As with so many of the other books that I include in this section, I don’t specifically recall the first time I read Neuromancer by William Gibson. Most likely, it was some time in high school. It was not even the first of Gibson’s work I had read, beginning instead with some, if not all, of the short stories included in the Burning Chrome anthology. I also went on and read the other books set in the futuristic mega-city known as The Sprawl but Neuromancer is the one that has always stayed with me the most.
Having been reading science fiction for several years by the time I got to it, Neuromancer came at me like; well, maybe not a breath of fresh air, but a splash of cold water. It showed what still seems like a much more likely future that the sterilized Star Trek style futures I was used to at the time.
Set in a futuristic world that has more or less become the template for cyber-punk environments ever since, the story follows a group of misfits brought together by the mysterious Wintermute for a special task, ultimately involving each of their skills. Along the way, there is mention of geodesic domes, artificial intelligence, cybernetic implants/modifications and, of course, the matrix and cyberspace.
It’s one of those novels that’s hard to fully grasp it’s possible impact. Written in 1984, it predates the invention of the internet and the vast majority of the technology we take for granted nowadays. Granted, it’s not perfect (when was the last time you saw someone use a pay phone?) but I can’t help feeling it’s going to prove that it got a lot more right than it gets wrong.