Recently I’ve been attempting to expand my horizons in terms of the books I read. Note that this is not an outward expansion into unknown genres of reading but an inward journey through the niche and minute genres existing within a category I feel I already have a good hold on. Namely SF. I haven’t spontaneously started reading chik-lit or 19th century travel novels (perhaps even worse, the biographies of Presidents). I did pick up a copy of Eat, Pray, Love but that is another matter entirely. No, this was a search inward. An attempt at specialization. Perhaps this is an apt metaphor considering the material I’m about to cover, but I was unaware “…just how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
So, after some Googling and tweeting and other various other forms of chatter, I decided to look into Cyberpunk. I’m not really familiar with any of the ‘punk’ genres so I approached the task with a great deal of enthusiasm. I contacted my resident expert and was prescribed a heavy dose of titles the first of which was William Gibson’s Neuromancer. It seemed similar to other stories I had encountered. The opening of the story (in the Sprawl) is a bit grimy. Maybe a hint of Bladerunner here and there. Certainly with all the augmentation, AI’s, and hookers, it seemed very Philip K. Dick. Then we begin hearing about Cowboys and Cyberspace. This felt more like Tron or The Matrix.
After that…I don’t know.
It all happened so fast, I was enveloped really. I ‘jacked in’. And it was excellent. But since I have the floor, I’d like to talk about a few things regarding Neuromancer.
Linda Bought A ‘Case’ of Molly
Ok. That header doesn’t make any sense. But neither did Case’s relationship with women in this novel! We’ll start with Linda because…we’ll start with Linda. For all intents and purposes, Case is in love with this girl. They’re not together in any traditional sense but perhaps they were at some point in the past. She’s in love with him too and the best way to get him back is to…rip him off? I think it might have worked if Case hadn’t met Armitage and crew. Interesting to think about. Then Linda is killed off, almost immediately. Her only role in the novel afterwards is to play the pawn for AI to use against Case and therefore against other AI. The one thing she attempts, she fails at and she pays for it with her life. Not a very good start for the women in this novel.
Then of course, there is Molly. Molly is oh so different from Case’s last love interest. She is smart, capable, sexy, dangerous, and seemingly everything that Linda wasn’t. I can see why Case would go for that, although in all honesty I think he didn’t realize how much he loved her until it was too late. You could also argue that he realized it exactly when he needed to but in my opinion, that was too late. Not so sure why Molly was so into Case though. The feeling seemed genuine; there was that whole monologue about her last boyfriend which it is obvious Case was supposed to hear (good thing he did!). However, I wasn’t drawing the parallel between Molly’s last attempt at love and her new gig with Case. Of course the end of the book doesn’t solidify things either. Really kind of a downer.
In any case (sorry bad pun), whatever sentiments these two characters were forming for each other, the way they were portrayed is even more diminishing then any attempt by the two of them to hide their feelings. What I mean is even when they are closest to one another, they still seem terribly far away . . . as does the reader in certain moments but not in others.
For instance, the sex scene. In some ways it feels like you’re right there (having the sex). But it also feels like you’re far away just watching it. Almost voyeuristic. Is this the way Case feels? He’s always going on about certain sensations being ‘meat’ as opposed to ‘brain’ and he doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect for the ‘meat.’ Of course, as we listen to Molly’s speech, it feels very POV. Like we/Case are actually doing what she is doing. Her monologue gets us in her thoughts while her eyes let us know her actions. It’s like we’re her. However, the reality is that we are actually miles away and just watching, albeit through her eyes. It’s weird.
There are two other women in this novel but in my opinion, they aren’t finished. We get some interesting lines and they serve interesting uses but there isn’t enough to get the whole picture. I’m sure we’re not supposed to. What does that mean? In a novel where perception seems to be everything, I can’t seem to get a lock on Gibson’s perception of women. If Neuromancer is supposed to lay the ground work for Cyberpunk as a genre I guess I’ll be doing a lot of head scratching in the future in terms of women characters. That seems fitting; women make me scratch my head in real life, why should fiction be any different? 😉
Commerce vs. Art
Another aspect of this novel which I noticed was the ‘hussle.’ The constant sense that the game is always afoot. That men are made and unmade in an instant. Decisions matter and they must be made quickly. As much as I would like to believe that a slow consistent progression, regimented and planned, is what allows you to achieve great things, most days I feel that success is more spontaneous. Right place, right time but you have to have the guts to seize it. Maybe your plan and your regiment put you in closer proximity to your goal; up your chances…but you still gotta hussle.
Case can hussle. Even when he doesn’t know what’s happening, his intuition is spot on and guides him through. It is interesting to me then that his friend (the bar tender) always refers to him as the ‘artiste.’ It seems that in this world of ultra-capitalism there wouldn’t be much room for Art. Nor did Case seem all that artistic to me (unless you count the drug habit). But he was the Artiste nonetheless. I still haven’t worked out the implications of this yet. However, the representation hits me pretty close to home. The modern day ‘Artiste’ has to hussle to survive. Many of the skills he must acquire aren’t necessarily related to his art besides that they are needed to participate in commerce. Perhaps Gibson’s Cyberspace, in which more and more aspects are online (like much of today’s art) anticipates our own reality. Quite spooky if you ask me.
Good Dub Mon
This part of the story, on the Rasta colony, caught me completely by surprise. Don’t know enough about Rasta as a culture/religion to draw any connections yet but I mostly wanted to flag it as important (and I thought that quote would make a great header).
In conclusion, my friend was right to tell me to read this book. There is so much here and I feel like I’ve only just touched the tip of the iceberg. If you have any good links for other analyses, please post them in the comments section. I’m interested in hearing what other people think. If you have any interesting insights as well, please also post. Thanks! Now go read this book!!