Information about Gibson and his newest novel, Idoru. William Gibson's Yardshow: his own pages

Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 9, Chapter10, Chapter 11Chapter 12 Chapter 13,Chapter 14,Chapter 15,Chapter 16,Chapter 17,Chapter 18,Chapter 19,Chapter 20,Chapter 21,Chapter 22,Chapter 23Coda


When Neuromancer by William Gibson was first published it created a sensation. Orperhaps it would be more precise to say that it was used to create a sensation,for Bruce Sterling and other Gibson associates declared that a new kind ofscience fiction had appeared which rendered merely ordinary SF obsolete.Informed by the amoral urban rage of the punk subculture and depicting thedeveloping human-machine interface created by the widespread use of computersand computer networks, set in the near future in decayed city landscapes likethose portrayed in the film Blade Runner it claimed to be the voice of a new generation. (Interestingly, Gibson himself has said he had finished much of what was to be his body of early cyberpunk fiction before ever seeing Blade Runner.) Eventually it wasseized on by hip "postmodern" academics looking to ride the wave ofthe latest trend. Dubbed "cyberpunk,"; the stuff was being talked abouteverywhere in SF. Of course by the time symposia were being held on the subject,writers declared cyberpunk dead, yet the stuff kept being published and itcontinues to be published today by writers like K. W. Jeter and Rudy Rucker.Perhaps the best and most representative anthology of cyberpunk writers is Mirrorshades., edited by Sterling, the genre's most outspokenadvocate. Another page on Cyberpunk.

But cyberpunk's status as the revolutionary vanguard was almost immediatelychallenged. Its narrative techniques, many critics pointed out, were positivelyreactionary compared to the experimentalism of mid-60s "new wave" SF.One of the main sources of its vision was William S. Burroughs' quasi-SF novelslike Nova Express, (1964), and the voice of Gibson's narratorsounded oddly like a slightly updated version of old Raymond Chandler novelslike The Big Sleep, (1939). Others pointed out that almost all of cyberpunk's characteristics could be foundin the works of older writers such as J. G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick,Harlan Ellison, or Samuel R. Delany. Most damning of all, it didn't seem to havebeen claimed by the generation it claimed to represent. Real punks did littlereading, and the vast majority of young SF readers preferred to stick withtraditional storytellers such as Larry Niven, Anne McCaffrey and even RobertHeinlein. Gibson's prose was too dense and tangled for casual readers, so itis not surprising that he gained more of a following among academics than amongthe sort of people it depicted. Heavy Metal comics and MaxHeadroom brought more of the cyberpunk vision to a young audience thandid the fiction.

(Art by Heavy Metal artist Moebius, with French text.)Yet Neuromancer is historically significant. Most critics agreethat it was not only the first cyberpunk novel, it was and remains the best.Gibson's rich stew of allusion to contemporary technology set a new standard forSF prose. If his plots and characters are shallow and trite, that matteredlittle, for it is not the tale but the manner of its telling that stands out.His terminology continues to pop up here and there. Whereas an earliergeneration borrowed names from its favorite author, J. R. R. Tolkien, like"Shadowfax" (a new-age music group), "Gandalf" (a brand ofcomputer data switch), and "Moria"; (an early fantasy computer game),today there is a proliferation of references to Neuromancer: " Meat Puppets" is a rock group, there is a computer virus called "Screaming Fist," the Internet is commonly referredto as "Cyberspace" or--occasionally--"the Matrix," and thereis at several World Wide Web sites are named "Wintermute."; Gibsonproduced his vision in a time when many people were becoming haunted by the ideaof urban decay, crime rampant, corruption everywhere. Just as readers of the 50slooked obsessively for signs that Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four was coming true, some readers keep an eye out for the emergence of cyberpunk'snightmare world in contemporary reality. The fiction may not be widely read, butthrough movies and comics it has created one of the defining mythologies of ourtime.

The vision of Neuromancer was too confining for a writer ofGibson's originality, and after a couple of sequels--( Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive )--he turned to other experiments, such ashis "steampunk" collaboration with Bruce Sterling: TheDifference Engine, depicting an alternative Victorian Age in which huge,steam-driven computers were developed. In 1995 he returned to Cyberpunk with another novel set in Japan, Idoru.

Note that Gibson's related story Johnny Mnemonic was made into a 1995 film.

