Year of Publication: 1984
Number of Pages: 317 pages
Genre: Science-fiction, cyberpunk, thriller,
Summary: The novel is set in an unidentified future Earth where people live in vast crowded cities and floating space-stations. In this future, biological and technological modifications of the human body are common and life is dominated by "the matrix" a vast computer network which links together every computer network on Earth and which the user accesses by plugging in his or her nervous system and experiences as a three dimensional landscape known as "cyberspace" with information appearing as a physical form. The plot revolves around Case, a "console cowboy" (a computer hacker who is paid to enter the matrix and steal information from companies and individuals), however after double-crossing his employers, they maim his nervous sytem rendering him unable to access the matrix. Addicted to the experience of accessing cyberspace, Case is left broke by his fruitless search for a cure for his condition, and ekes out an existence in the violent criminal underworld of Chiba City, Japan.
His prospects change when he is contacted by beautiful and deadly Molly, a "razorgirl" who has had her instincts and reflexes artifiicially augmented, has artificial lenses permanently grafted over her eyes and retractable razorblades concealed under her fingernails. Molly's employer has a cure for Case's condition and is willing to allow Case to stay cured under one condition: That he returns to the matrix to steal from one of the most powerful and dangerous networks on Earth.
Opinions: This book is almost certainly one of the most important and influential science-fiction works of the past thirty years. It popularized the sub-genre known as cyberpunk and stands as pretty much the definitive cyberpunk text. It also popularized the term "cyberspace" (which was coined by Gibson in his 1982 short story "Burning Chrome"). Storywise, the book is a noir-style pulp fiction thriller in futuristic guise. It's written in the language of the future world which can be quite overwhelming and demands a lot of attention form the reader and packed with dense and surreal imagery. The main problem with the book is that it can be very difficult to follow in places but it is worth making the effort because the event-packed plot moves at a breakneck speed and is told with striking language which approaches hard-boiled poetry. Interestingly, despite the fact that the book deals with computer technology which is a field which obviously has made vast advances since 1984 it has aged pretty well and doesn't really appear all that dated, the only thing that really shows it's age are the descriptions of cyberspace itself, which would probably be a lot more crowded if it were written today.
The book was followed by two sequels: Count Zero (published in 1986) and Mona Lisa Overdrive (published in 1988) together they make up "The Sprawl Trilogy" ("The Sprawl" is a location in the three books and refers to the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis (BAMA) a massive urban sprawl which covers pretty much the whole East Coast of the United States)
"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel"
- William Gibson, Neuromancer