William Gibson's debute novel Neuromancer just turned 25. So why should you care? After all, Neuromancer is not one of the greatest novels in the last quarter of the twentieth century, nor one of the biggest selling or most awarded. Regardless, it has become perhaps the most influential work of literature for the twenty-first century.
Neuromancer's importance is not for its freaky cool futuristic ideas or for its slick yet elegant merging of classic and techno language, but for creating a culturally fertile mindset. When it comes to the way society and technology have come together in a pop cultural sense, there was before Neuromancer and then after.
Sure, it's considered the patron work of cyberpunk (and Gibson its saint), and though I think from a literary sense cyberpunk began and ended with Neuromancer, the cyberpunk movement, despite or because of a unclear interpretation, has morphed into distinct cultural trends that range from street fashions to sound system design, film & TV, cyberspace imaginings to philosophical musings of our techno-destiny and even made big headways into the debate of what is human. And all this with some credit to its slick veneer of dark future noir and badass pretensions that gave birth to black leather trench coats at Goth clubs.
Now if you catch a hint of cynicism in my voice I should point out that Neuromancer is one of my very favourite novels because though Gibson has gone on to be a better writer with works like Pattern Recognition and Spook Country, he has not surpassed the rich, poetic, intellectual, yet entirely visual writing of his first novel.
Neuromancer deserves still to be read as a significant and ever-so-cool work on its own and its extraordinary legacy left to be contemplated on a different occasion.
[I have previously spoken about William Gibson and discussed the documentary No Maps for these Territories which you can check out here]