Part One: Chiba City Blues

Chapter 1

In the eighties, the American image of Japan underwent a profoundtransformation. For generations it had been on the margins of our imagination:as the exotic land of cherry blossoms and geishas, later as the war machinesending out kamikaze bomber pilots in World War II, and later still as thesource of every sort of cheap, shoddy, imitative gadget. All of these wereshallow images, of course. Japan industrialized not long after northern Europe,and Western influences had been strong for centuries. But the success of brandslike Sony and Toyota changed everything. Japan suddenly became perceived as thecutting edge of modernity. Whereas the rest of the world had looked toward theU.S. for innovation in the past, young Americans began to think of Japan as thefuture, and it became a frequent setting for science fiction. Not that the newimage was any more profound or less stereotyped, but it was certainly different.Chiba City in this novel has developed into a small section of the megapolis."The Zone" is the decayed inner core of Chiba City. Today Japan hashalf the population of the U.S. crowded in the area of California. Urban sprawlis a reality.

The opening image of the book, comparing nature to technology, sets the tone ofthe narrative. "Case," the name of the protagonist, could suggestdetective fiction, or it could suggest technology. His body--which he treats asalmost an alien entity with which he is not friendly terms--is a kind of casefor his mind and for the cyberspace with which it fuses, no more significant initself than the case of a computer CPU. The persistent cyberpunk obsession withthe mixture of flesh (called "meat" in the novel) and machinery isintroduced through Ratz's stainless steel teeth--unnatural looking butcommonplace in Communist Eastern Europe. Why is it significant that Ratz isugly? Ratz' reaction to the unexpected moment of silence is an old cliché, but startlingly incongruous in this setting. Case's addiction to cyberspace iscertainly prophetic; someone half-jokingly set up a Usenet support group for victims of cyberspace addiction: (alt.usenet.recovery). A "coffin hotel" is a buildingwhich rents out cheap sleeping space not much larger than a coffin. How is acyberspace cowboy similar to a traditional cowboy? Different? Case is a classicillegal hacker; but his present dilemma is caused by a classic crime-novel situation, acrook attempting to skim the proceeds from organized crime. Presumably theRussians developed the mycotoxin (fungal poison) as a chemical warfare weapon.It has blocked his ability to experience cyberspace. Why has he come to Japan?What evidence of pollution is contained in the paragraph beginning "Now heslept"? "Arcologies" are huge, self-contained cities enclosed ina single building, imagined by Paolo Soleri. "Dex" is dexedrine, apopular form of amphetimine. What characteristics make Case an anti-hero? Whatdoes he do for a living? The possibility of an underground market for body partshas been around since organ transplants became commonplace and has often beentreated in SF.

Where had he first met Linda Lee? Repeated references to war in Europe suggestit has been devastated in the recent past, probably by nuclear weapons."Pachinko" is a very popular kind of Japanese gambling machine vaguelylike vertically-oriented pinball. "French orbital fatigues" would bethe uniform worn by French astronauts in orbit." "Yakitori" isJapanese barbecued chicken, a common street snack. "Sarariman" is theJapanese word for a businessman employed by a large corporation, formed on theEnglish words "salary" and "man." Compare with Englishslang: "suit." What does it tell us that the Japanese industrial giantMitsubishi seems to have absorbed the U.S. genetic engineering firm Genentech?Although the computer images in the novel have had more impact, the biologicalones are almost as important. Why is the "sarariman" in danger inNight City? "Gaijin" is an insulting Japanese term for Westerners. TheYakuza is the biggest Japanese organized crime syndicate, their Mafia. A VTR ispresumably a "videotape recorder," a "simstim" deck is akind of virtual reality machine to simulate stimuli, Manriki chains and shuriken(sharp-pointed steel stars) are both familiar weapons from ninja movies. HongKong is famous for its tailors who can cut and deliver a custom-made suit inhours. Can you guess why the wearing of glasses would be an affectation ratherthan something normal in this society? The pioneering Russian abstract painterWassily Kandinsky specialized in shapeless blobs, lines, and smears in brightcolors. More Kandinsky. Salvador Dali frequently depicted "melted" watches and clocks(for example, "The Persistence of Memory," 1931). Julius Deane usesexpressions ("boyo," "old son") which indicate a Britishbackground. In the paragraph beginning"The cultivation of a certain tameparanoia" he sees in a display window an elaborate alternative to a pocketwatch. What is it? "Shin" is Japanese for "death." A taser stuns its victims with an electrical shock, but isnot meant to be lethal. Even now it is common for Japanese to wear surgicalmasks in public in an attempt to filter out the pollution, and gasps of pureoxygen can be had from streetside vending machines. What is Case trying to sellnow? Why can Ratz crush a shatterproof plastic ashtray to shards in his hand?"Wig"="crazy;" after old hipster jazz, "flipped hiswig," "wigged out." Flechettes" are darts (flèche is French for "arrow"). Molly is anextrapolation of the "tough dame" of Chandler-style mean-streets crimefiction. Such femme fatale assassins are a mainstay of modernfuturistic fiction. Do they represent women's liberation? What is hercharacteristic implant?

