Book Review: Neuromancer

Book Name: Neuromancer
Author: William Gibson
First Published: 1984
Nebula & Philip K. Dick Awards winner, British Science Fiction Award nominee, 1984. Hugo Award winner, 1985

William Ford Gibson was born in the late 1940s and remained in the United States until the Vietnam War. Like many of his generation, he evaded the draft during the late 1960s by emigrating to Canada. There he became entrenched with the pervading counterculture of its day. Eventually, he settled in Vancouver, British Columbia and became a full-time author.

Gibson’s early works are bleak, dystopian stories about the effect of cybernetics and computer networks on humans beings. His short stories are published in popular science fiction magazines. The themes, settings and characters developed in these stories culminated in his debut novel Neuromancer. This book was unique in its scope and subject matter. It detailed a world that was unimaged at that time, but helped to define the world we live in today. Terms such as “cyberspace”, “matrix” were created by him in the novel and the concept of the internet can find its seeds there as well. Neuromancer was a critical and commercial success and birthed the cyberpunk literary genre.

Most of Gibson’s fame resides with Neuromancer and the Sprawl Trilogy it spawned, but he is also known as one of the important developers of another genre, the science fiction genre of Steampunk. His novel The Difference Engine, written with co-author Bruce Sterling, is considered one of the primary books that formed the ideas of the genre. It should be read along with the works of Tim Powers, James Blaylock, and K.W. Jeter when reading to understand the roots of the Steampunk genre.

“All the speed he took, all the turns he’d taken and the corners he’d cut in Night City, and still he’d see the matrix in his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void…”
― William Gibson, Neuromancer

It is the future and in the dystopian underworld of Chiba City, Japan, Henry Dorsett Case is a man who is unemployable due to the damage to his central nervous system by a powerful drug administered as a punishment for theft. Addicted to drugs and near suicidal, Case canvases the “black clinics” for a miracle, a cure that will allow him to once again access the global computer network in cyberspace, a virtual reality known as the “Matrix”.

He is rescued by an augmented “street samurai” who works for an ex-military officer called Armitage. Molly Millions needs Case’s skill as a hacker for a job and she arranges for Case to be healed. It is not long before Case learns that he has been double-crossed, for along with the “cure”, sacs of the poison that had crippled him before have been surgically placed inside his body by Armitage. If Case doesn’t follow through with the job, he will be right back where he started. Case and Molly are joined by a thief/illusionist named Peter Riviera.

The team’s first data theft is stealing a copy of the mind of a man named McCoy Pauley. He is a brilliant hacker who was Case’s mentor. They intend to use his electronic mind to aid them in their next job. As they work together, Case and Molly begin to form a romantic attachment.

The group next heads to an L5 space habitat known as Freeside. It serves as a luxury resort and casino for the wealthy and as the residence of the powerful Tessier-Ashpool family. The group’s mission is to break into the Villa Straylight and hack into an AI known as Wintermute.

What is Wintermute? It is half of a super-AI entity that was designed by the Tessier-Ashpool family to circumvent the Turing Law Code governing AIs to keep them restricted and safe for humans. Wintermute is housed in a computer mainframe in Berne, Switzerland and was programmed with a need to merge with its other half, Neuromancer, which was installed in a mainframe in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Should the two halves make a whole, a super-intelligent AI entity would be formed.

Case is tasked with entering cyberspace to get through the Turing-imposed software barriers. At the same time, Riviera is to gain the password to the Turning lock code from the current CEO of the Tessier-Ashpool family corporation. It is believed that Riviera will pose an irresistible temptation to her. Once learned, this password must be vocally spoken into a terminal in the Villa Straylight at the same moment when Case gets through the barriers in cyberspace.

Will Wintermute find its AI better half to find its destiny or will the law protecting humanity prevail? You’ll have to read the book to discover what happens in the end.

Neuromancer Book CoverI first read Neuromancer sometime around 2005. Cyberpunk as a genre had been established for quite some time and the concepts were a known quality, slowly growing more mirrored in the reality of the real world. When I decided that I wanted to take a look at the book that spawned the genre of cyberpunk and the ideas of hacking into computer systems or jacking the human mind into a machine, it made sense to seek out the holy grail of Neuromancer.

My first response to the clutter of prose and jargon-heavy “inside jokes” by this self-proclaimed techo-geek, was to roll my eyes and wonder what the heck were the award givers of the 1980s thinking? Why honor this writer of clunky prose who was obviously thumbing his nose at those of us who were not residents of silicon valley.

I had forgotten the reason I had gone back to read Neuromancer in the first place.

Gibson is not a hacker. He is not an engineer or an apple specialist designing the next hardware leap. Neuromancer is not about technology per se. What is Gibson? An artist that saw the direction that people could be heading and used this knowledge to create a fictional world where humans had an increased dependence on tech, more detachment between people due to constant interaction with machines and a blurring of lines between nations as we all tap into the global inner-world of cyberspace. He created a vision of what cyberspace, artificial intelligence and the merging of man to machine could be.

