Sunday, October 4, 2009

Neuromancer by William Gibson

I didn't know thing one about this book going into it. It shows just what a noob I really am when it comes to science fiction, or at least to certain corners and alcoves of the science fiction pad. I would have approached it with more trepidation had I known. When I told Rish what I was reading next he said, "Oh, you couldn't pay me to read Gibson." But I looked at the list that Liz Mierzejewski put on her comment post, and saw that Neuromancer was number 10, and it was also specifically mentioned on Jason Sanford's story, Book Scouts Of The Galactic Rim, and I went ahead and gave it a shot.

I didn't know that the story was a cyberpunk story though. Cyberpunk is a genre that I have a really, really hard time with. I struggle with any science fiction story that uses a lot of specialized jargon, and you can get that in any sub-genre, but with cyberpunk, it's almost mandated. I have to admit that for long periods of time in the story, I had only the loosest grip on what was going on. If I hadn't mentioned on the blog that I was going to be reading it next, I probably would have quit on it. But I bravely soldiered on, and by the end...I still didn't like it much.

I never did figure out what most of the slang and BS in the story meant. What are microsofts? They're not related to the company of the same name, which hadn't even released its first version of Windows by the time this book was published. What is an Ono-Sendai? I think I finally figured out that it is the brand of computer he was using, but I could have been wrong. He mentioned the Yakuza a lot, and I think I finally figured out that he was talking about the Japanese mafia, but I don't think he ever helped me to figure that out--I may have looked it up on Wikipedia or something like that, I can't remember. And I still don't know what Flatlining is. People were said to be flatlining, which I would assume meant to die, but there was the flatline construct as well. And then there was the frequently mentioned Hosaka, and the place called Freeside, which I didn't figure out for a long while was actually a space station not a city on a Caribbean island or something. A lot of it I still wouldn't get, but I just found a sort of glossary that someone has compiled over at Wikipedia.

One other thing that I really despise is stories about drug addicts. Maybe if it was a story about someone who had kicked drugs, and was doing their best to stay off the stuff, but I just don't care what an effed up drug addict is doing to score their next hit. I don't think that Pulp Fiction is an awesome movie, I couldn't make it through Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, and I didn't enjoy my attempt at reading Naked Lunch. Case was a drug addict who did take some left turns in search of drugs, but not enough to completely sour me on the story, it was just mildly annoying and stupid.

One of my big problems may have been the fact that I listened to this book in audio rather than reading a print version. With material like this, it can be infinitely valuable to be able to flip back a page or two, or a chapter or two, to reread a part that will ease your confusion about the part your reading now. But with audio, you just can't do that. I wonder if I would have liked Dune as much as I did if I'd listened to the audio rather than reading the actual book? I tried to listen to the Dune sequel, and couldn't get past the first tape, but that could have been the severely annoying voice that the reader had more than the material itself.

Anyway, if you haven't figured it out already, this book was not for me. I suppose it's a classic, the first cyberpunk novel or at least the first big one, but cyberpunk just isn't really my thing. To make cyberpunk work for me, a lot has to be done to soften the landing. Others, I'm sure, love it, and that's okay, we're all different, and I'm glad we are. It makes life so much richer.

I'm happy to be moving on. Up next...Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. It's not on the classic list, but it was a Hugo nominee this year, so I figure it's worthy. I hope there's no cyberpunk in it...

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