Chapter 2

A "fletcher" shoots "flechettes" (see above). In the operation called"Screaming Fist" (a typical karate film title) a team had been hired todestroy a Russian computer network ("nexus") in Kirensk with a virus,but Armitage failed and was caught. What does "ICE" stand for? What is an"icebreaker?" Note how computers have altered the economy. Molly tellsCase that his surgery is being paid for in software. Samurai originated as thefaithful defenders of feudal lords during the Kamakura period, but as Japan fellinto disorder, many of them roamed the country as "hired swords" andas such are one of the most popular subjects for Japanese fiction, drama, andfilm. "Ninjas " are arelated group who tend to have a worse reputation, though they could be just as honorable assamurai."Working girl," is slang for prostitute, though when Molly uses the term it is atfirst ambiguous, suggesting that she may be willing to work as a street samuraifor anyone. Later we learn the horrifying truth. Note the mechanical crab in thecourtyard. Endorphins are natural chemicals which provide pleasurable feelingsand suppress pain. If Case has been injected with "endorphininhibitors," clearly his tormentors have been trying to make him feel asmuch pain as possible. Note that his surgery was carried out mostly withoutincisions. To what is the sex Case experiences with Molly compared? Note howMolly is presented as dominant, highly competent, and--most important--betterinformed than Case. Such women are very common in contemporary action fiction.Why do you think they are so popular with male readers? What is her job?

What is Case trying to find out from Deane? Note how "Watergated" hasbecome a verb, evidently meaning that the "Screaming Fist" conspiracyproliferated in many directions. "Emp" stands for"EMP"="Electromagnetic Pulse" weapons. Nuclear bombsdetonated at certain altitudes with certain characteristics can destroyelectrical circuits, effectively destroying the enemy's defenses. Arpanet, the ancestor of the Internet was first constructed in an attempt to work around this problem.Here "emps" would seem to be a lower-level weapon aimed atpenetrations like "Screaming Fist." In a turkey shoot the birds arereleased to be shot at, therefore a turkey shoot is a very easy form of killing. Screaming Fist was a turkey shoot because the Soviet military had been informed in advance that it was coming. "Ivan" is the Russian government. Zaibatsus are the giant Japanesecorporations which traditionally employ their male workers for life. What is theentertainment like at Sammi's arena? Why was Linda Lee killed? Note therecurring question: "Who is behind all this?" This questioncharacterizes this sort of paranoid conspiratorial fiction.

Part Two: The Shopping Expedition

Chapter 3

The New-York to Washington D. C. corridor is often discussed as an evolvingmegapolis. Here the process has gone much further, to develop into "theSprawl." Note that the map described on the first page of this chapterdepicts not population density, but the frequency of the exchange of data: thenew definition of civilization. When a star "goes nova" it explodes.Narita is the Tokyo airport, Schipol [or more correctly Schiphol] is in Amsterdam, Orly is in Paris. The silent train they rode on is amaglev (magnetic levitation) vehicle of the kind which has been tested invarious places. A powerful electrical charge turns the rails into electromagnetswhich actually lift the train above them a fraction of an inch, reducingfriction essentially to zero and allowing for great speed at a low expenditureof energy. "The heat" is old gangster slang for "the cops:"here, any form of law enforcement officer. How has Armitage tried to guaranteethat Case will not betray his employers? Krill is the tiny shrimp on whichbaleen whales live. The Japanese process it into various fish and meatimitations. It has been proposed as a source of protein for an over-populatedworld. New York is enclosed by a dome, but typically Gibson introduces this factby observing its malfunctioning: a freak wind blowing a piece of newspaper alongthe street.

