Review: Neuromancer by William Gibson

Neuromancer
William Gibson

Ace
July 1, 1984
271 pages

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The Matrix is a world within the world, a global consensus- hallucination, the representation of every byte of data in cyberspace . . .

Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction.

Hotwired to the leading edges of art and technology, Neuromancer ranks with 1984 and Brave New World as one of the century's most potent visions of the future.

Neuromancer is one of those science fiction monuments, a modern classic that had a distinct and lasting effect on the genre and all those who wrote within it. And yet, somehow, I had not read it even though a copy of it had been collecting dust on my bookshelf for a good two years. Something about the concept frightened me, and yet the first line is one that has haunted me for longer than the book has been sitting on my shelf.

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

Something about that sentence freaks me out. It’s a powerful allusion to be using a metaphor with such pedestrian content. But this is me with my English major hat on and this isn’t a term paper. Neuromancer is weird. It is techy and full of odd characters and twisted plot lines and often times I found myself way in over my head. I think it was all the techy and futuristic lingo that I was unfamiliar with, but it kept me from really getting into the rhythm of the book. It also didn’t help that most of the adventure happening in the Matrix is something I couldn’t quite conceptualize. Visualizing virtual reality versions of computer programs and security tech just didn’t fit comfortably inside my head the way that people running around in the real world (or a virtual world at that) can.

But that doesn’t mean that Neuromancer isn’t good. It’s a great high-tech heist story with shady characters haunting the background and none of the characters having a clear idea of the motives of anyone around them or who might be pulling their strings. Case, the “cowboy” or hacker, is a slubby guy who wants to drown himself in drugs and drink until he gets on the wrong side of a Japanese gangster who will conveniently kill him, putting him out of his misery. He gets pulled in by Molly, the muscle behind the heist who has retractable razorblades underneath her fingernails, mirrored implants covering her eyes and a whole host of neuro-implants boosting her abilities. I probably would have enjoyed spending more time with Molly as the lead rather than following Case, especially during his drug-fueled romps through spaceship cities, but Case manages to get himself into plenty of interesting shenanigans.

Meanwhile there are artificial intelligences playing with their heads, manipulating everyone in hopes of gaining some sort of control. A weird rich family is somehow in the center of all the plots, a web of people who extend their lives through cryogenics and have probably lost their minds in the process. With loads of money, they own the AIs causing all the trouble.

As long as I view this as a heist plot that happens to involve spaceships, mock cities in space, and AIs, I can easily wrap my head around Neuromancer and enjoyed it. Moments when the plot becomes less concrete and involves mostly computer programs floating around cyberspace, I got a little lost and even dizzy in a sense, not knowing what was up or down, who was good or bad and what was really going on. While I can’t say I enjoyed that feeling of being lost, it didn’t ruin the story for me at its core.

I loved seeing all the elements that have become staples of the cyberpunk and science fiction genres as well as seeing what the future looked like from 1984 and how it doesn’t exactly fit how the future looks from 2012. Gibson is a genius of the genre and way smarter than me when it comes to these computer things.

 

And with that, I finished the 2012 Sci-Fi Challenge. Which is good. Because I’m hosting it and it would be weird if I failed.

Mini Review: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five
Kurt Vonnegut

Dial Press
Originally released in 1969
275 pages

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Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Don't let the ease of reading fool you - Vonnegut's isn't a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters."

Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy - and humor.

I have no idea what I just read. For the longest time, I had no idea what Slaughterhouse-Five was about, only that it was a classic that I needed to read. It had been on my to-read list for a really long time and then I learned that it was science fiction and involved time travel. That bumped it up even higher on my to-read list, but it wasn’t until I needed a classic to fill in a category for the science fiction challenge for me to finally pick it up.

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2012 Science Fiction Reader Challenge: December Link Up

How is it already December? I did not agree for this year to almost be over yet. There is still SO MUCH TO DO this year and only a few weeks left to do it in. Why must there be so many amazing books and not nearly enough time to read them?

