Lit 80, Fall 2013
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Neuromancer-Novel Response

September 5th, 2013 | Posted by Zhan Wu in Uncategorized

Computers and digital media as we see them nowadays were uncommon during the early 1980s. Many people struggled at concepts such as the personal computer (PC), the internet, networking etc. Thus it was not odd at all that William Gibson’s science fiction novel “Neuromancer” was met with huge fanfare and gave people the opportunity to glimpse into the world of digital technology they have never experienced before.

When Neuromancer first came out, it was undeniably the avant-garde in the digital science fiction genre. Although novelists before Gibson’s time were talking about similar thoughts in their writings, their ideas were bound by factors such as politics and economic depressions. For instance, although the book “1984”, written in 1932, does talk about possible technological advances in its future, its general atmosphere is majorly shrouded in political oppression and people’s fear of democratic socialism. Neuromancer is a true science fiction novel in that readers can genuinely appreciate the high-tech world and all of its consequences (if not aftermaths) without being limited by the social and political context as is in the real world.

Furthermore, the book also introduced brand new terminology that we now seem to be especially familiar with. One of Gibson’s breakthroughs with Neuromancer was the introduction of the word “cyberspace”. In fact, the word would have a long-lasting impact on the entertainment industry around the globe even decades after it was introduced. Movies series such as “The Matrix”, “The Terminator” etc. not only heavily relied on “cyberspace” as a world surrounded by artificial intelligence (AI), but also extended the boundaries of the word into virtual reality etc.

The cyberpunk genre seeks to combine “high tech and low life” [1], a phenomenon which was prevalent in the 1980s. Neuromancer itself, with a lucid story, provokes questions that people eventually had to answer as more and more technological advancements at that time period came into being. Will people eventually misuse the advancements of science? (i.e. Case, despite having implanted organs that stop him from metabolizing drugs, uses new organs to get back into his drug life.) Will people get punished in unusual ways in the future? (Case gets his CNS damaged after stealing from his employer.) Do AI’s ultimately become much smarter than mankind? (The superconsciousness as a result of the merge between WIntermute and Neuromancer.) Can AI’s possibly overpower people? (Wintermute kills Armitage/Corto.) Though it seems that the book is answering yes to all these questions, the author’s main intention is to lead the reader into reflecting how life in the 1980s can coexist with emerging new technologies, and how this coexistence can develop in a positive way.

In a nutshell, Neuromancer was a stunning novel, “an archetypal cyberpunk work” [2] that not only includes an entertaining plot, but also reflects upon its time of new technological inventions.

Sources

[1] Anonymous. (2009). What is cyberpunk? Cyberpunked: Journal of Science, Technology, & Society. Retrieved from http:\\www.cyberpunked.org/cyberpunk

[2] Seed, David (2005). Publishing. Blackwell. p. 220.

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