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CYBERPUNK REVISITED: Neuromancer by William Gibson

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I believe Neal Stephenson said that this book influenced him.

But I'm having trouble finding that quote on Google.

Neuromancer pretty much influenced everything that came after it.

High-Tech: The operative technologies in Neuromancer are cybernetic, with the most distinctive pertaining to how the cybernetically enhanced interface with “cyberspace,” a virtualized datafield not unlike an internet you could navigate by proxy, as if physically present. Individual “jockeys” access “the Matrix” (the name for the actual datafield, as opposed to its virtualization) by “jacking in” to a “deck,” such as the ubiquitous Ono-Sendai Cyberspace 7--which is to say, plugging a cord into a neural implant on the side of the head and connecting it to the deck. Jockeys largely enter cyberspace for profit--sneaking past corporate “ICE” (i.e. security programs) to obtain data illicitly.  

“Microsofts” are another form of cybernetic enhancement, small microchips inserted behind the ear that grant the wearer tangible skills in the physical world, such as mastery of language. These don’t play a huge role inNeuromancer, but are instead an element of worldbuilding. Gibson also largely predicted the rise of reality television with “simstim,” recorded experiences in which the user experiences a full array of sensory information recorded by the actor. 

Though cyberpunk is primarily known as an earthbound style of science fiction, much of Neuromancer actually takes place offworld, meaning that space ships and orbital habitats play a far greater role than one might assume. And, of course, one of the novel's central preoccupations concerns the nature and ambiguities of artificial intelligence and how created sentience might interact with its progenitors.  

Low-Life: The future envisioned in Neuromancer is one of unimpeded urbanization, to the point where the stretch of coast linking New York to Atlanta is now simply referred to as “the Sprawl.” These, and other, urban environs are decidedly rough-and-tumble, marked by overcrowding, rampant criminality and an extremely thin state presence. The well-to-do, as it happens, are not only gated away from the masses, but reside offworld in lush, fully-appointed orbital habitats. In the novel’s opening section we meet Case, the former jockey turned small-time fence and hustler, in the dangerous and expatriate-heavy port section of Chiba, Japan--giving the novel a decidedly neonoir flavor. As action moves offworld, the sociological lens shifts to the capital classes, much as Chandler’s novels do when action brings Marlowe to the wealthy enclave of Bay City, and with a similar air of rot and decadence.  

Dark Times: Private armies, ascension of unaccountable corporations, movement of capital offworld and near invisibility of the state all feature, coalescing to give Neuromancer a distinctly dystopian feel. Crucially, though, there is no central authoritarian actor, like Big Brother in 1984, but rather a series of rapacious, competing interests, few of which are informed by any sense of obligation to community or “the greater good.” The chaotic nature of the system, however, creates space for individuals to “use the system against the system,” or perhaps more accurately, “use the tools of the system to carve out some safe space for themselves.” 

LegacyNeuromancer is the single most important work of cyberpunk ever written, likely the most important work of science fiction published in the 1980s, and may even be one of the five or ten most influential science fiction novels ever written. Simply put, it’s one of those books that changed pretty much everything that came after it.

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