Thursday, November 5, 2009

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

This is the opening line of Neuromancer, By William Gibson.

This book has been called the bible of cyberpunk, a fascinating blend of high technology and low life crime and culture.

Whatever it has been called, I call it intense, penetrating, thought provoking, disturbing, enticing, and depressing.

for a brief overview, Case, I forget his first name, because he's not called by it after the first chapter, is a down on his luck cyber cowboy. that is potentially the greatest understatement ever.... What actually is his predicament is this: Super talented hacker, manipulator of cyberspace, computers, and code. Steals from his employers, who then give him a mycotoxin, basically an organic compound that fries his brain just enough to prevent him from ever jacking into cyperspace again. So, basically, take the one thing you're good at, and sizzle it away.

the start of the book finds Case in a bar, high on whatever he can find, paranoid about his dealings with the scum of this seamy underworld in a city called Chiba in Japan. From technical wonderboy to petty low level hustler, Case is basically treading the edge, hoping that this life will kill him, even as he strives to continue to make a buck, score his next hit, and not piss off the wrong people.

Enter Armitage, who (spoiler alert) is not who he seems to be, and is being heavily influenced by a character introduced later. Armitage offers Case a job, and has some black market doctors perform a procedure that reverses the nerve damage in Case's brain. Oh and he also tells Case after he wakes up that he also had them put tiny sacs of the toxin in his blood that will break down in a few weeks, so he better stay in line...

Well maybe I won't spoil the ending. Read the book, it's worth it.

now for the response: Reading this book 26 years after it is written, I'm floored by the accuracy of detail that Gibson used so long ago to describe the realm of cyberspace, this "collective, voluntary hallucination". And even if we all don't run around in cyberspace in a 3D virtual reality, how much of our world is digital, and full of hackers, cyber cowboys, and hustlers? How long will it be before we create an A.I. capable of transcending the boundary of sentience? Maybe never, and maybe soon. 26 years ago, William Gibson compared the use of cyberspace to a drug. now we have facebook. Science fiction: crazy imagination, or predictive prehistory?


  1. This reminds me of Firefly, the short-lived television show, and its follow-up movie, Serenity. Have you seen these?

  2. By the way, I'd love it if you would change your blog so I could comment with my real URL — allow Name&URL commenting. That would be nice. :) Instead of having to use my old URL or my email address.