Because lately I have been enthralled with all things science fiction I knew that eventually I would have to read this book. It is one of the most popular, most radical, and most revolutionary, that I am sure it is on almost everyone’s all-time best list. Naturally, I of course, had to see what all the fuss was about, so surprisingly I did read the back of this one first, and regardless of what I thought I was still going to read it. I had no idea what to expect.
William Gibson is a speculative sifi writer from South Carolina. Currently he has dual citizenship between Canada and the US, which came about in the 1970 as a draft dodger during the Vietnam War. His awards and accolades are almost too numerous to speak of. He has won every major sifi award for Neuromancer, which is part of a series called the Sprawl Trilogy. His stories are revolutionary for a variety of reasons mainly because he wrote about something similar to the internet well before it took off in the 1990’s. He is also responsible for the creation of a what is known as “high tech, low life” but is better known as Cyberpunk. That’s right this guy created a whole new genre from this trilogy, along with coining the phrase “Cyberspace.” He has also written numerous short stories which I think he used some of the same characters in this novel. Many journalist have said that he is perhaps the most important sifi writer in the last twenty years or so, I certainly would not disagree with that. This will not be the last book of his that I read.
The story opens up with a guy named Case, who is now a chronic drug addict that does odd jobs to make money. He used to be one of the best computer hackers, known as Cowboys who use virtual reality and jack into to a computer program known as the Matrix to steal information and data, that is until he made a run and it fried most of his brain. No he spends his time high and selling drugs to make a living, until he gets a visit from an unusual man, named Armitage. Armitage tells Case he has a job for him and can fix him. Case has no choice but to accept. Slowly Case begins to realize that Armitage is not who he says he is, and what is most important is who he is working for. What follows is a wild ride in a bizarre world where technology and computers reign supreme.
I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I think it was pretty cool to read about all computer hacking and jacking into the matrix and cyberspace, which it pretty cool don’t get me wrong. But on the other hand I felt that the book was extremely hard to read and the plot was again hard follow at times.
Maybe I am just, for lack of a better word, stupid, but the book seemed to jump around quite a lot, and the fact that you are dealing with two different realities was also tough to follow. At times I had to ask whether the event was happening in cyberspace or in real life. Another thing that I felt made it hard to follow was all the new names for stuff and the new technology in the book as well as the slang terms used. Most of the time I had no idea what the writer was talking about as everything had some new and different name. You had to really pay attention to the small details to really follow what is going on in this one. Names of characters were also difficult at times to get a grasp on. Each character had at least two names, their real name, and a nick name they went by. Gibson seemed to alternate between them both with seemingly no reserve, so for a while that was difficult to get a grasp on.
At times I also felt that book was a little wordy, and when that gets thrown in with describing some futuristic technology, it was hard for me to keep my focus. But at the same time, for those that have a greater focus than myself I am sure this was a wonderful experience. As I have always said this is one of the most difficult things to gauge as a writer or reader, how much detail is sufficient? Gibson, in my opinion, did fine, at times worse, but other times better. I will say that he did an excellent describing the world the characters lived in. While reading I felt dirty and could vividly visualize the “high tech low life” that was described in the story. It reminded me of scenes from Blade Runner, if you have ever seen that. So that aspect of the story I really enjoyed.
The AI in the story is very interesting and felt his goal was legit. Not only that but the extreme plot that Gibson came up with was very cool. I liked how it had a plan laid out and slowly put each piece into motion, to me much like I would imagine a real AI would do. Very patient and very calculated, slowly, meticulously making its plan come together.
As I have mentioned above this book was revolutionary for many different reasons. The main one being that Gibson created a whole new genre of Cyberpunk. I have never read anything in this genre so it was all new to me, but I will say that I did enjoy reading something new and very different in the realms of science fiction. The characters in this novel are all very unique and very interesting. There are also a few aspects of the story that I felt were really cool but sort of took a back seat. There is one character whose body is dead because of an accident while in Cyberspace so he now lives as a “construct” permanently in cyberspace. So basically he had transferred his consciousness into the computer program. What I also found fascinating is what he wants for helping complete the task at hand. I felt it was very philosophical, but Gibson left this idea alone and focused more on the main characters. I did not have a problem with this as that was not the intent of the story, but still a cool idea that I would have loved to have been explored more.
Something else I found interesting was the use of the term “Matrix.” While I could not find if Gibson came up with it, I found it interesting that he used it in the way he did. Matrix is a mathematical term in origin but has multiple meanings, however I could not find evidence that the term was used earlier in that same fashion. So who knows, but if he was the first WOW, and certainly the films took that from this novel and Gibson. As I have always said there is no truly new idea, everything just gets recycled in its own new way.
All in all I have to recommend this one. There are some things to overcome while reading this one, mainly the somewhat wordiness, multiple names of the same character, as well as the somewhat hard to follow plot. But despite all these things the novel is still very interesting and builds a very real yet bizarre world, not to mention the birth of a whole new sifi genre that spawned video games and countless other novels. When factoring in all these things there is no reason not to read this truly one of a kind novel.