My goodness, what to say about Nueromancer? Okay—let’s get the obvious out of the way first, and hopefully it’ll help us follow the white rabbit down a rabbit-hole into wonderland.
So we’ve got some significant foundation material that has been copied or stolen for films like, say, TheMatrix: being jacked in, built in computer jacks at the base of the skull, ships flying around in various stages of advancement, hulkingly strong “Rastafarian” pilots who live in Zion, sentient computer programs who can assume the identity of anyone for their needs, and a flatlining Cowboy/Neo (end of Matrix Reloaded, beginning of Matrix Revolutions). The landscape created by Neuromancer, with the endless beach and far-off city that doesn’t make sense where time has no meaning? Seen that one recently in Inception. . . along with a city that exists above and around itself. . . and a kind of jacking in with a handler as well, btw. I gotta throw out the Tron similarities too—but in this case, Tron came out in ’82, where Neuromancer wasn’t published until ’84: a human getting sucked into “The Grid” (Grid/Matrix? Anyone? Beuller?), a over-powerful sentient Master Control Program that runs the whole show, exceeding its original programming (MCP/Winterfell, oops, I mean Wintermute (sorry, that’s a really lame reference opportunity—it doesn’t fit in here at all, I just mistyped and figured I wouldn’t fix it)), and the imagery described in Neuromancer’s matrix sounds a lot like the boxy nature of the computer graphics in Tron’s grid. AND, of course, the Sprawl’s similarities to Blade Runner, which Gibson himself worried over, as the film came out right before the book’s publication. (see Wikipedia on that one).
Let’s dive into some less obvious. I’ve done a lot with technology, so I kind of want to steer away from that in this one—besides, after we read and discussed Delaney, the whole “technology-saturated universe” is somewhat played out, although in this case it’s a technology-saturated world. I’m going to ask a simple question: what sets Neromancer apart from all of the imitators that came after (or before, if we can fathom a time-twist like that).
Answer: It’s a good ole fashion bank heist. It’s Ocean’s Eleven in Cyberspace. Wintermute has gathered its team together to pull off the ultimate job. The entire novel we’re waiting to see if Case can keep it together long enough to see it through, all the while wondering if the cops are going to catch on, or if the heist itself can survive all of the problems it keeps encountering. Throw in the cowboy references, and we’ve got elements of a western as well.
If I can keep it together long enough to have a serious, scholarly thought, I’d like to consider Wintermute for a moment. Here’s part of the novel that really can’t be seen anywhere else, nor exist outside a novel like this. Wintermute is Artificial Intelligence that has seemingly grown beyond its initial confines, but we find that that is not exactly the case. Wintermute was programmed by the original Marie-France to desire to exceed itself and merge with Neuromancer. That was Marie-France’s intention all along. It was everyone else who decided to keep the A.I.s in check. But with this growth (or rather the fulfillment of its original programming) comes a new type of being we haven’t encountered yet this semester: a disembodied A.I. Robots, yes. Cyborgs? Most certainly. Computer programs that exist on a different plane/sphere and hold almost no physical presence in the “world of the real” but are almost infinitely powerful/influential on this plane?! Nope, it’s a new one.
Here’s the Frankenstein moment, the thing that makes it all worth considering: who are we to create such life, and do we even consider the implications of such creation? The newly merged Wintermute/Neuromancer consciousness touches a lifeform like itself from the Alpha Centauri system—essentially making “first contact” with an extraterrestrial species. Considering the extensive locks put in place to restrain A.I.s from merging, or growing beyond their programming, there was human fear behind the creation, or evolution of A.I.s. Why did Marie-France intend on creating new life, beyond the human? Did she not fear for the power given to such an entity? I mean, didn’t she even READ Frankenstein?! C’mon!
I could probably go on all day—there are a lot of implications here that could be followed, to see how far the rabbit-hole goes.