The cerebral cortex is the most complex and vital part of the brain. A"cortex bomb" would obviously be very ominous. The team is beingslowly assembled. Finn has been mentioned earlier as the member of the"Screaming Fist" team who escaped from the Russians in a stolenhelicopter. He is acting as the technician for the current operation."Dixie Flatline's construct" is an electronic recording of the mind ofa dead "cowboy" (free-lance hacker specializing in penetratingcomputer security systems) whose actual name was McCoy Pauley. His nicknamesuggests death (alluding to a flat line on an intensive-care room monitor) because heexperienced brain death three times. We will learn more about the monstrousPeter Riviera later.

One of SF's narrative difficulties is explaining future technology to the readerin a setting in which such explanations should not be necessary. How does Gibsonjustify providing his "info-dump" explaining the origin of the matrix?"Dermatrodes" would be electrodes which attach to the epidermis, orskin. A mandala is a complex Buddhist symbol, often in circular form."Spiral arms" alludes the arms of distant galaxies, unreachable by anycurrent technology. Here they are a metaphor for unreachable distant centers ofpower on Earth. The idea of a computer or network in which one can experiencevirtual reality has been around in fiction for a long time, but was firstpopularized in the movie Tron (1982).

The stolen module the Finn has brought will enable Case to experience the worldfrom inside Molly's body without leaving cyberspace--telepathy madetechnological.

Chapter 4

What distinguishes simstim addicts from cyberspace explorers like Case? TallyIsham is a simstim star. What does Case experience about Molly's effect on otherpeople? Note the ironic use of the name "Memory Lane." The socketsimplanted in people's heads were to become a standard feature of cyberpunk."Softs"=software; the word is an abbreviation for √ímicrosoft,√ď an obvious allusion to the giant software corporation. The Hosaka computer can function somewhat like thecomputer on the Starship Enterprise: query it vocally and it will tell you whatit knows. The answer is given in multimedia form. Many Japanese women undergosurgery to remove the epicanthic fold in the eyelid, giving them"Western" eyes. What does it mean that people are now havingepicanthic folds surgically created? Dr. Rambali alludes to the fact thatterrorists depend on the news media to publicize their causes, but the mediaconcentrate so exclusively on their acts of terror that the message they aretrying to convey is usually suppressed. How have the Panther Modernsshort-circuited this process? "Panther" is short for the Black Panthermovement of the sixties and early seventies which advocated violent resistanceto racism. "Big Science" is a term for large, expensive researchprojects such as the Human Genome Project or the recently-cancelledSuperconducting Supercollider; but the name here probably alludes to the titleof a Laurie Anderson CD. Anderson's fusion of live theater and technology isvery suggestive of the kind of environment in which Neuromancer is set.

Molly is trying to penetrate the Sense/Net headquarters inAtlanta to steal the Dixie Flatline construct, assisted remotely by Caseinterfering with Sense/Net's security software, the two of them linked by thebroadcast network created and run by the Panther Moderns. Case's mind is usingMolly's body. Why do you think Gibson chose Atlanta as media headquarters? A"blackbox" is any kind of illicit electronic device which can bypassnormal circuits: the original permitted its users to make long-distance phonecalls without paying for them. Strobe lights are known to induce seizures incertain people when pulsed at precisely the right frequency. How do the PantherModerns terrorize the people in the Sense/Net building? Computer viruses arewritten mostly to do simple kinds of mischief today; but in the novel virusesare tools which can penetrate secure computers, retrieve information, and covertheir traces. Case's code name is "Cutter." Molly is "CatMother." "Brood" is the Panthers. How did Molly break her leg?How does Case fool the security system into letting Molly take theconstruct?

"Lupus" means "wolf" in Latin, although it'salso the name of a disfiguring skin disease. Describe Lupus Yonderboy'sappearance. "Mr. Who" is an allusion to the long-running British SF TVseries, Dr. Who, featuring an unnamed hero usually alluded to only as"Doctor" Note that although this transaction is taking place inBAMA, the currency in new yen. The "Doppler" effect makes sounds seemto rise in pitch as the sound source approaches the hearer, fall as the recede.Note how Linda Lee continues to haunt him. Here we are first given the name"Wintermute."