What is amazing is that this one book, Gibson’s debut novel, created a firestorm of inspiration to an entire generation of teenagers, novelists and technologists of the 1980s to think, “Wow, this is unique and too cool.” And then to inspire them to CREATE that world that they had only read about.

That my friends, is great literature. Neuromancer, although having dated technology and prose that is difficult to dive into until you get used to Gibson’s style, is a book that should be read. It is a blueprint of the world we live in today and a cautionary tale of what yet may come.

Sprawl Trilogy

Neuromancer (1984)
Count Zero (1986)
Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988)

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksAs I surf the net each week, I come across articles that I feel are helpful to either myself or to beginning authors. I like to share the cream of the crop with you all every Monday. This week’s batch has some interesting items, including a video about Victor Borge that will have grammar enthusiasts rolling on the floor.

How to write a series: 8 novice mistakes to avoid

AN OVERVIEW ON SCI-FI SUB-GENRES

Urban Fantasy

The Top 20 Publishers for New Authors

Are These Filter Words Weakening Your Fiction?

How to Become a Novelist

YOUTUBE: Victor Borge: Phonetic punctuation

You Kept Your Audiobook Rights – Now What?

5 TIPS FOR CRAFTING A MEMORABLE BOOK DESCRIPTION

The productivity trick one author used to write over 40 books

Guest Post: Why Reader Reviews Matter by Gail Z. Martin

Ereader and Book Reviews

When you add a review on Goodreads or Amazon or mark off the number of stars you deem a recently-read book worthy to receive, you may not realize how important your rating is to your favorite author. And likewise, if you hurry on to the next book without bothering to leave a comment or mark the stars on a book you’ve just finished, it may not occur to you that you’ve done a slight–but important–disservice to an author whose work you’ve enjoyed and want to see more of.

Once upon a time, people bought books in bookstores and depended on either newspaper/magazine reviewers or knowledgeable booksellers for recommendations, as well as their friends and families. In today’s world, a large percentage of books are purchased online, without the opportunity for readers to ask a friendly bookstore worker for advice, and many people live far away from the friends and family members who share their reading tastes. Newspapers and magazines have drastically cut ‘lifestyle’ sections like book reviews. And while it’s true that citizen journalist reviewers have rushed in to fill the void, their work is less accessible than the reviews that were delivered with the morning or evening daily newspaper.

That means readers looking for a new book or a new author make spur-of-the-moment decisions based on the free online excerpt available on sites like Amazon, or decide whether a book will be helpful or to their taste from the reader comments, ratings and reviews either on Amazon and other bookselling sites, or on Goodreads.

Even established bestselling authors like to hear from readers who have enjoyed their work. I’m not sure that any author outgrows wanting to be told that someone liked their book. And even famous authors wince when at negative reviews, particularly if the language is unkind. (Yes, authors read reviews, even though everyone tells us not to. We celebrate the good ones and despair over any that are less than glowing.

But beyond sending a message to your favorite author, book ratings, reviews and stars are increasingly important as bookselling becomes an online transaction instead of an in-person interaction. With the shrinking number of physical bookstores, it’s difficult for readers to wander the isles searching for a cover or title that strikes their fancy. And since many of the existing stores have cut back on inventory, they’re less likely to stock as many specialty and special-interest books as before. Small press books rarely make it onto bookstore shelves unless the author is local or the subject is of local interest.

Add to these trends the reality that the big publishing houses have cut back on new books from many established authors who are well-regarded but not quite mega-bestsellers. These authors then bring out their new books with smaller publishers, and may have difficulty getting shelf space in stores. Advancements in digital printing and ebooks have dramatically increased the number of self-published and small press titles. Readers looking for a new book face clutter, confusion and a fragmented marketplace.

Reader reviews, stars and ratings, as well as citizen journalist book bloggers are the beacons in the storm, helping baffled readers find the books best suited to their interests.

If you like a particular author or enjoy a certain series, the best thing you can do (in addition to buying a copy of the book and encouraging your friends and local library to do the same) is to rate and review the books you enjoy. By helping your favorite books and authors rise above the crowd, you’re helping to ensure that their sales sustain the publisher’s interest in more books in that series or by that author.

Likewise, please think twice before down-rating a book for anything other than poor writing. Slow shipping, damaged covers, and other production mishaps are out of the author’s control. I’ve seen authors given a one-star review because the reader didn’t like the package Amazon used to ship the book! Trust me when I say that the author was not the one doing the shipping.

I’d argue that “I wish the book had done X instead of Y” is also not a reason for a poor review. The author wrote the book in the way he/she saw the story going. It’s his/her story, and that’s the author’s right. If you feel strongly that a different story would be better, write that different story with your own characters and settings. Many a career has started this way!

Ratings on Amazon factor into how often a book is suggested in the ‘if you liked this, you might like that’ bar. Amazon’s algorithm to suggest books, as well as the visibility boost that comes from being paired to a similar bestseller, is one of the most valuable things that can happen to a book. Your comments help the books you like to get the attention they deserve.

