Confronting the Confusion Embedded in Neuromancer

Posted by on September 28, 2011 
Filed under ENGH 451-Science Fiction

After finishing chapters seven through twelve of Neuromancer, I feel that I have a firm understanding of the narrative. I understand Neuromancer’s plot structure as well as its characters’ relationships and conflicts with each other and themselves. However, it is the intricacies of the narrative that continually trouble me.

Throughout my reading of this text, I began to see a pattern of Gibson casually referencing organizations, slang, or cultural trends as if they do not carry too much weight in the overall plot structure. In other words, Gibson passively introduces societal qualities as if they are just a means of pushing the plot forward when, in actuality, these qualities are extremely significant to the reader understanding future action in the narrative. Often times, these references come in the form of single words within the text such as, “Macau” and “Turing.”

Let’s start with “Macau.” “Macau” is first referenced by Molly on page 82 when she tells Case about her travels with Armitage preceding her tailing Case in Night City, “We were in L.A. He came in and said Pack [sic], we were booked for Macau . When we got there, I played fantan in the Lisboa and he crossed over into Zhongshan. Next day I was playing ghost with you in Night City.” This passage, on the surface, appears to be a passing reference to “Macau” that is meant to inform the reader of Molly’s travels before formally meeting Case. However, after reading further, “Macau” is referenced again, only it is now spelled “Macao,” “Case fastened the virus cassette to the side of the Hosaka with a length of silver tape, remembering Molly’s story of her day in Macao. Armitage had crossed the border into Zhongshan” (126-127).  I became confused after reading this passage. I thought I had overlooked something significant in the text as I searched for the previous reference to “Macao.” I ended up having to Google “neuromancer macao” because Amazon’s “Look Inside This Book” feature only listed the reference on page 127. I ended up tracking the reference down only to discover the first breezy reference to “Macao” was spelled “Macau” on page 82. Now I was thoroughly confused because neither Case’s reference nor Molly’s reference to “Macau/Macao” seemed to have any bearing on the story, yet Gibson seemed to want me to believe that significance existed. After much thought and analysis of these two references, I came to the conclusion that “Macau/Macao” was referenced twice because it brought to light that Armitage bought the virus program in China, but I still have yet to figure out why “Macau/Macao” is spelled two different ways within the text.

After semi-solving my dilemma with “Macau/Macao,” I continued reading on without confusion until the last line of chapter twelve when the word “Turing” is used, “ ‘Turing,’ she said. ‘You are under arrest’ ” (150).  The use of “Turing” here confused me because at first, it seemed like the woman was calling Case “Turing,” like he had another alias, but after deliberation I figured “Turing” had to be referenced in other places within the text. After entering “Turing” into the Amazon’s “Look Inside This Book” feature, I figured out that “Turing” are police casually referenced by Case in reference to the regulation of AI, “The real smart ones are as smart as the Turing heat is willing to let ‘em get…And then there’s the Turing cops, and that’s bad  heat” (91). These reference to “Turing” on page 91 seemed passive to me when I first read them because I did not fully understand the context of what Case’s mission was going to entail. So, by the time I read the “Turing” reference on page 150, I had all but extinguished any thought of the word “Turing” in relation to the story.

As a result of experiencing these two dilemmas, I began to ask myself why Gibson, an extremely proficient and elegant writer, would cause such confusion in his work. Was he trying to mimic, through his saturation of information within the text, the confusion of Case’s world of constant stimulation coupled with multiplexed layers of reality? Or, was he forcing the reader to read his text as close as possible at all times because he saw the future as being a world of instant gratification where the little things are overlooked in favor of continually speeding forward from one byte to the next?


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