Chapter 5

Why is Molly able to dissect her crab "with alarming ease?" What is"jive" and what is its function in this environment? ArtificialIntelligence ("AI") is a much-discussed concept which would involvethe creation of a complex computer system which would replicate the functions ofa human brain. Debates rage about whether such a construct would possessconsciousness, but research goes on toward developing AI. Molly and Case areboth bent on learning who Armitage is working for. The tip that Wintermute isinvolved leads them to its parent corporation: Tessier-Ashpool S. A. "Thegravity well" is a concept describing the difficulty of getting objects andpeople off the earth's surface into orbit, where space colonies have been built.Cyberpunk seldom depicts travel to other worlds, but takes high-orbit spacecolonies for granted. An archipelago is usually a group of islands. What is themeaning of the term here? "Spook" is slang for "spy."Freeside is an orbiting space colony shaped like a spindle (or cigar). Explainwhy it is "hard to keep track of what generation, or combination ofgenerations" is running Tesssier-Ashpool at any time? What does the slogan"Travel was a meat thing" mean? What does a "joeboy" seem tobe?

Chapter 6

In this chapter we learn that "Armitage" is really Willis Corto, oneof the agents who tried to carry out "Screaming Fist." What does"Watergating" seem to mean in this context? How was he used by themilitary? How is Armitage another variation on the machine/human interfacetheme? How does the pattern of Armitage's record suggest that he, like Case, isjust a hireling and not an integral part of whatever force is behind thismission?

Chapter 7

Why does the Mercedes talk to its passengers as it takes them into Istanbul? What is the significance of theexistence of letter-writers? How many different kinds of mutual distrust can youfind in this chapter among the various characters? Riviera has had an implantwhich allows him to project onto the retinas of his victims whatever hechooses--far-fetched, but not so unscientific as mental telepathy. What issignificant about the horse that they see? How does Riviera deceive Case whileTerzibashjian captures him? A seraglio is a harem. According to Case and Molly,who is probably responsible for rebuilding "Armitage" and sending himon this mission? Alan Turing, a pioneer theoretician of machine intelligence,suggested that a computer might be made indistinguishable from a human being.The "Turing heat" would therefore be police assigned the task ofpreventing computers from reaching improper levels of intelligence and power."Shopping politicals"=betraying dissidents. How do we learn thatGermany was hit with at least one nuclear weapon during the war? What does thelast line of this chapter signify?

Part Three: Midnight in the Rue Jules Verne

Chapter 8

The scene now shifts from Istanbul to Paris. Freeside is called "an orbitalGeneva" in relation to that city's emphasis on offering secret bankaccounts which are very attractive to those involved in illegal transactions.What subliminal image does Riviera project to Case to symbolize his opinion ofMolly? Since they are taking a Japan Air Lines shuttle from Paris to the orbitalstation called "Freeside" it is natural that koto music is playing thebackground. Rastafarianism is a movement that originated in the 1930s inJamaica, which involves the hairstyle called "dreadlocks," the hopefor blacks to return to Ethiopia (identified with the Biblical Zion), reggaemusic, and the smoking of ganja (marijuana). It was inspired in part by themovement founded by Marcus Garvey, who tried to purchase a fleet of ships (the"Black Star Line") to transport blacks back to Africa during the early1920s. They refer to White civilization, and the U. S. in particular as"Babylon," the demonic city of Christian apocalyptic writing. God iscalled "Jah," short for "Jahweh," which scholars think wasthe original pronunciation of the Hebrew name for God (though in the scholarshipthe "J" is pronounced as in German, as a "Y" sound). Therasta dialect is used by the characters in this chapter. Without rotation, anorbiting space station is in free-fall, and this creates an apparentlyweightless environment familiar from televised orbital missions. However, ifsuch a station is spun around a central axis, centrifugal force pusheseverything toward the rim. The closer to the rim one is, the stronger theapparent gravity is; whereas at the center of rotation, freefall weightlessnessprevails. Note the various visual games Riviera continues to play. What revealsthat Dixie Flatline is in fact bothered by knowing that he is dead? "Rue[Street] Jules Verne" is of course a tribute to the French grandfather ofscience fiction. Names spelled "Aerol" and "Maelcum" areapproximations of the rasta pronunciations of "Errol" and"Malcolm." Dub is a form of Jamaican rap music, popular throughout theCaribbean. Who has persuaded the rastas to cooperate with the team, and how?

