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Our discussion of Neuromancer

We met last night to discuss Neuromancer by William Gibson.   As always, people had a lot to say --- so I'll do by best to give some of the highlights of our discussion here:

  • Burt Macklin, FBI, started out by saying, "Wow -- the Wachowski brothers really owe him some royalties!"   A number of people mentioned that when they were reading, they thought of a lot of other books and movies that took inspiration from this book.
  • Furry said that she had originally read the book a long time ago, and at that time, thought it was amazing.  However, she felt that reading it again now, it didn't hold up as well.  However, she thought there were still a lot of cool things in the story, especially the character of Molly.  She pointed out that in 1984, there weren't characters like Lara Croft, no Underworld movies, etc; having Molly was great (and, she was like a prototype for some of these other characters).   As Furry put it, it was "nice to have an ultraviolent character who wasn't a man."  
  • Hola loved the book, and said, "Booyah!  This is so awesome!"  She said she had been a bit nervous about reading the book, since it's considered a modern classic, but found she had a great time reading it.  She found it to be a fascinating book, and liked that the author didn't always explain things, but instead, just puts the reader into this world.   Theresa agreed, and said that from his descriptions, readers might all have different ideas of what it is that he's describing.   Burt Macklin, FBI said that he was able to get around certain elements by picturing was the 1980's retro-future looked like.
  • We did have some general discussion of what held up from the book, and what didn't.   For example, it has been noted that Gibson didn't include cellphones in his story.  However, this kind of detail didn't bother too many of our readers, a few of whom said that they could make arguments to cover it in the story.    Theresa said that for her, what actually dated the story, was the inclusion of so much smoking.
  • Not all readers, however, were enamored of the book.   Terry said that she hated it and had no idea what the author was talking about in the story.   She also didn't care for the author's writing style.  Furry pointed out that it was the author's first book, so it's expected that it's a bit rougher around the edges than some of his later work.     Stephanie said that for her, it was easier to focus on the human story, and not worry too much about the technical details.   She also said that the book seems to be somewhat polarizing; readers she has spoken to either really like the book or really dislike it.   Les noted that he found the story to somewhat poor, although for 1984, many of the concepts are pretty amazing.     I had mentioned I would include a link to a Study Guide for this book (click the link).
  • Jen said that she wasn't wild about the book, although she enjoyed seeing how many things that this book inspired.   She admitted that she would get distracted, remembering a movie or another book that seemed to pull inspiration from this book, and thus, found that this book just didn't catch her entire attention.
  • We did have some general discussion about some of what this book inspired, including movies, television, and other books.   As Furry put it, there are a lot of "seeds" here in the story.  Greg said that for him, the mention of Bladerunner, and the original story for that by Philip K. Dick, made him think that this book is showing Gibson is the next iteration.
  • We also talked about Wintermute and Neuromancer.   Nathan said he liked the laws, cracking down on the AI.   We talked a little about the Turing Test (click the link to learn what that is) and also about the creation of AI in this story, as well as what seemed to be some of the underlying philosophy.  Burt Macklin, FBI, said that at the end of the story, it seemed like Neuromancer was devoted to looking backwards, while Wintermute had no past, and instead, only looked forward.   Hola said she found it interesting to see how both Neuromancer and Wintermute manipuated people.
  • Theresa mentioned the mention of the French painting (in Chapter 17), "La mariée mis à nu par ses célibataires, même"  - and it seems like Gibson in this story is doing what Duchamp did with his art.
  • Lastly, we talked about the ending of the book.  Some readers felt it seemed like Case was going to go right back to his old, drug-using life, even though it seemed like he was ready to move on (and forward).  Readers talked about the drug use from a plot standpoint, as well as Case's own drug use.   Derek pointed out that if it's possible to get a clean scrub somehow, then how bad can the drugs be?   Hola said that it seemed to her that Case made the choice at the end because he wanted to be in control of his own life.  Even if he doesn't do drugs, he now can if he wants to.    This led to some more discussion about how, in the story, there is a choice that can be made to be completely virtual (thus leaving your physical body behind).  Greg said that it feels like a hyper-intellectual exercise, where the body, itself, is a limitation.

Overall, we had a great discussion (as always).    We did note, though, that this was the third book in a row that has had drug use in it (of a sort -- here we have drugs, Nexus had drugs, and the previous book had gunpowder .. used like a drug).   Theresa pointed out that this book also mentioned Bacon .... thus leading Burt Macklin, FBI to note that "Drugs and Bacon" would be a great name for a stoner band.  Yes, this was a great way to end our discussion of this book and then talk a bit about our upcoming discussion Lock In, and wondering if Scalzi would also be including some reference to bacon in that book, as well.

The group gave this book these codes: NARC, CYB, AHRO, HUGO, NEB and BACON -- and the averaged-out rating was a 4.   We always welcome more discussion, so please feel free to leave a comment!

And --- if you are are wondering what this author has been up to recently, he has a NEW book coming out in October: The Peripheral.   We have it on order for our library, so if you'd like to place a hold on it, please let me know.     


This was an amazing read. I went on to finish the trilogy, and I loved it.

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