Nadine and I, along with Jessica and Ashley, had briefly discussed Gibson’s Neuromancer at the beginning of another class. I had enjoyed Neuromancer, and in particular Gibson’s conventions. However, as our class discussion on Tuesday, as well as the out of class discussion I was part of, revealed many of the qualms that my classmates were dealing with.
And, truthfully, the transition from Fankenstein to Neuromancer is a bit jarring. Shelley essentially asked for a single suspension of disbelief: the reanimation of an assembled corpse. Once we get past this, the rest of the story is left to unfold under the conventions of fairly normalized (if gothic) fiction. Gibson, however, is somewhat more demanding of his reader. As Nadine points out, Gibson jumps into a story radically different from our own reality, and offers no explanation to the poor, disoriented reader for the convoluted literary turns he takes.
However, this is not out of the norm for the tropes of science fiction, as a genre. Indeed, it is very much in line with them. And it’s a trope which, thanks to the Mirrorshades preface, I was expecting and somewhat anxious to see again: “And the cyberpunks treasure a special fondness for SF’s native visionaries… With a special admiration for a writer whose integration of technology and literature stands unsurpassed: Thomas Pynchon.”
Drawing stylistically from Pynchon, it’s no wonder so many readers have been offput by Gibson. And Neuromancer does have much of the texture of Gravity’s Rainbow: the extreme sensory exposition, incorporation of complex scientific theory and practice at the expense of the lay reader, explicit sexuality, the exaltation of technology and desecration of Mother Nature… And so forth.
However, if Gravity’s Rainbow is the “postmodern Ulysses“, what can we say about Gibson’s influence by that work, directly or indirectly. Since Joyce refused to equip his reader with any sort of context in that novel, we can see that Gibson’s novel is not breaking new ground here, either in lack of contextual exposition or in difficulty.
Not that any of this makes Gibson any easier to read. It just means that, as wholly original as he is in material, Neuromancer is not without stylistic and formulative influences or, if you will, precedent. And, perhaps, a familiarization of these precedents could help Gibson become more approachable by readers.