Neuromancer – Looking at the First Page

Reading the first page of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, here are some rapid-fire impressions.

  • Setting is important. Gibson opens not with a description of a person, an action, or a line of dialogue, but with a scene setter.

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

  • This sort of simile has noir written all over it. One of the characteristics of cyberpunk is that it is dystopian noir. The heroes of these sorts of books tend to think in these dark, figurative comparisons, as if everything they process gets ground and perverted into poisoned symbols like sex, drugs, money, corruption, and death.
  • Characters go by last name. Again, very noir. Our hero is not Henry Case or Henry, but Case. The sound of the name is harsh, brief, and sounds like it should be shouted by an angry police chief or a threatened love interest. He’s hardboiled by his name alone.
  • The name of the area we’re in is called the Sprawl. It is in Tokyo and we are at some bar where Japanese and Americans intermingle. I can understand how Gibson got nervous after seeing Blade Runner come out while he was writing the Neuromancer manuscript. What is it about Japanese culture that makes it so natural for cyberpunk? When this was written, Japan was ascending to the zenith of its economic influence and making a name for itself as the go-to place for technology. Funny that Gibson, who is thinking about Japan here, wrote this book in Vancouver.
  • There is language here meant to ostracize us. We don’t know what a joeboy is, what the Sprawl is supposed to be. This isn’t our world and he’s trying to make that clear right out of the gate.
4 Responses to “Neuromancer – Looking at the First Page”
  1. Anon says:

    “The name of the area we’re in is called the Sprawl. It is in Tokyo … ”

    Hm. The Sprawl is the extended L.A. area, not Tokyo. I’m guessing you haven’t read the books? The *Sprawl* trilogy?

    That aside, you have a few good points here.

    • Oh man is the Internet a cruel mistress. A few years late but you got me! I never read the books. Kidding, but I did goof. Sprawl is NY area (not the LA area). Neuromancer does open in Japan, but Chiba City, not the Sprawl. Pat yourself on the back, but only with one finger.

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