Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Promise to Read: Gibson's "Neuromancer"

Reading goes a little slower when the press of teaching comes alongside, and fall semester at Purdue means two sections of eager students: one, first-year composition, and a second in business writing. No complaints - I'm having a great time with the renewed challenge of university instruction and new approaches to writing.

But today is a day for catching up, and I'm writing about books that I've finished in the first weeks of school. First, William Gibson's Neuromancer.

Attending the 1997 International Science Fair (chaperon/teacher/proud mom of a state champion homeschooler studying vermiculture), I had the pleasure of hearing John Chambers, then CEO of Cisco Systems, deliver the keynote address. His talk was profoundly inspirational, just as you would expect it to be for up and coming young scientists, and in it he mentioned Gibson's Neuromancer as the 1984 "book that got us all started." Chambers made repeated references to the novel, and the title immediately went on my must-read list. I have only (finally) finished it this year.

Reading like a fast-paced, deeply-networked Mickey Spillane detective novel, the book's entertainment value was unfortunately lost on me. I can't say I've spent much time with crime novels. Language patterns were often too unfamiliar, and jumps through time or sudden shifts in character voice and representation sent me scrambling to find the threads of meaning again. Still, who could resist the near prescient collection of digital gadgetry so cleverly put to use throughout the novel? Set in "an age of affordable beauty," my personal enhancement favorites included Molly's lens, surgically implanted eye coverings sporting read-outs of time and weather as well as the identification of anyone approaching or personally "piped-in" messages from her cohorts in crime (maybe freedom fighters - depending on your point of view).

Trinity's wonderful line, "Load me up, Tank" (The Matrix), echoes a second Gibson device that captured my attention and continues to provoke a genuine desire/envy. Called "microsofts," these "angular fragments of colored silicon" mounted neatly into "carbon sockets planted behind the left ear" were an immediate and complete experience of knowing whatever you needed or wanted to know. Even better, they were stackable! The story's Panther Moderns who favored the devices were a set of youthful of willing anarchists tagged "softheads." Of course, Molly, belonging to an older generation, nonetheless lacks nothing for riding the razor edge of top technology, and rejoins with competitive savvy, "You can't let the little pricks generation-gap you." Go, go, Gadget Girls!

I thoroughly enjoyed those passages of the story that came clear for me, and I hold the confusion of other parts as no more than a witness to my own deficiency in reading. I'm willing to give Mr. Gibson his well-heralded due for a creative and commanding work, and I'll certainly return for a second reading after I whittle my current reading list down to a more manageable number ... a year or two from now, maybe, but ten more years pass again before I do, Mr. Gibson. I promise.

Quotes I note:

"But also he saw a certain sense in the notion that burgeoning technologies require outlaw zone,s that Night City wasn't there for its inhabitants, but as a deliberately unsupervised playground for technology itself" (11).

"'I don't have that good of a memory,' Case said, looking around ... 'Everybody does,' the Finn said, dropping his cigarette and grinding it out under his heel, 'but not many of you can access it. Artists can, mostly, if they're any good'" (170).

"Case had always taken it for granted that the real bosses, the kingpins in a given industry, would be both more and less than people ... He'd always imagined it as a gradual and willing accommodation of the machine, the system, the parent organism. It was the root of street cool, too, the knowing poster that implied connection" (203).

"'She a warrior,' Maelcum said, as if it explained everything" (248).

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 2003.

1 comment:

Sentinel 47 said...

"She a warrior"... like that. You just put Neuromancer on my list now too (stop doing that!)... trying to catch up :)