It looks like everyone else agrees about the lack of time thing. We only collected seven review in November, but that's okay. Perhaps you were just like me and read sci-fi things, reviewed them and then conveniently forgot to link up. But that's okay! I still love you guys. I can't really complain considering how behind I am in just about every other reading challenge I signed up for this year. It's a little ridiculous. Anyway, here is the review breakdown:

- 2 Robots / Androids
- 2 Cyberpunk
- 1 Steampunk
- 1 Adult Scifi
- 1 Aliens / Spaceships

I don't know about you guys, but I'm still missing a few categories. It's time to hit up the library to find a Hugo winner to add to my reading collection! I'm reserving Slaughterhouse-Five as we speak for the post-1950s classic. What do you have left to tick off your list? Need suggestions?

Remember - There will be a prize! After the first of the year, I'll sit down and find everyone who has successfully completed the challenge. They'll be entered into a contest for their choice of book (or books) up to $20 at the Book Depository. Those who have completed at least 6 of the 12 categories will get put into a pool to win a science fiction book out of my own collection. Yay prizes!

And now here is the linky for December.  Tell me what you’ve been reading or plan to be reading soon.  I look forward to chatting about even more science fiction as we explore the genre together!  When you link up your review, please put it in the format of Name (book title) category, so when I review Fever, I’d submit it as “Leslie @ WFTM (Fever) Dystopian”.  That worked out pretty handy with my tracking.


I hope you guys have enjoyed participating. Do you think I should do this again? What should I change (besides me getting the link ups on time)? What can make it better? I would love to hear your suggestions.

2012 Science Fiction Reader Challenge: November Link Up

Oh my god, I am THE WORST challenge host ever! I just had a moment of panic and realized that I never put the November link up post! Here it is, please forgive me.

And now here is the linky for November.  Tell me what you’ve been reading or plan to be reading soon.  I look forward to chatting about even more science fiction as we explore the genre together!  When you link up your review, please put it in the format of Name (book title) category, so when I review Fever, I’d submit it as “Leslie @ WFTM (Fever) Dystopian”.  That worked out pretty handy with my tracking.

 

2012 Science Fiction Reader Challenge: October Link Up

How is it October already? That's insane! We're just three months away from the end of the year, so thanks to everyone who has been sticking around to work on this challenge with me. I think I say this every month, but you guys are awesome!

September saw 14 reviews being linked up and a lot of you guys were in the mood for dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction again with four of the 14 books fitting into that category. Seven of the categories were represented last month and some of you read some of my recent favorites like Ashes by Ilsa J Bick, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Insurgent by Veronica Roth. I hope you've all enjoyed your reads!

 

The reviews break down as such:

- 2 YA/MG Science Fiction

- 2 Adult Science Fiction

- 2 Hugo Winners

- 1 Steampunk

- 2 Spaceships/Aliens

- 1 Time Travel/Alternate History/Parallel Universe

- 4 Apocalyptic/Dystopia/Utopia

Last month I had a bit of a ambitious plan to read five different books for this challenge. At least five books is ambitious for me with my schedule. I did get a couple of them finished and enjoyed them, such as Origin by Jessica Khoury, I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, and Perception by Lee Strauss. I also got to Altered by Jennifer Rush as part of a blog tour (review up soon). Everything else I got to this month was definitely solidly in the fantasy genre. I'm also knee deep into Dearly, Beloved (finally!) and am tempted to zip through it while also wanting to make it last.

 

So what will I attempt in October? Well, finishing up Dearly, Beloved is first on the list. Shadows by Ilsa J Bick is definitely on the docket. I'd like to get to The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore and maybe even Breathe by Sarah Crossan. Random other things are bound to get thrown into the mix and there's all sorts of things on my Kindle I can't think of right now I should probably get to.

 

Whatever you have planned for October, I hope you enjoy it. I'm looking forward to making time out to check out everyone's reviews. If for some reason you posted up a review in August that didn't make it onto the link up post, feel free to link it this month. I'll be doing the same.

For a reminder, the challenge is to read at least one science fiction book for each of the following 12 categories:

YA/MG Science Fiction

Adult Science Fiction

Hugo Winner

Science Fiction Classic – Pre-1950s

Science Fiction Modern Classic – 1951-1992

Steampunk

Robots/Cyborgs/Androids

Spaceships/Aliens

Time Travel/Alternate History/Parallel Universe

Apocalyptic/Dystopia/Utopia

Cyberpunk

Mad Scientists/Genetic Testing/Environmental Disaster

If you need ideas for any of the categories, just ask or check out the sign up page for additional ideas.

