Neuromancer Book review
Neuromancer was written in 1984 by William Gibson. It was one of the first major works in the cyberpunk genre, and won multiple award, including the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and the Phillip K. Dick award. It inspired movies such as The Matrix and video games such as Shadowrun. The cult classic Johnny Mnemonic was based on a William Gibson short story of the same name, set in the Neuromancer universe. There have been numerous attempts to adapt Neuromancer to media such as video games, movies, comic books, and even opera. They have mostly been unsuccessful, but a movie adaption is rumored to be in the works.
Neuromancer tells the story of a computer hacker named Case who, after being caught stealing from his employer, has had his ability “jack in” to computers destroyed. He becomes a hustler in the slums of Chiba City, Japan, relying on hard drugs to keep going. After running up numerous debts to crime lords and nearly killing himself with drugs, he is picked up off the street by a mysterious woman named Molly. She pays off the the crime lord and takes him to her boss, Armitage, who repairs Case’s brain and liver, but with a catch. He has had toxin sacs inserted into his liver. If he does not finish the job in time, he won’t be able to jack in anymore.
In the first part of the job, Case and Molly steal a Flatline Construct from the company Sense/Net. The construct contains the consciousness of one of Case’s mentors, named Dixie.
Armitage is shown to have a mysterious past. Case and Molly discover that he served in the Battle of Screaming Fist under the name Corto, and went through a large amount of trauma.
The group heads to the colony Freeside, where an AI named Wintermute resides in the Villa Straylight, a massive home owned by the family/corporation Tessier-Ashpool.
It is revealed that Wintermute is only one half of the AI inside the Villa Straylight. There is one other, which is hinted to be much more powerful, but Wintermute is prevented from merging with it by Turing regulations. Lady 3Jane, a member of the Tessier-Ashpools, has the secret word that will allow them to merge. Molly and Riviera, a member the team recruited in Istanbul, go into the Villa Straylight to retrieve it.
It is revealed that Wintermute has been controlling Case and the others the whole time, through Armitage, Finn, and Case’s old friend Julius Deane. Wintermute took Corto’s shattered personality and rebuilt it into Armitage.
Case and Dixie, the flatline construct, unleash a powerful virus on the Tessier-Ashpool software defenses as tasked by Wintermute. Armitage’s personality begins to break down, and reverts into that of Corto. Responding to this, Wintermute kills him. While in the Villa Straylight, Riviera turns on the group, siding with a ninja and Lady 3Jane to capture Molly. Case and the Zionite pilot Maelcum go after her. Case jacks into cyberspace, and while the virus is destroying the Tessier-Ashpool defenses, retrieves the secret word. Wintermute is able to merge with the other AI. Case’s toxin sacs are removed, and Dixie also gets his reward by being destroyed.
Case has a conflict with himself. He loved cyberspace, and when his brain was sabotaged he lost it. Towards the beginning of the book, Case says that he “still dreamed of cyberspace, hope fading nightly. All the speed he took, all the turns he'd taken and the corners he'd cut in Night City, and still he'd see the matrix in his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void…” Case tries unsuccessfully to block everything out and forget, and it puts him in a vulnerable place for Wintermute to exploit him for his plans. While Case is breaching the Tessier-Ashpool defenses in preparation for merging Wintermute with the second AI, he loses contact with Dixie. Case starts to lose hope, but then Wintermute says “Hate'll get you through. So many little triggers in the brain, and you just go yankin' em all. Now you gotta hate.” Wintermute has manipulated Case to the point where the only option is now for him to hate. Since Case has so many things to hate, such as Wintermute killing Armitage, frustration at the slowly dissolving toxin sacs in his liver, and others, he is able to retrieve the secret word and merge Wintermute and the other AI, Neuromancer.
My favorite character is Wintermute. In the beginning of the book, the job that Armitage has tasked Case to do seems so simple. But as the plot unfolds, you find out that Wintermute is controlling not just Armitage but other people that Case knows to fulfill his own goals, without much care for any of them. When the personality that Wintermute has built on top of Corto into Armitage starts to break down and revert, Wintermute kills Corto and sabotages one of the ships, knowing it is a sacrifice but it will cause less damage in the long run. It’s also fascinating to compare Wintermute to its counterpart, Neuromancer. Neuromancer is able to see patterns in behavior, similar to psychohistory in Asimov’s Foundation but on a much more detailed scale. While Wintermute can only directly interact with humans by changing things in the environment and manipulating certain people, Neuromancer can see patterns about to happen - such as that someone is about to die - and then make it happen to manipulate someone that way.
One of the important themes from Neuromancer is to not rely on something too much, because if it gets taken away, you can be ruined. Case thought he was invincible, so he stole from his company without thinking of the consequences. He ended up losing the most important thing to him, and trying to compensate, ruined his life.
I could relate in some ways to Case’s love of cyberspace. I love computers, and rely on them without thinking for many of the things I do. If I could somehow never use computers again, it would probably be a devastating thing for me.
In my opinion, Neuromancer is without a doubt one of the best books I have ever read. It is full of amazing details in scenery, characters, and plot and has many interesting inventions specific to its universe. I would strongly reccomend it to anyone who has an interest in sci-fi, especially cyberpunk - it practically invented the genre. It is an exciting novel with a lot of depth, and definitely worth a read.
My creative project is a scene from Neuromancer in video game form. Near the beginning of the book, Case asks Dixie if he ever tried to hack an AI. Dixie responds by telling him the story of how he tried, and ended up flatlining(dying, so called because of the flat EEG). To play my game, click the download link and decompress the zip file downloaded. Launch the application extracted from it. For best results, choose 1280x800 resolution, uncheck windowed, and choose “Fantastic” graphics quality, unless you are lacking in the graphics card sector(in which case choose a lower setting). To melt ice, click the mouse button. To move, use the WASD keys. To quit, press esc.Download links: