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Series: Sprawl #1
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Matrix is a world within the world, a global consensus- hallucination, the representation of every byte of data in cyberspace . . .
Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction.
Hotwired to the leading edges of art and technology, Neuromancer ranks with 1984 and Brave New World as one of the century’s most potent visions of the future.
In 2008, Hurricane Ike hit Houston and my home. It knocked out power for days, and in the clingy-humid atmospheric aftermath of the hurricane, it was pretty much every man for himself in terms of finding worthwhile endeavors to occupy your time.
I myself opted for the “drawing/writing/reading for hours on end” route.
But as a broke kid of 13 or 14, I found it difficult to purchase my own books and therefore had to resort to my mother’s vast but, admittedly, alienating library of adult fiction. It was with great trepidation and too many misgivings to count that I settled, in the end, on Gravity by Tess Gerritsen.
I was drawn to this book because of a story I was writing at the time also titled Gravity, though the subject matters differed greatly. As I read, despite my qualms, I found myself engrossed with this medical thriller that took place, in some part, in space, aboard a space shuttle.
There are a few characters, however, I found myself thinking of, almost 5 years later. The Japanese scientist who spoke little English and was the first to die; a man (named Richard? Maybe?) whose eyes either reflected little light or absorbed it but either way were described as flat black; and a woman, her demeanor described as feisty, typical of redheaded females. The last of these, the redheaded woman, has stuck with me the most because it solidified what I believed epitomized Gravity and, by extension to my 14- or 15-year-old brain, all adult literature:
It was lame, and it relied far too heavily on cliches, both in its inhabitants and its execution (i.e., the writing–lackluster, simplistic, unimaginative).
It’s kinda scarred me for life, my impression of Gravity‘s notably weak characterization. I took it as a given, though: that as the age range of the intended audience for a certain book increased, the inverse occurred with the complexity of characters and relationships to focus on story progression (because the story was quite compelling to me; I read through it quite fuckin fast).
The feeling was only acerbated by the number of sci-fi books I read in the years afterward using plain, sickly scientific language that was analytical but lacked style or creativity. I have a large soft spot for emotional, ambient or frictional diction in my novels. From Legion of the Damned to… whatever other unmemorable sci-fi I read back then, characters and language took a backseat to the story, often seemingly regarded as mere vessels to convey the plot, which, again, often paced itself at breakneck speed; stripped to the bare minimum necessary to get things moving.
It felt like fact. Incontrovertible and indelible. I think it’s why I kept my writing juvenile, and safe, for so long, afraid that if I tried to mature in content, my wording and my characters would have to suffer.
Neuromancer, the adult-themed and adult-targeting book that it is, has excised every single one of those adolescent thoughts once and for all. Because it hit me, while I was reading this book, that I don’t have to be afraid of adult literature, and I don’t have to brace myself to read a sci-fi. It taught me, through a thoughtful and emotive conveyance of depth to both characterization and language, that the plot can be situated quite cozily behind the more important facets of novelization.
And while, at times, the story did move rather swiftly, I never lost track of why I bothered keeping pace: because I cared about what happened to our ex-cyber cowboy, Case, and the unfolding of his life, or after-life–after the neuro-crippling he endured pre-start of the book; because I cared about our street-samurai, mirror-eyed Molly; because I even cared about our resident “Follow the white rabbit” guy, Armitage, closeted though he may be (that’s my personal assumption, anyway). Gibson didn’t skimp when it came to his characters, and he certainly didn’t cut corners with his words; he crafted each line and cause as thoroughly as the matrix, the Sprawl, Night City and Zion.
My every status update on my progress in this novel was a quote that just fuckin spoke to The Writer in Me, and I’m gonna re-post ’em here, so that all who enjoy a good handle on the English language–and some truly spectacular manipulation of it–can take a gander and feast on the wonder.
By day, the bars down Ninsei were shuttered and featureless, the neon dead, the holograms inert, waiting, under the poisoned silver sky.
Armitage suddenly looked to Case as if he were carved from a block of metal; inert, enormously heavy. A statue. He knew now that this was a dream, and that he’d soon wake. Armitage wouldn’t speak again. Case ‘streams always ended in these freezeframes, and now this one was over.
He sat beside Molly in filtered sunlight on the rim of a dry concrete fountain, letting the endless stream of faces recapitulate the stages of his life. First a child with hooded eyes, a street boy, hands relaxed and ready at his sides; then a teenager, face smooth and cryptic beneath red glasses. Case remembered fighting on a rooftop at seventeen, silent combat in the rose glow of the dawn geodesics.
And then she was falling, not to the marble floor, slick with blood and vomit, but down some bloodwarm well, into silence and the dark.
Case turned back, in time to catch the briefest flash of a black rose, its petals sheened like leather, the black stem thorned with bright chrome.
Twenty minutes, then gravity came down on him like a great soft hand with bones of ancient stone.
He could guess the end, the finale. There was an inverted symmetry: Riviera puts the dreamgirl together, the dreamgirl takes him apart. With those hands. Dreamblood soaking the rotten lace.
The rest you have to see for yourself.