Friday, September 21, 2007

William Gibson's "Neuromancer" (novel): A world of cyborgs

I actually dropped this when I was may be one-fifth through - too much jargon, half sentences, & expectations of cultural familiarity with his world.

Even through this part, it is obvious this is a very influential book - going by number of authors that have imitated its plot elements. May be some day I will have courage & patience to return & finish!

Story so far is of a human cyborg, who is a computer hacker, & whose life was wrecked by his employer because he stole something. This was done by biologically changing him in a way that renders him incompetent to do his computer job. Employer apparently was some military organization - but I am not sure.

He is saved from footpath life by someone in position of power - for some job; benefactor also foots the medical bill to fix whatever was wrecked by old employer.

Then there is an AI which actually is controlling the benefactor - to ends that will likely become apparent later in story. Benefactor is also a cyborg.

AI apparently is working for a reclusive long lived family whose members periodically upload themselves to some computer archive - in the tradition of Arthur Clarke's "The City & the Stars" at a smaller scale.

Another major character is a female cyborg who becomes a bodyguard & lover of the wreck.

When reading it, I kept getting reminded of Hollywood movie Terminator.

Cyberspace & Matrix.
This story is often credited with the invention of these terms by the publishers.

As far as I can make out, & am not 100% sure, the meaning of the first term in the book is very different from the meaning we normally associate with it; later, of course, is not a common term at all. Definitions according to this story:

Matrix is what Windows applications refer to as "document", & application programmers refer to as "database".

Cyberspace is the immersive virtual reality interface of software applications; you interact with application via a device that directly plugs into your brain via a kind of head gear. Applications may be networked over wide geographical area. Note that internet already existed & was in widespread use in certain geeky communities when this book was written, though its widespread popularity among ordinary people via WWW was yet to happen. Also note that the term "cyber" has been around a long time - at least since the time of Norbert Weiner's book "Cybernetics".

Fact sheet.
Neuromancer, novel, review
First published: 1984
Rating: C
Winner of Hugo Award 1985 in novel category


Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that this book was the first novel to win the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award and the Philip K. Dick Award. You've gotta figure it has something going for it.

BTW, Case really isn't a cyborg; people can jack into the matrix without installing anything in their bodies.

You're right about the jargon and style - not everyone's cup of tea.

The book coined a variety of terms and either created or popularized most of the standard devices of the entire cyberpunk genre, including the idea of a construct, an orbital resort, ICE anti-hacker software, the mimetic polycarbon suit, muscle grafts, SimStim... it's a long list.

One problem with reading a book like this twenty years after its publication is that it was so influential, you've read similar things in a hundred different books, tv shows and movies. I can tell you that when it came out, it absolutely stunned people. Hence all the awards.

Anyway, IMHO.