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

Read more about it on GoodReads

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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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Trailer Park Friday: Books to Movies Edition 1

Welcome back to Trailer Park Friday! I've decided to make this a thing, so have some trailers for things coming out in the next year that are based on books you can read now. Enjoy!

This is one from a book I've been meaning to read and it comes out on February 13, 2013, so I'm going to have to pick it up soon. Here's Beautiful Creatures:

My preciouses, have a Hobbit trailer (December 14, of course):

I never promised that I'd only post good trailers. This trailer for Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters looks AWFUL, but it has Jeremy Renner in it and it made me laugh hysterically, so here you go (coming in January):

To wash out that bad taste melting your brain, here's the trailer to Baz Lurman's The Great Gatsby adaptation (despite what the trailer says, this one was pushed to May 2013). It looks super quirky like all Lurhman's other films, which I've enjoyed (pretending Australia never existed):

And finally - this isn't a book so much as a comic and it's not a movie so much as a television show. It's being paired up with Supernatural on Wednesday nights starting October 10. Here's an extended preview of Arrow:

Mini Review: The Time Machine by HG Wells

The Time Machine
HG Wells

Public Domain (1888)
112 pages
Science Fiction / Classic

Download it for free here!

Anybody that’s been around for a while has a good idea of what The Time Machine is about: an inventor from Victorian days builds a time machine and travels into the future, finding a culture drastically different than his own. It’s far more simplistic than I’d thought as I went into it, but I suppose that makes sense with it being barely over 100 pages. The entire thing is told as a recollection of the time traveler being heard by the narrator, a cynic who thinks it’s all a fancy made-up story. This type of narration creates a disconnect between the action of the story and the audience, so it made it very difficult for me to really get into the story.

Because this is a classic story from the 19th century, I really had to put on my English major hat for certain sections and still had to use the dictionary in my Kindle, but it’s nice to read a challenging book after the fluff of YA I’ve mostly been reading lately. Wells fills the story with a lot of philosophical arguments and ruminations on the future of humanity, and what makes us human. It gets a little heavy at times, considering the action in the story is limited. It definitely has the same slow-burn pace that most stories of that era had, which could make it difficult to modern audiences who haven’t had much exposure to classics.

The best part about reading The Time Machine, other than finally knocking it off my To-Be-Read list, is seeing all the small things that have become staples of the science fiction genre. Wells was probably the first steampunk writer, and a lot of elements – from the reaction and relation to new “alien” races to the type of technology – might even come across as trite these days though it was all brand new back then. It’s fascinating to think how a story that seems so simple to us might have been received as crazy during its own time. It’s nice to finally have The Time Machine first hand in my own literary vocabulary.

Top 10 Tuesday: My TBR List for Summer

Now onto Top 10 Tuesday.  I like lists and every Tuesday Tahleen at The Broke and the Bookish posts a topic for book bloggers everywhere to use in the form of a list.  This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR List


1. Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel - Despite the fact that it's been the cover image on my "Current Reads" box, I still haven't had a chance to dive deep into Habel's sequel to my favorite read of the year so far. Prior obligations and what not...

2. Shadowcry and Blackwatch by Jenna Burtonshaw - I received Blackwatch from the publisher and have the first in the series from the library, so I hope to get to those in the next week or two.

3. Why Does Batman Need Shark Repellant? by Brian Cronin - Another I received from the publisher and one I plan to feature the week of Comic Con. I have a feeling it will make me giggle.

4. The Time Machine by HG Wells - For July's bookclub read.

5. Insurgent by Veronica Roth - So I was just ho-hum on the Divergent, but it's still a series I'll keep up with.

6. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo - The publisher sent me an early copy of this only for it to languish on my desk while the chaos of real life distracted me. I've heard fantastic things about it and hope to read it very soon.

7. Locke & Key Volume 4: Keys to the Kingdom by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez - So I won't be spoiled (at least through this part at least) when I get to Comic Con. And because it's awesome.

