This book was hard work. I’m not sure if that hard work really paid off. I liked some parts, and there were some amazing sentences here and there, but overall this was too much stream of consciousness writing, and I didn’t really connect with Gibson’s consciousness. It doesn’t have the density of a book like Gravity’s Rainbow, but still, Neuromancer is a very dense book by any other standard, and it left me tired. It does get a bit easier, with a lot more exposition, towards the final 3rd of the book.
Density and unclear writing aren’t marks of valor per se. It might seem highbrow or sophisticated to read a dense book, and that’s undoubtedly part of the novel’s appeal – it adds to the reader’s own sense of prestige – , but one could easily argue that because of the style the characters are not clearly drawn and lifeless. The writing adds to the sense of chaos, but at the same time hides possible plot holes and almost violently forces the reader to suspend disbelief. I wonder whether the story itself would suffice to create the same effect.
So, one could debate Gibson being either a sloppy writer or otherwise a mad genius that only the willing and able can truly appreciate. The more I think about, the more I realize that I should maybe reread Neuromancer, with different expectations and a different mindset, and a more persistent effort to try to understand more of it. As it is, after my first reading, I didn’t feel that there was enough there content wise to justify Gibson’s formal approach. At times, I just wanted to quit, and I read on mainly because it has such a legacy.
As for the cyberpunk part of Neuromancer‘s influence, I really liked Stephenson’s take on the matter in Snow Crash a lot better. It had the same vibe, but because of clearer writing, the outrageousness of the world it painted impacted a lot more. Snow Crash read like a much more exciting book, with a more exciting story about more exciting characters in a more exciting world.
Some reviewers pointed out that Neuromancer may have well been written under the influence of drugs. Yes, it’s outlandish and otherworldly, but it felt disjointed and random too. While I can imagine other readers to enjoy it, and understand its historical relevance, for now I don’t feel it lives up to the hype. A blurry, messy book.
originally written on the 25th of February, 2015