Plot-wise, Neuromancer is probably one of the most convoluted books that I have ever read. Since it was difficult to stay with the story, I found myself observing how the characters related to the rich futuristic environment. What stood out to me the most was their relationship to the natural, represented both by human flesh and descriptions of the earth.
There has been a great deal of discussion about the relationship of mind and body in the Neuromancer. Certainly, much of Case's interaction with the world, both cybernetic and physical, is governed by his longing for "the matrix" and his disgust toward meat-centric experience. Of particular interest to me is how his predisposition toward the purely cerebral plays out in his interactions with the three 'bodiless minds' of the story.
William Gibson's "Neuromancer" manages to create worlds that are both an exercise n sensory overload and a frustrating lack of detail, leaving the reader confused as to the environment. What is perhaps most interesting in this detailed description is the attention Gibson pays to material. Scarcely a page goes by without some mention of a plastic window, a silk futon, a leather jacket, denim pants, or a fiberglass chassis. A large part of what creates the futuristic sense of Gibson's world is the development of new materials and the unfamiliar hierarchy of materials, consisting of both the new and the jarringly familiar substances. This hierarchy of material breaks down to two separate categories: body modification and environment.
Though I see that the body/mind issue has already been raised in responses, I'm really interested in how Gibson addresses this, and I think I can take a sufficiently original tack that my response will further the discussion.
I began to think about the power of names early on when the website I was using to define some of the most obscure vocabulary made the point that the name Case might derive from how his body is no more than a case for his mind, just like the physical housing of a computer has little to do with the actual content. I think this reading into his name has merit, though, as multiple blog entries already attest to, Case's relationship with his body is quite complex.
We talked a fair bit in class about the troubled mind-body relationship present in Neuromancer. Many of the characters make us question our assumptions of what it means to be alive, from the unembodied mind of Wintermute to the mindless body of Armitage, with multiple characters straddling the line between life and death at any given point. Case is the one character who we are really allowed to connect with on any psychological level (though even that hold is tenuous, given the somewhat schizophrenic style of postmodern/cyberpunk writing).
Neuromancer is widely known as the defining novel of the "cyberpunk" subgenre (of which I am particularly a fan) -- so, regardless of what has happened in science fiction since then, the term "cyberpunk" was specifically applied to this novel as a defining mark. Therefore, disassembling that word should provide some insight into the defining features of the novel.
The claim has been made that Neuromancer celebrates in a way previously unattested to in the annals of SF the existence of mind without body. While I am not wholly convinced of this, I think the secondary readings that we had this week offer a window to a reading that balances on the scales of class the consideration given by the novel to the possibility of thinking without feeling.
Neuromancer portrays a world in which there is trend towards the perfection of function. This is an ambiguous term, but I will try to make its meaning more explicit through context. While the book displays the characteristic diversity of culture, which is characteristic of cyberpunk, there are a few essential universals, which make this trend obvious. The matrix is the most prominent universal, as it is present almost all the through the story. Case nearly always has access to the matrix. Regardless of his location, his job is still the same, and he is still just as effective at it.
Perhaps the most preeminent theme in William Gibson's Neuromancer is the conflict between body and mind. In the futuristic world presented, those specializing in tasks of the mind are given a special status among the rest of society. These elite are known as "cowboys," specially trained and skilled individuals who are able to comprehend and even manipulate the workings of cyberspace, essentially a more developed form of the modern internet.