Chapter 9

A "g-web" would be a retaining net able to absorb the impact ofacceleration and deceleration as the tug maneuvers. Such impact is measured in"g's" or Earth gravity equivalents. To experience 2 gs, for instance,is to be feel a force equal to two times Earth's gravity. Rastas avoid saying"we," using "I and I" instead. A "frog" companywould be French. Gibson has no hesitation about using rather dated slang in hisnarrative mixed with futuristic locutions. When Case's attempt to penetrateWintermute is repelled, where and when does his mind seem to take him? Where ishe really? What does Wintermute reveal to Case about its true nature?

Chapter 10

The description of the plants tumbling over the balconies of Freeside stronglysuggests traditional images of the Hanging Garden of Babylon. The blue skyoverhead is artificial, a recording made in the French sea resort of Cannes. Whydoes the pseudo-death of Deane haunt Case so much? How does Case react to treesand grass? What bizarre style does he encounter worn by three Japanese wives?Why is Case so puzzled about being sent the Kuang Grade Mark Eleven icebreakervirus? What is Dixie Flatline's theory?

Chapter 11

"Vigntième Siecle" is French for "TwentiethCentury," now a "period." Here we first encounter Lady 3JaneMarie-France Tessier-Ashpool. Why does Peter Riviera's show upset Case so much?Of the expensive shops, Gucci is Italian, Tsuyako is Japanese, Hermès isFrench, and Liberty is English. What does Case learn about Linda from Wintermutein this chapter? Wintermute seems to be behaving like an old-fashioned melodramavillain: manipulating the protagonist by endangering the woman he cares about.The girl in Case's cubicle is a "meat puppet," a prostitute who hashad her conscious mind artificially disconnected from her body by a "neuralcutout" so that she can carry out her duties on "automaticpilot." Why was Molly so furious at Riviera's sadistic fantasy performance?"Snuff" refers to film or performances involving the killing of womenfor the sexual pleasure of sadists. Snuff films have a long-standing status asan urban legend--nobody has ever found an authentic commercial example--but theyare commonly cited as the quintessence of pornography. So Molly's boss wasplanning to have her killed. Why did she kill the Senator? This story makesclear what Molly has to gain by remaining an outlaw. What is Molly's theoryabout how Wintermute is manipulating her?

Chapter 12

Why has Gibson invented the term "nighted"? "Le Monde" isFrench for "The World." "Old money" means wealth combinedwith social status in old families such as the Rockefellers. "Oldcredit" would be mean the same in a culture where physical money no longerhas a function. Remember that Case is using the name "Lupus" now.Origami (traditional Japanese paper-folding) cranes have come to be symbols ofpeace because of their association with the anti-nuclear bomb campaigns inJapan. What do you think is the significance of Cathy's crane? Examine themetaphors in the paragraph describe the Case's sensations when the drug hits;can you see any pattern in them? What do they have in common? Why is the zodiacon Freeside referred to as a "loser's" zodiac? Cath had hoped toseduce Case with this drug. What goes wrong with her plan? What is Case'sattitude toward his anger the next morning? "Turing"="Turingpolice," defined above.

Part Four: The Straylight Run

Chapter 13

Case learns for the first time what his real mission is, from the police. Whatis it? "Good cop/bad cop" is a familiar routine in which oneinterrogator is angry and threatening while the other feigns sympathy. Thesuspect is meant to shrink from the first into the "protective" armsof the other and reveal his or her guilt. The "Recording Angel" is amythical being who records all deeds good and bad to decide who makes it intoheaven. Case's surgical implant procedure, evidently designed by Wintermute, wasso innovative it enabled the illegal clinic in Chiba City to capitalize on theknowledge involved to get rich. How has this fact led to Case's arrest? Why doesMichèle say that Case has no "care" for his species? Why willit be difficult for Sense/Net to protest the destruction of the Dixie Flatlineconstruct? Since both the pilot of the biplane and the gardening robot havestruck, to whom is Case speaking in the last lines of this chapter?

