THE CYBERPUNK GUTENBERG BIBLE

Neuromancer

“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts………..A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding…..”

William Gibson`s Neuromancer is the cyberpunk Gutenberg Bible which coined the term cyberspace, and boasts a 135 year old Welsh black marketeer as it`s central protagonist. Yes, it shows us a glimpse of a possible future, but more importantly, it pulls the curtain back on a present where technology affects lives and is central to modern existence. The entrails of the symbiotic relationship between human and machine and it`s consequences for human development, quality of life,  and political and economic power is dissected and served back to us to consume and inwardly digest.

The plot of the book is a menu of characters, motifs, symbolism and cultural references wrapped up in a nexus of noir settings that certainly make it impossible for any kind of faithfull, coherent adaption for the big screen – Oh Lord, have the movie men tried to pin this one down. It`s a pure work of science fiction which is probably the most influential novel of the past 25 years, with it`s cyberpunk imagery and it`s dystopian, technology obsessed universe within which people travel like free-radical, electronic fireflies.

Anyone reading the book now for the first time can do so from years of referencing movies such as The Matrix, Tron, Avatar, or Johnny Mnemonic, which were heavily influenced by the concepts found in Neuromancer: so how was it possible for people to wrap their heads around the novel when they first read it back in 1984?

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Thanks to films like The Matrix, a lot of the ideas found in Neuromancer are now part of popular consciousness and more readily understood with it`s concept of humanity approaching a post-human world. Unlike most movies, the book plays about with it`s chronology , requiring a few check backs from time to time to fully immerse yourself in, and understand it`s world. Gibson subverts traditional structures, offsetting technological complexity with simple human characterisation. It`s world of sensory overload is illustrated by the dense prose and surreal concept and execution: the final third is a barmy, nightmarish  hallucinogenic trip of sheer lunacy, as individuals access their world through neural connections aided by a copious drug intake to fine-tune the connection.

“All the speed he took, all the turns he`d taken and the corners he`d cut in Night City, and still he sees the matrix in his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void……”

The world is made small by the “matrix” , a cyberspace of consensual hallucination, where the kingdom of physical data can be manipulated and stolen by “cyberspace cowboys” who dodge lethal “ice” firewalls and anti-virus programs that can kill intruders.

The world that Neuromancer created, has since been done to death  by a spawn of imitators, with a plot that drips atmosphere from every written pore, as it twists and turns with all the creative gusto of techno-noir meets sci-fi on acid. The entropic poetry of the cyberpunk world within this wonderful, thought provoking novel, gives us a hyper imaginative feast of hearty, intellectual nourishment which few genres can offer the literary gourmet.

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