoping to steal a few bits of legit-smart brain nuggets from him. Don’t tell.
This week’s read is Neuromancer by William Gibson. “I like cyberpunk and even if you have read it, it is a nice book to read again.”
I had not read Neuromancer previously.
It was… tough.
Have you ever had that moment–maybe it was in a lecture, maybe it was at practice, maybe it was your entire 23rd year—when you paid crazy close attention but processed absolutely nothing? This is kind of what reading Neuromancer felt like this week.
It’s not a bad book. It just didn’t take.
Like a lot of science fiction, Gibson shuttles us right into his nasty, dangerous, and foreign tech-filled world. There’s very little time to catch a breath and learn the ropes. The book not only migrates from Japan to Istanbul to the Sprawl, it also flits in and out of some sort of globally accessible simulation referred to by several different names including: the matrix. Sometimes the people Case, our main man, interacts with are real. But sometimes they are simulations created by a nefarious piece of AI called Wintermute (I think?)
It’s also tough to tell the men he is interacting with apart. He might be talking to the boxed consciousness of a dead old war buddy (maybe?) or a mob boss (kind of?) or a sleazy dude who can project his dreams (just kidding, this character is totally distinctive and icky). Layer this uncertainty with the nebulous nature of cyberspace and artificial intelligence, plus several metaphysical bait and switches, and… I was happy to turn to cyberspace for its true-blue purpose: following a raccoon’s journey up a skyscraper.
God bless the babe of this tale: Molly Millions. When she appears, the whole narrative sharpens like the retractable blades embedded her fingernails. Default protag Case becomes more knowable and likable when he is merely a psychic ride-along taking a backseat to her violent competence.
Gibson’s writing is thick but not impermeable. It deserves more time to disassemble and digest. I found myself inserting pauses where Gibson left none. I’d retreat a few pages and re-center myself and then move on. I like sci-fi concepts, but often find myself needing a lot of time to parse the language, structure, and technology of hard science fiction. (This genre drills down into so many subgenres, I’m not certain that designation even applies.) I often prefer cyberpunk in film or graphic novels because the visual nature of those formats aids my understanding.
I agree with Bob. This does seem like a nice book to read again. I’ll one up him and say: it seems necessary to read again to get a fuller grasp on the world and the noir-ish plot. As it stands, shadows of the book’s imagery continue to infest my brain. I keep stringing the word vatgrown between my teeth. I wonder if mirrored implants will trend next year. And, I aspirationally keep Neuromancer in my to-read pile for those long, lazy bedridden days of my near future.
Up Next: History of Love by Nicole Krauss recommended by a mysterious figure named Eddie.
Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo. A lot of classic cyberpunk borrows from Japanese culture without actually featuring distinctly Japanese characters. Akira is manga that weaves an unnerving story featuring Japanese teenage motorcycle gang members. But, let’s move on. If I think too much about Tetsuo’s visceral transformation, I’ll lose my lunch.
Feed by M. T. Anderson. This is a YA novel and therefore a bit more accessible than more heady adult cyberpunk fiction. Written in the earliest days of social media, Anderson creates a prescient look at what a feed-focused world might look like.
Looking for something even more accessible? I read a book called Invitation to the Game by Monica Hughes when I was in grade school. Stuck in a dystopian world of economic disparity and underemployment a group of young graduates gather together to play a collective simulation. Like Snow Crash, or Ready Player One, but, y’know, for kids!