Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tactile neon

I don't remember much of my first impressions of Neuromancer beyond knowing that I absolutely wanted to see the world it took place in and that William Gibson was some kind of awesome and terrible magician who found a way to look at a twisted future and bring it back for us to read about in the present.

I do know that Neuromancer was the first Gibson I read, though I don't recall if I read it because one of my hackers pointed me in its direction or if I read the book and it turned me toward the hackers. Time is like that. Memory is like that. You're left with impression but missing their sequence which, coincidentally, is a perfect way of describing Gibson's writing.

There's something magical about how he puts a book together. I can sit down and tell you what happened in the story, how things progressed from page to page and how the plot layered in on itself, but that's not what I remember or treasure about this novel. What I hold onto when I'm thinking about Neuromancer is a television colored sky and lenses like mercury looking through a haze of neon at a man holding a weapon he doesn't know how to use. Neuromancer calls up spider-like robots and dub in zero-g. Neuromancer is a piping, inhuman contralto moving through a head of platinum and precious stones, telling stories about biz and beaches tinted silver.

The book isn't long, the plot isn't particularly original, and as much fun as the noir genre is it isn't exactly fresh in our cultural psyche, but in spite of the fact that Neuromancer is a short book that covers common ground it's also a massive book that always has more to look at, more to feel and share with the reader. It is tantalizing and whole and empty and reaching. I want so badly to see its world but know it would be a bad world to live in. I want to reach out and feel these people and their lives and the vastness of the situation they're living through, but I know it would frighten me terribly to do so.

That's probably the best thing about Gibson as a whole and Neuromancer in particular. It's not a book about good people doing good things, and it's not a book about normal people doing things that normal people can do: it's a book about the possibility of being extraordinary and it makes you long to be more than yourself, even if that concept is terrifying.

     - Alli

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. Ace Books. New York: New York. 1984.

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