Chapter 14

When Case loads the Chinese icebreaker software, Dixie Flatline observes fromoutside it that it appears invisible--reassuring for the team. Dixie'sdescription of the way the virus works is a well-written example of SFpseudo-science talk: a set of metaphors that make a kind of sense without anyreal technical explanation. When Case finds himself facing what appears to be the Finn back in Metro Holografix, who is he really talking to? For the reference to the burning bush, see Exodus 3:2-6. An old philosophical puzzle asks, "If a tree falls in the forest where there's no one to hear it, does it make a sound?" How is Wintermute able to recreate people and places Case knows? In what sense is the imaginary vacuum tube part of Wintermute's DNA? What threat does Wintermute claim to want to protect humanity from? A "folly" is the sort of fantastic architectural construction built in late 18th-century England to suggest medieval or classical ruins. The explanation given by the jeweled head of the Villa Starlight is another example of an "info-dump." What is the source of this one? "Semiotics" here refers to the meaning of the patterns of the Villa. Why does Wintermute need the team to penetrate past the head? Wintermute's last speech is highly ambiguous. Can you puzzle a meaning out of it? In Exodus Chapter 3, God speaks to Moses from within a burning bush.

Chapter 15

The meeting with Wintermute this time "killed" Case temporarily. Whenhe reestablishes simstim contact with Molly, Wintermute informs her of theconnection on her implanted ocular display which normally acts as a digital clock. This trick is what she reacts to when she says "Cute." The wordsin ALL CAPS in the rest of this chapter are similar displays. Molly uses hertongue to flip a control in her mouth that switches her vision from perceivingnormal light to some kind of substitute which works in the dark. What is a "stash" as Molly defines it? Molly's story about Johnny reveals thatshe and Case have something important in common. What is it? Why do you thinkthe ordinarily very private Molly is telling him this story? "Fancydress" is British for costumes of the sort one would wear to a costumeparty. Note how compact discs, invented shortly before this novel was written,are treated here as antique technology. The combination of hypodermic and spoonindicates heroin use. The heroin is melted over heat in the spoon, then injectedvia the hypodermic needle. What is the symbolism involved in the rerouting ofMolly's tearducts? The Egyptian Pharaohs had their servants killed and buriedwith them. Ashpool has been in a sort of suspended animation for the last thirtyyears, forever on the brink of death but never dying, an idea that was earlierexplored in Philip K. Dick's brilliant novel Ubik. What doesCase see in the face of the dead 3Jane? (It turns out later that this is not thereal 3Jane, by the way.) What is suggested by the fact that a fiberoptic cableis connected to her neck? The theme of a rich, self-indulgent family, falleninto decadent madness, is a cliché of popular fiction, and can be foundin Gibson's model, Raymond Chandler.

Chapter 16

What does Molly like about her relationship with Case? His computer completesthe search Case had directed it to make for the name "General Girling"and the result is displayed by Dixie Flatline on Molly's optic implant sinceCase is jacked into her brain at present. Since the display is not very wide,only a few letters can be shown at a time. The crazed Armitage is trying toorder the Rastas around, but they refuse because this is a "Babylonwar"--a struggle involving outsiders, not really their concern. "Rudeboy" is rasta slang for a tough gang member. Maelcom boasts that he istough enough to defy the Zionite leaders and stay with Case."Rocksteady" is one variety of Jamaican pop music, a predecessor toreggae. We learn why Riviera was important, to seduce 3Jane into giving up someof the secrets of how to penetrate Straylight to Armitage/Corto. When the latternext shows up, he has flipped back into the past, into the ill-fated"Screaming Fist" run. Why is Case so upset about Armitage fallingapart? The maddened Armitage/Corto has not only killed a man in order to destroyone of the computers being used on the run, but he has set the escape pod thathe is in to separate from the ship without closing its seals; he imagines he isescaping Russia for Finland, but in fact he is hurled into the vacuum of space.

Chapter 17

What makes the Tessier-Ashpool corporation more vulnerable than the zaibatsus? Who is ultimately behind the deaths of Armitage andAshpool? What motivates Dixie Flatline to work for Wintermute? The way the booksin the Straylight library are described suggests that books are antiquerarities. The Dada artist Marcel Duchamp created a large sculpture out of glassand paint depicting some chocolate-grinding machinery and molds and gave it thecharacteristically surrealistic title "La mariée mis ànu par ses célibataires, même" -- The BrideStripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. The object was badly cracked whenit was being moved early in its history, and the lines of the shards have becomea familiar part of the work of art. Knowing how Molly hates Riviera, her messageto him to be delivered by Case is ominous. Why would spacial disorientation holda peculiar horror for cowboys?

