A (Brief) Glimpse At Neuromancer

In a vaguely dystopian, high-tech future, Case – who has a full name, it just doesn’t come up often – is offered the chance to return to his old profession as a master hacker, which he was surgically prevented from continuing, in exchange for his assistance on an enigmatic job. The offer comes from a cybernetically enhanced assassin named Molly on the behalf of her employer Armitage, a mysterious figure with extensive resources and a military past. Molly and Case embark on an extensive espionage-based tour of the future society, extensively sketched by author William Gibson, and uncover the behind-the-scenes machinations of a deeply troubled artificial intelligence, which they do nothing to stop and leave to its own ends as they go their separate ways.

When summarized in a manner that assumes no prior knowledge, a blurb-style plot synopsis can’t help but omit the texture of the world Gibson builds (at least not at the expense of communicating crucial story beats). So much of Gibson’s storytelling is about the way you learn about the differences in his world by the differences in his characters – to a degree that, I think, goes beyond the obvious level at which the actions and speech patterns of the cast can be used for exposition in science fiction, and into something that sort of hybridizes character and setting (appropriate for a story so occupied with the hybridization of humanity and technology – especially when both of the former map onto both of the latter). If his characters read as somewhat flat without a sense of that setting I think it should speak to how important he makes his world to the reader’s understanding of the people within it, not a failing of his characterization overall. The most obvious way I could think of improving my above plot summary is therefore by the addition of some text to give the flavor of (ie) the Sprawl as written by Gibson, rather than, say, detailed character profiles. That’s not to say character profiles are of less merit overall – actually I’d say the better part of the science fiction we’ve read in the class so far would benefit from it in a plot-summary challenge like this – but in the specific case of Gibson’s writing I think it’s secondary to understanding the setting he’s thrust his characters into.

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