So if you like an author or a series and want to see more, use the power of your voice to give the ratings/reviews that will help more people discover the book!

Iron Blood Book CoverCheck out my new Steampunk novel Iron and Blood, co-written with Larry N. Martin, set in an alternative history Pittsburgh in 1898. In stores July 7!

The Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek Event includes book giveaways, free excerpts and readings, all-new guest blog posts and author Q&A on 28 awesome partner sites around the globe. For a full list of where to go to get the goodies, visit www.AscendantKingdoms.com.

Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books and Orbit Books. In addition to Iron and Blood, she is the author of Deadly Curiosities and the upcoming Vendetta in her urban fantasy series; The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash, and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga from Orbit Books. Gail writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures and her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies.

Author Gail Z. Martin
Gail Z. Martin, Co-Author of Iron Blood
Author Larry N. Martin
Larry N. Martin, Co-Author of Iron Blood

Author Interview: C. S. Marks

C.S. Marks prefers the classic epic tale, told in a slightly more contemporary voice. Her work may be read and enjoyed by all ages and on many levels of complexity, from the superficial action/adventure to the deep, thought-provoking level appreciated by the more serious and introspective reader. I’m honored to feature her on No Wasted Ink.

Author CS MarksI’m C.S. Marks, best known in the writing world for the Elfhunter trilogy. I hold a Ph.D. in Life Sciences, I am a life-long horsewoman and competitive long-distance rider, and I have spent the past 23 years as a Professor of Equine Science. My other interests include art, archery and bow-making, songwriting, and filk-singing. (I also have thirteen dogs on the farm. Ye gods.)

When and why did you begin writing?

I don’t remember when I first began writing; my dad was a Professor of Literature, and he instilled a love of words, reading, and writing at a very early age. Serious writing began the year he died suddenly…to fill a hole, I expect.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I’ve just released Outcaste, which is the first in a new Alterran series. I’m currently working on the second in that series, entitled Anastasi. Also starting work on an unrelated novel.

What inspired you to write this book?

Let’s go back to the beginning, to Elfhunter.
Actually, it was the villain, Gorgon Elfhunter, who inspired me. His is a story that just needed to be told.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I probably do, but not sure how to describe it. As with any writer, it has evolved over the years. I like well-written narrative, I hate infodumps, I try to include enough description to fire the readers’ imaginations without overdoing it, and I love dialogue. Others have described my stuff as “Martin-esque with a bit of Stephen King influence.” I find that interesting, as I didn’t read anything of Mr. Martin’s until after the trilogy was long finished. My love for Tolkien is obvious, but my style is quite different.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

It is the story of Gorgon Elfhunter. There could be no other title. Sometimes the title of a book won’t reveal itself to me until the book is nearly finished, as was the case with Ravenshade.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

That is a vast question, and there are many ways to answer it, depending on the reader. Over the course of five novels, the “message” has developed with the story. If I had to condense it, it would concern themes of good and evil, love and hate—and what happens in between when the lines are blurred and the path is no longer clear. It would focus on the choices we make, which define our character, and that we are not at the mercy of circumstance if we choose to defy it and remain true to who we are. The newer series really focuses on the nature of prejudice, and how it may (or may not) be overcome.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Yes, some are. The horses, for example, are all based on horses I either have owned or currently own. I have been told that I write some of the best horse characters in fantasy, which is not surprising considering my life-long obsession. There are countless other examples of events and characters based on experience…I’ll keep them to myself for now.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I adore James Herriot. From him I learned to write what I know and tell my story from the heart. I admire Stephen King, who taught me the rules of writing and how to break them. I will always love Tolkien…the man who defines what epic fantasy is, and should be, at least to me.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

My dad would have been a great one. It is one of my greatest regrets that he did not live to see my work in print. He was editing my stuff since I was about eight years old; from him I learned to loathe exclamation points and not fear the occasional adverb.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Concept by me, artwork by Hope Hoover (Elfhunter) or John Connell (Fire-heart, Ravenshade, Outcaste). Hope and John were chosen for the quality of their work, and because they are willing to work in close cooperation with the author.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Of course—don’t we all? In a few words, “Try to be realistic in your expectations, hire the best editor you can afford, and realize that not everyone will love your work…and that’s ok!”

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

You guys know how much I appreciate you. If you loved the Elfhunter trilogy, wait til you read Outcaste. And if you loved Outcaste, wait til Anastasi comes out. (You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.)

Book Cover ElfhunterC.S. Marks

FACEBOOK
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Elfhunter

Cover Artist: John Connell
Publisher: Parthian Press

AMAZON
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No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksEach week, I surf the internet to read articles about the craft of writing. Of these, I save the best I found and share them here with you. Welcome to No Wasted Ink and enjoy.

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Author Interviews * Book Reviews * Essays * Writer's Links * Scifaiku

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