Book Review of Neuromancer by William Gibson
Since late last year, I’ve been on a mission to read and reread top Sci-Fi books. This reading has to be sifted into my daily news intake and non-fiction obligations. Some days, dystopian themes in fiction seem more tame than the headlines, given the current political climate. After finishing Neuromancer, I have to say William Gibson is my new favorite author.
I was already a fan of the cyberpunk genre. What early millennial kid doesn’t intimately know the ‘high tech, low life’ juxtaposition? It sums up our adolescence and early adulthood. Gibson perfectly captures the feelings of obsession and burnout that define our technology-addicted generation.
Neuromancer strips away sensationalism in character development the way a competitive marathon runner burns fat, and it won a triple gold: the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award. His writing style leaves no waste and no want. Deliciously lean. It has been awhile since I found myself smiling at sentence structure, but I couldn’t help myself while reading Gibson.
The setting is its own person. The story nearly needs no characters. They were icing on the motherboard as the reader navigates the circuitry of Gibson’s futurescape. It is a place that could only have been written by a Japanophile. This article in Wired confirms it. Gibson’s Tokyo is a writer’s creative playground, offering layers upon layers of inspiration. He visits regularly.
“Something about dreams, about the interface between the private and the consensual. You can do that here, in Tokyo […] You can dream in public. And the reason you can do it is that this is one of the safest cities in the world, and a special zone […] has already been set aside for you.”
It has always been hard for me to articulate why I love Japan, but I think Gibson’s characterization must be an important part of it:”You can dream in public.” Whether wandering empty paths through the mountain forests or being blinded by throbbing neon in Shibuya, Japan conjures and inspires dreams. Everything exists there somewhere — perhaps its down an unlabeled flight of stairs behind a konbini, or on the top floor of Bic Camera, or three kilometers on foot from the nearest town into the woods — if you can think of it, you can be sure Japan has it. It is both a delightful and disturbing aspect of Japanese culture. Connecting with Gibson in Neuromancer through this cultural lens added to my appreciation of his work.
Here’s my list of Top Sci-fi Books to read:
Dune, Herbert — READ
Neuromancer, Gibson — READ
Hyperion, D. Simmons
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlen
Foundation Trilogy, Asimov
2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke
The Forever War, Haldeman
The Man in the High Castle, Dick
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Dick
Ready Player One, E. Cline
The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury
The Dispossessed, Ursula Le Guin
The Book of the New Sun, Wolfe
Solaris, Stanislaw Lem
A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge
The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson
Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
Do you agree? Are there any books that I should add? Which Sci-fi book is your favorite?