And now here is the linky for July.  Tell me what you’ve been reading or plan to be reading soon.  I look forward to chatting about even more science fiction as we explore the genre together!  When you link up your review, please put it in the format of Name (book title) category, so when I review Fever, I’d submit it as “Leslie @ WFTM (Fever) Dystopian”.  That worked out pretty handy with my tracking.

Review: I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

I Am Number Four
Pittacus Lore

HarperCollins (2010)
440 pages
YA / Science Fiction / Action

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Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books - but we are real.

Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. We have lived among you without you knowing.

But they know.

They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They killed them all.

I am Number Four.

I am next.

I have issues with the creation of this book. The entire system that resulted in its publication bothers me, but I’m going to put that aside and judge it on its own artistic merit or lack thereof. Because the process or the creator shouldn’t affect one’s outlook on the final creation, right? Yeah, something like that.

I went into I Am Number Four having seen (and laughed at) the movie adaptation, but a bad movie adaptation of a popular YA title is nothing new so I decided to give the book a shot. This is all to say that I knew for the most part where things were going, who all the characters were and what would ultimate go down. This means there would be no twists or secret foreshadowing, but that’s okay. I knew that going in.

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2012 Science Fiction Reader Challenge: September Link Up

Wow, I'm so behind already this month. Four days in and I'm just now getting the link up post together. I'm blaming a days long migraine, so thank you for your patience. You guys are awesome!

August saw 15 reviews being linked up with a lot of good book choices like Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Brave New World, one of my favorites from high school. Everything linked up covered 9 out of the 12 catagories, and dystopian titles were really popular with you guys in August. I hope you're all enjoying your reads!

The reviews break down as such:

- 1 YA/MG Science Fiction

- 1 Hugo Winners

- 2 Pre-1950s

- 1 Modern Classic

- 1 Spaceships/Aliens

- 2 Time Travel/Alternate History/Parallel Universe

- 5 Apocalyptic/Dystopia/Utopia

- 1 Cyberpunk

- 1 Mad Scientists/Genetic Testing/Environmental Disaster

Last month I made a very modest plan to read three books since the Olympics took over a few weeks of my life and work was madness. I wanted to read Feed by Mira Grant, Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear, and Origin by Jessica Khoury. I'm proud to say that I read two of the three, though Innocent Darkness turned out not to be steampunk at all (in my opinion) so I didn't count it as part of the challenge. Feed, on the other hand, knocked me out, it was so good. Origin has been started, but I'm not too far into it yet. I also added on the barely alien sci-fi I Am Number Four, but haven't reviewed it yet. Look for that on Thursday.

This month I have a ton of things scheduled for the blog, so my reading schedule is pretty set. I hope to finish Origin as well as read The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore and Perception by Lee Strauss. It will hopefully be a zombie-tastic month with me getting to Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel and Shadows by Ilsa J Bick, both sequels to two of my favorite reads in the last year.

 

Whatever you have planned for September, I hope you enjoy it. I'm looking forward to making time out to check out everyone's reviews. If for some reason you posted up a review in August that didn't make it onto the link up post, feel free to link it this month. I'll be doing the same.

For a reminder, the challenge is to read at least one science fiction book for each of the following 12 categories:

YA/MG Science Fiction

Adult Science Fiction

Hugo Winner

Science Fiction Classic – Pre-1950s

Science Fiction Modern Classic – 1951-1992

Steampunk

Robots/Cyborgs/Androids

Spaceships/Aliens

Time Travel/Alternate History/Parallel Universe

Apocalyptic/Dystopia/Utopia

Cyberpunk

Mad Scientists/Genetic Testing/Environmental Disaster

If you need ideas for any of the categories, just ask or check out the sign up page for additional ideas.

And now here is the linky for July.  Tell me what you’ve been reading or plan to be reading soon.  I look forward to chatting about even more science fiction as we explore the genre together!  When you link up your review, please put it in the format of Name (book title) category, so when I review Fever, I’d submit it as “Leslie @ WFTM (Fever) Dystopian”.  That worked out pretty handy with my tracking.