Having read a few novels that fall into the cyberpunk genre, I was not completely taken aback by Gibson’s total immersion technique in Neuromancer. However, this is not to say, by any means, that I was not confused by various aspects of the novel. The language, the choppy plot structure, and the constantly changing setting are all facets of Neuromancer that impede my ability to completely comprehend what is going on in the novel. Nonetheless, I believe that said barriers are essential in regard to how the novel mirrors the convoluted asymmetry of human life.
In the preface to his book Mirrorshades, Bruce Sterling asserts, “Cyberpunk is widely known for its telling use of detail, its carefully constructed intricacy, its willingness to carry extrapolation into the fabric of daily life. It favors ‘crammed’ prose: rapid, dizzying bursts of novel information, sensory overload that submerges the reader…” How often, on a day-to-day basis, do you feel dizzy from all that life throws at you? Well, cyberpunk aims to harness that “dizzying” effect and transform it into prose, difficult but manageable prose. And what do you do to overcome being overwhelmed by life’s demands? You strive, and sometimes look beyond or simply ignore those little nuances that may seem so important. The same goes for cyberpunk, or Neuromancer in this instance. And this is probably the most difficult thing about Neuromancer; having to leave some things behind, or having to mentally mark things that do not make complete sense at the time you encounter them, but will hopefully add up as you continue to read. For example; In Neuromancer we are introduced to countless idioms (Sprawls, the matrix, cyberspace, artificial intelligence, flatlining, simstim, ice, and others) that are estranged from our own reality and don’t hit home in our first encounter with them, but with contextualization and further reading eventually make sense.
Throughout our academic pursuits we have always been told that nothing an author writes is unnecessary with regard to a work as a whole, so it makes sense that we expect some sort of explanation (whether implicit or explicit) when we encounter something that is strange or alien in our reading. But with cyberpunk we are often left, though typically temporarily, at a loss, and are expected to man-up and keep reading. This is completely counter-intuitive. Consider the scene in Neuromancer when Case wakes up in the matrix (Chapter 9). Wintermute has created a reality based on Case’s memories, and has projected itself as Julie Dean as a means to communicate with Case. The scene ends with Case shooting the image of Julie Dean in face, and shortly thereafter the next chapter begins. Soooooooo many questions are left unanswered in the blank space between the end of chapter 9 and the start of chapter 10. What is the matrix exactly? Who or what is Wintermute? Why does it (Berne) find it necessary to fuse with the other component of Wintermute, and what will be the outcome of such a union? Why is the process of merging the two components of Wintermute so intricate, difficult, and illegal? Why does such an advanced system need the help of mere mortals and lesser sentient cyborgs? Is the real Julie Dean now dead, or just the projection of him in the matrix? And so on, and so on. I haven’t finished the novel yet, but I hope and assume that all of these questions will be answered in time. To me, reading Neuromancer is like going on a long car-ride; you get in your car at point A and end up at point B. In retrospect you don’t remember everything, or see everything….just those things that have stood out along the way. And though every single piece of the puzzle (car ride) is not necessarily locked in your brain, you can still recall those foundational elements (maybe a good song, or stopping to get gas) that work together to prove that the trip took place and, did in fact lead you to point B.