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Book Review: Neuromancer, by William Gibson

The book that invented cyberpunk.


Neuromancer

Ace Books, 1984, 271 pages



Here is the novel that started it all, launching the cyberpunk generation, and the first novel to win the holy trinity of science fiction: the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award and the Philip K. Dick Award. With Neuromancer, William Gibson introduced the world to cyberspace--and science fiction has never been the same.

Case was the hottest computer cowboy cruising the information superhighway--jacking his consciousness into cyberspace, soaring through tactile lattices of data and logic, rustling encoded secrets for anyone with the money to buy his skills. Then he double-crossed the wrong people, who caught up with him in a big way--and burned the talent out of his brain, micron by micron. Banished from cyberspace, trapped in the meat of his physical body, Case courted death in the high-tech underworld. Until a shadowy conspiracy offered him a second chance--and a cure--for a price...


Cyberspace, the Matrix, deckers and street samurai, it all started here.Collapse )

Verdict: Neuromancer is the original "cyberpunk" novel. It defined cyberpunk. It's got a voice and an edge and you will recognize every single trope in the book because it was the trope definer. I found it entertaining but mostly unremarkable, the characters flat, the plot something that's been imitated into unoriginality. It was worth reading, but I've given Gibson several chances to impress me, and he doesn't that much. Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive can just stay on the shelf. But I will remain thankful to Gibson for Shadowrun and Neal Stephenson.

Also by William Gibson: My review of Pattern Recognition.




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Pattern Recognition

Berkley, 2003, 367 pages



Cayce Pollard is an expensive, spookily intuitive market-research consultant. In London on a job, she is offered a secret assignment: to investigate some intriguing snippets of video that have been appearing on the Internet. An entire subculture of people is obsessed with these bits of footage, and anybody who can create that kind of brand loyalty would be a gold mine for Cayce's client. But when her borrowed apartment is burgled and her computer hacked, she realizes there's more to this project than she had expected.

Still, Cayce is her father's daughter, and the danger makes her stubborn. Win Pollard, ex-security expert, probably ex-CIA, took a taxi in the direction of the World Trade Center on September 11 one year ago, and is presumed dead. Win taught Cayce a bit about the way agents work. She is still numb at his loss, and, as much for him as for any other reason, she refuses to give up this newly weird job, which will take her to Tokyo and on to Russia. With help and betrayal from equally unlikely quarters, Cayce will follow the trail of the mysterious film to its source, and in the process will learn something about her father's life and death.


Just because William Gibson wrote it doesn"t make it "cyberpunk."Collapse )

Verdict: William Gibson is a smart, entertaining writer who's delivered many SF classics; Pattern Recognition is probably not the place to start if you want to be convinced of his greatness, but it's a smart post-modernish techno-adventure without a lot of sci-fi gloss. The prose is more well-developed than the characters, and the story is merely adequate, with snippets of occasional brilliance. Good for fans of techno-thrillers and cyberpunk, even though Pattern Recognition only loosely fits in either genre.




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