Chapter 18

Run Run Shaw owned one of the busiest film studios in the world in Hong Kong,churning out hundreds of martial arts films for distribution throughout Asia.Bruce Lee and Clint Eastwood are pioneering "bad-ass heroes" of actionmovies East and West, respectively. Riviera encases Molly's hands in a variationof old paper "Chinese handcuffs": the more you struggle, the tighteryou're trapped. As in classic hardboiled detective fiction (like TheMaltese Falcon), the lines of alliance are constantly shifting, and younever know whom you can trust. Cray manufactures the world's most popularsupercomputers. Using their brand name for a little commonplace monitor raisesthe ante on the technology. Molly reveals that she had her own agenda when shekilled Hideo and tried to kill Riviera. Why has Riviera decided to ally himselfwith 3Jane against the team? Chairman Mao Tse Tung's most famous saying was"Power comes out of the barrel of a gun." How did Riviera preventMolly from really killing the two men at the pool?

Chapter 19

With Molly crippled, Case and Maelcum have to penetrate Villa Straylightthemselves to complete the mission, and to rescue her. How do the life-supportsystems of the Villa Straylight symbolize the role of the corporation itself?What does "decanted" usually mean? (Look it up.) What does it meanwhen 3Jane says "I was decanted?" Why does she use the present tensewhen she says "He strangles her in bed?" 3Jane's mother's idea ofblending the family with artificial intelligences to achieve a sort ofimmortality is an old SF theme. 3Jane reveals an important fact about the AIs,which holds the key to the novel: Wintermute is only one of two AIs. When Mollyabruptly sees her mutilated face, it is of course Peter taunting her again.

Chapter 20

When Case next jacks in, he is sent back to the beach at Chiba city, to hismemories of Linda Lee. Japanese Zen gardens consist of a few well-placed rocksand sand raked in elaborate patterns. Case discovers that the AI manipulatinghim at the moment is not Wintermute; it is the other one. What is the point ofCase's complaint about the food? The tan Case has acquired on Freeside is anexpensive luxury. What is Linda's reaction to it? When Case feels himself drawndown to the "meat" level by the projection of Linda Lee, he definesthe latter in terms of information: spiral DNA molecules and pheromones,molecules which convey messages through smell. His seduction from the world ofthe Net down into the flesh is highly ironic, of course. Why?

Chapter 21

"Event horizon" refers to the border of a black hole and is used hereto refer to the limit of the illusion the AI has constructed. It was widelybelieved in ancient times that you could only summon up and control a spiritwhose secret name you had learned. There is a famous scene in Goethe's Faust in which the protagonist tries and fails to identify thedemon Mephistopheles. The name "Neuromancer" is a variation on"necromancer," a magician dealing in evil spirits and death("neuro"=nerves, artificial intelligence,"mancer"=magician). "Romancer" is yet another pun.

Chapter 22

The Coriolis force, which causes movement to deviate slightly from a straightline on rotating bodies (like the Earth) is exaggerated in the rapidly spinningspindle. Case thinks 3Jane may spare Molly because he has experienced thelatter's attraction to her through the simstim rig. A ROM construct would befixed, whereas RAM is indefinitely expandable. The almost superhuman ninja Hideocatches a fletcher arrow in flight and flips it back at Riviera. Why doesRiviera's blinding of Hideo fail to defeat him? How has Molly gotten her revengeon Riviera? In an electronic world, old-fashioned mechanical locks areunexpected obstacles.

Chapter 23

In what ways is Neuromancer different from Wintermute? How are the dwarfs'quarters in the palace of the Duke of Mantua like the Villa Straylight for theTessier-Ashpools? Case needs to energize himself with hate to succeed inbreaking through the final barriers. Whom does he hate? Again the Jamaican"dub" music welcomes him back to Freelight.


Why does Molly leave Case? The shuriken, so prominent throughout the novel, wasnever used. What does Case think it symbolizes? Why did Wintermute want to fusewith Neuromancer? What does this metaphor represent: "a series of warmblinks strung along a chain of winter"? Alpha Centauri is the nearest starto Earth. So what does it mean that Wintermute/Neuromancer has found recordedevidence of another AI there? Michael or Mikal is not a really rare name for awoman; so it's difficult to know if we are supposed to read anything into thename. He, Riviera and Linda will exist forever in the AI's mind. Why do youthink male authors so frequently imagine highly desirable but dangerous womenlike Molly who get devastatingly involved with their protagonists and thenleave?

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