A while back, while sitting around an alcohol -laden table with Dan of tdaxp, Shlok and Isaac and listening to an evolving debate (primarily between Dan and Isaac) over the probable nature of AI, references to William Gibson’s first novel, Neuromancer were made. I then chimed in that I had never read the book – a statement that was greeted with surprise and some degree of mock horror. This had happened to me once before with Dave Schuler and Lexington Green, except that in that instance the author was Philip K. Dick and the book then was The Man in the High Castle. Evidently, something about having drinks with fellow bloggers is a spur to my reading classic science fiction.
Admittedly, I am not a great reader of fiction, at least if ” great” means ” broadly read”. As a youth, I did dive deeply into J.R.R. Tolkien, Ayn Rand and George Orwell – I’ve probably read every word ever published by the first two authors and much by the third. Russian lit figures prominently, especially Dostoyevskii and Solzhenitsyn. Of American writers, I’ve read a scattering of Mark Twain, Sinclair Lewis, J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck and a few others, but none systematically or deeply.
I’ve meant to read Quo Vadis, Don Quixote and Blood Meridian for years and have yet to do so. I have only a few works of Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Koestler, Balzac and Victor Hugo under my belt. The reason being that for me, the siren call of non-fiction is all too strong. There are too many important books that ” must” be read ASAP, piled on top of others that ” should” be read; picking up good fiction under those conditions almost feels like shirking a responsibility.
I say this as a preface to acknowledging how much I enjoyed reading Neuromancer. While the book is old hat to sci-fi fans, it came as a fresh voice to me, mixed with an unfolding appreciation of how Gibson’s fictional efforts have influenced or anticipated the evolution of the culture. Movies, TV shows, references, characters all flashed through my mind as I read it and Gibson’s economy of explanation allowed my mind the freedom to engage the text and fill in the blanks. Reticence is a vital skill that few authors ever manage to master but Gibson has it. I’m sorry that I didn’t read the book back in the early 1980’s when the novelty of the book’s imaginative scenario were at peak.