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William Gibson

average rating is 3 out of 5

Science Fiction, Dystopia, Fiction

R. Alex Jenkins

I desperately wanted Neuromancer to be good. You know how it goes, one of those sure-fire bangers that's almost guaranteed to be brilliant? With a positive mindset, I continued until it finally clicked that this book is technically brilliant but incoherent!

It's still relevant and has aged really well, but the problem is the lack of cohesive plot.

When Neuromancer was first published back in 1984 it was revolutionary. Cyberspace didn't exist yet and all we had was basic hardware, physical connections and lots of dreams. It hit the sci-fi community like a tsunami.

Initially set in a future Japan, technology is an important part of the experience, with razorblade extensions, prosthetics and mind-bending advancements and, as a reader you feel like a little fish in a big pond controlled by uber bosses subservient to even bigger corporate honchos. There's a constant sense of being on the run, unable to stay still for long or relax, always on the edge and hyper stressed out in a bleeding-edge environment.

There's also a lovely digital effect when you switch between chapters, of a matrix-like circuit flicking in and out on the page as a type of fade-in fade-out perk.

Unfortunately, the book reads like a blurred dream as characters constantly plug in and out of cyberspace to advance their missions while you lose track of what's real and virtual. As with certain books that I've struggled with in the past, it's best to review characters and connections online to make the experience more understandable, which is hardly a recommendation! An that's the thing, it doesn't get easier as you go forward because of the constant barrage of new terminology and concepts.

Constantly chucking new ideas and phraseology at you is an excuse for a ropey plot.

I really wanted this book to be great.

The portrait of a future cyber era is impressive and even though most of the characters are abrasive assholes, the world they live in is electric and vivid. The omission of mobile phones, WiFi or bluetooth technologies didn't bother me at all funnily enough like it does in some books with retro props that glare of the past and shatter the immersion, but that's not the issue here.

If you like technology and science, Neuromancer is worth reflection on a possible future that's replaceable and interchangeable at all times, where new body parts and augments are standard practice, like piercings and tattoos are today. But in this case the book becomes a mishmash of bodged add-ons. Our minds are just as confused, filled with crypto junk and cyber nonsense that's hard to filter out. The world we live in is full of unnecessary trash and the future is going to be an even bigger shitshow if you ask me.

Classified in some circles as dystopia, there are some interesting facts about space adaptation syndrome (SAS) for example, yakuza effectively means gangster or mafia in Japanese, and if you think about it, when jacking in to cyberspace there's a risk of losing track of time and flat-lining, so you need a trustworthy partner constantly on hand to pull you out.

The use of numbers in names is ingenious too, such as 3Jane or 8Jean for what we might call senior, junior or Jane III, for a new twist on King 8Henry.

Note that the videogame Cyberpunk 2077 is NOT based on this book, but you may appreciate Neuromancer more if you've played the game or know anything about it.

Although technically stunning, Neuromancer isn't entertaining enough because the plot is so incoherent. I wish I could recommend it, but I don't.

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