8. Blood Zero Sky by J. Gabriel Gates - The Sleepwalkers knocked me unconscious for a short time last year, so when I got confirmed to receive an e-ARC of Gates' newest book (coming out in October), it went on my short list.

9. Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear - It's been on my to-do list for months now. It's time to get to it.

10. Bridger and Traitor by Megan Curd - For a blog tour coming up in August.

 

What are you planning on reading this summer?

Other 2012 Reader Challenges #3: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Book Challenge Hosted by Booking In Heels

Time for Reader Challenge #3!  I'm really excited about this one because it's something I've wanted to do for a long time - read books with the characters that form The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel (I pretend the movie doesn't exist).  Luckily this will match up pretty well with the Back to the Classics challenge I posted about on Saturday and another challenge I will be posting about later. 

This challenge is hosted by Hanna at Booking in Heels and I think it's an awesome idea.

The Challenge: To read a book featuring each of the nine characters from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel.  It ends up being a total of nine books for the whole challenge.

The Rules:

- Read the nine books between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012

- Write a review for each book, either on a blog, Goodreads, Amazon or some other site that accepts reviews

- Post links to the reviews on the relevant character page on Booking in Heels (to be posted at the first of the year)

The Books:

Allan Quatermain - King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard

Mina Harker - Dracula by Bram Stoker

Captain Nemo - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Tom Sawyer - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Dorian Gray - The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Rodney Skinner (who is a replacement for the main character of) - The Invisible Man by HG Wells

The Phantom - The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

James Moriarty - The Final Problem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

And if you're taking part in the Working for the Mandroid 2012 Sci-Fi Reader Challenge, there's a couple of titles that could easily cover a category in that challenge as well. *coughmadscientistcough*

Week of October 7 Pull List: Another Attempt at Angels, Elves and a Book Made Just for Me!

Anyone with a fondness for books knows how quickly a To Be Read pile can get out of control.  It seems the more I read, the more books end up on that pile.  These are the books that hit my radar and got added to that list over the past week.

It’s been at least a month since the last time I put together one of these pull lists, but I think it’s a feature I’d like to have at least every other week or so.  In the last few weeks, I’ve discovered mostly up-coming books that sound interesting, but there have been a few already released books that caught my eye as well.  Here are some of the books that I stumbled upon over the last few weeks.  Warning: Includes spaceships and yet even more angels (and elves!)

The Pearl Wars by Nick James (Skyship Academy #1)
Flux (09/08/11)

Purchase it from Amazon here

A devastated Earth's last hope is found in Pearls: small, mysterious orbs that fall from space and are capable of supplying enough energy to power entire cities. Battling to control the Pearls are the Skyship dwellers—political dissidents who live in massive ships in the Earth's stratosphere—and the corrupt Surface government.

Jesse Fisher, a Skyship slacker, and Cassius Stevenson, a young Surface operative, cross paths when they both venture into forbidden territory in pursuit of Pearls. Their chance encounter triggers an unexpected reaction, endowing each boy with remarkable—and dangerous—abilities that their respective governments would stop at nothing to possess.

Enemies thrust together with a common goal, Jesse and Cassius make their way to the ruins of Seattle to uncover the truth about their new powers, the past they didn't know they shared, and a shocking secret about the Pearls.

I’ve been reading so much YA with teenage female protagonists that take place in and around high school drama that I really need a break.  I need boys and fighting and no goo-goo eyes at the other gender.  I don't want to read anything else about glistening hair and gemstone-colored eyes.  What I need is a book about post-apocalyptic steampunk-ish space battles with superpowered protagonists to clean my palate.  Even if this didn’t sound like the perfect book to rid me of all the recently read books that are blurring together in my head, I would still buy it for that cover alone.  That cover hits so many of my reading want buttons, it’s ridiculous.  Add that the description hits everything I'm currently (and usually) looking for in a book, and it’s like it was written and packaged just for me.

And, this has nothing to do with anything, but the dude who wrote it is hot (which I discovered after deciding this book was made just for me).

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