As I was reading, I noticed several self-referential comments woven into the narrative, remarks that seemed to comment back on Neuromancer and the academic work surrounding it. Though apparently Gibson is less aware than I thought him to be â€“ how did he not notice that he had created another character with the name Case? â€“ my personal opinion is that reader interpretation is as important, if not more important, than authorial intent. I think that what I found was interesting, even if it was not planted there by Gibson to be found. Or, perhaps, I am just recognizing false patterns, in which case this becomes interesting on an entirely different level.
Most of the academic work that has been done on Neuromancer discusses the mind-body divide, and how it plays out in cyberpunk in general and Neuromancer in particular. The concept that we have both a body and a consciousness separate from it â€“ the mind or the soul â€“ is a philosophical construction dating to ancient Greek. In Western culture, particularly, the mind became more and more privileged over the body, culminating in Neuromancer's fantasy of total escape from the body and into cyberspace. The body becomes "the meat thing," something to be disdained entirely (Neuromancer 55).
In Pattern Recognition, Gibson begins with his own assessment of Neuromancer's style of science fiction: "We have no idea, now, of who or what the inhabitants of our future might be. In that sense, we have no future. Not in the sense that our grandparents had a future, or thought they did. Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which the 'now' was of some greater duration" (Pattern 58-59). Rather than fantasize about an alternate dimension of disembodied minds that may never be, Pattern Recognition demonstrates how that feeling of escape from the body can be enacted with the technology we have today.
First, he clarifies that an actual escape of the mind from the body is neither possible nor desirable â€“ he grounds consciousness more securely in the organs of the body. Again speaking through Bigend, Gibson writes, "what we think of as 'mind' is only a sort of jumped-up gland, piggybacking on our reptilian brainstem and the older, mammalian mind, but our culture tricks us into recognizing it as all of consciousness" (Pattern 71). After reading article after article about the mind-body gap in Neuromancer, this appeared to me to be a direct reply from Gibson to all the academics who had been discussing his book amongst themselves for so long.
Additionally, he includes a mention of Parkaboy "railing on about Mama Anarchia's tendency to quote Baudrillard and other Frenchmen who annoy him so deeply" (Pattern 50). Baudrillard's work on "hyperreality" was mentioned often in the articles I read about the disembodied mind, and though I obviously cannot be sure who the other Frenchmen are, the "father of modern philosophy," Rene Descartes, the man responsible for the modern formulation of the divide between mind and body, was French.
Though many of the mentions Gibson makes in the beginning of the book seem critical of the concept of cyberspace, Cayce experiences the internet very much like Case experience the matrix. Sure, she does not attach any electrodes to her head and go rushing around in receding city lights, but the internet provides her life with more meaning than the real world ever does. The internet gives her the footage to obsess over, the catalyst for the sort of quest for truth that she embarks on, and Parkaboy, a better and truer match for her than anyone she could find in the real world by herself, as Boone Chu attests. Though embodiment is not criticized in Pattern Recognition, as it is in Neuromancer, the mind is still the important bit of that partnership, capable of finding meaning in life much more profound on its own than fettered by the body.