Monday, August 4, 2014

"Neuromancer" The Most Influential Book of Your Lifetime?

What? You haven't heard of "Neuromancer"? Yes, my friend, you have....

"Neuromancer", published in 1984 by then-unknown author William Gibson, came out of nowhere and immediately changed the face of science fiction. It was the first book to ever win the sci-fi "triple crown" (Nebula, Hugo, and PK Dick Awards) and defined the cyber-punk genre.

That would be enough of an accomplishment to revisit this book 30 years later. That would be enough to make anyone's career.

But it didn't stop there.

Ever heard terms like "Matrix" or "Cyberspace" or the lesser known term "ICE" (re: computer security)? Thank Gibson and "Neuromancer". Some writers and thinkers have even posited that his novel deeply influenced the way the internet - and the world wide web - developed. (Yes, folks, there is a difference.) Even TIME Magazine listed it on their "TIME Magazine All-Time Best 100 Novels" (for English language), and it has sold well over 6 million copies world-wide. A feat rarely achieved in literature.

But it doesn't stop there.

You like movies like the cult-hit "Strange Days" or the mega-hit trilogy "The Matrix"? "Neuromancer" not only influenced the plots and characters of those books, but the total cyber-aesthetic. There would be no computer-hacker movies post 1985 without it. Ramp it up when you're looking at graphic novels and anime, or TV shows from "Max Headroom" to "Dark Angel" to a handful of shows on the air as of this writing....all of which swim in the waters created by Gibson.
But it doesn't stop there.

We won't even talk about all the cyber-punk literature that flooded the market post-1984. Like anything that waxed on hackers, A.I., mega-corporations, IT, global electronic information networks, unintended uses for (and consequences of) technology...the whole film-noir meets dystopian future. Troubled loner in the wasteland. Body mods and nasty female leads. Yep. Thank Gibson. Thank "Neuromancer".

But it doesn't stop there.

No, the cyber-punk aesthetic quickly influenced music, too. Can you say industrial? Can you say Skinny Puppy? Front Line Assembly? Foetus? Then can you say Nine Inch Nails? Or specific works by David Bowie and Billy Idol...and then every rock, pop, or metal act since Trent Reznor?

But it doesn't stop there.

No it doesn't stop there. Gibson described (though he set the book in what is guessed to be late 21st or early 22nd century) close to the world we live in, when you remove the high-sheen gloss. Not so romantic and fantastic, but chalk full of the risks of cyber-crime, the evaporating middle class, the black markets lying in the underbelly of society (no longer only in back alleys, but now also in the back alleyways of cyberspace, if one knows where to surf), global political instability, the mergers that are creating ever-larger mega-corporations (from music to news media), megalopolis and urban sprawl of a whole new order, human reliance on technology (from the major to the mundane), social networks, computer games and electronic escapism....

No, it doesn't stop there.

Gibson saw the future, and we're still catching up to it.

1 comment:

  1. Ed note: I read this around 1986 or '87, I think, after my brother Joshua said "You MUST read it". Called me a week later and said "You haven't read it yet? Do it NOW!". You betcha. So while y'all are thanking Gibson, I'll be thanking Joshua.