William Gibson’s Neuromancer is Cyberpunk

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William Gibson’s Neuromancer is Cyberpunk


 Science fiction somehow manages to place human characters in situations where the ideas and the thoughts of science and morality are intertwined.  Science fiction must have some idea components and some human components to be successful.  This novel seems to be a contrast to the believers in technological progress as it presents a colorful, but depressing and desolate future. The loss of individuality due to technological advances becomes a major theme in cyberpunk.  This presents a dismal view of the individual in society.  The cyberpunk genre developed from “a new kind of integration.  The overlapping of worlds that were formerly separate: the realm of high tech, and the modern pop underground” (p. 345) 1.  Neuromancer not only falls into this category, it may be the first cyberpunk novel ever written.

Gibson’s prose is too dense and tangled for casual readers, such as myself.  His characters are shallow and stereotyped.  The character “Case” has no purpose apart from existing in cyberspace and abusing drugs.  “Molly,” his companion, is a mercenary with questionable morals.  John Christie seems to agree with my analysis of this novel: “Gibson constructs characters which are themselves flat images, beings of no psychological depth, but whose interest and significance derive from their semiotic lineage, in comic, film, pulp crime fiction, and other science fiction” (p. 46) 2.   (Gibson offers his readers a dystopian novel) (by presenting a cyberpunk world where things are generally bleak and they will become worse with time and technology.)

 Cyberpunk is supposed to be the vision of a new technological world.  However, the negative portrayal of the integration of technology and society is a fundamental tenet of the literature.  This presents a pessimistic view of scientific advancement.  The genre’s dark tones, seen repeatedly in Neuromancer, emphasize the bleak images throughout the futuristic fiction.  The constant conflict between the individual and a technologically advanced society is a major theme as it stresses man’s insignificance.  These characteristics are interwoven into the fabric of cyberpunk and form a bleak image of science fiction and the future.  Gibson is very vague when describing the specific architecture and nuances of technology used in the designs of the futuristic objects.  This lack of definite details is due to the fact that cyberpunk literature resists the concepts of technology.

 The basic precepts of the cyberpunk genre consists of technology as hindrance to man, stories that are saturated in dark and dreary themes, and a character, ”Case,” that will either fail or conform to a structured society.

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  Unlike the optimistic attitude that classical science fiction has toward technology, cyberpunk literature treats this issue as a major problem to the individual in society.  Technology inhibits the development of Case’s character.  Case can be considered amoral with a tremendous disdain for authority.  He is not above using drugs and alcohol, as this helps him avoid existing in the real world.  Instead, he exists in cyberspace, “A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system.  Unthinkable complexity.  Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data.  Like city lights, receding…” (p. 51) 3.

Dismalness and dreariness of the cyberpunk genre help emphasize the doomed attempt of the individual to succeed in a futuristic society.  This society stresses conformity and power.  Neuromancer 3 seems to present a world where technology and science fiction are closing in on each other.  The opening image of the book, comparing nature to technology, sets the tone of the narrative. “Case’s” body, which he treats as almost an alien entity with which he is not on friendly terms, is a kind of case for his mind and for the cyberspace with which it fuses.  It presents the cyberpunk obsession with mixing flesh and machinery.  Individuals are predestined to fail when immersed in technology.  What does this mean for my future when I am already so dependent upon technology in my everyday life?  Will this destruction occur at the much talked about Y2K problem?  Only time will tell.

Works Cited

Gibson, William Neuromancer. New York, Ace. 1984.


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