William Gibson (1984)

Part 1: Chiba City Blues

  • The sky above the port was the color of television tuned to a dead channel.
  • In an age of affordable beauty, there was something heraldic about his lack of it.
  • As Case was picking up his beer, one of those strange instants of silence descended, as though a hundred unrelated conversations simultaneously arrived at the same pause.
  • A year here and he still dreamed of cyberspace, hope fading nightly. All the speed he took, all the turns he'd taken and the corners he'd cut in Night City, and still he'd see the matrix in his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void...The Sprawl was a long strange way home over the Pacific now, and he was no console man, no cyberspace cowboy. Just another hustler, trying to make it through. But the dreams came on in the Japanese night like livewire voodoo, and he'd cry for it, cry in his sleep, and wake alone in the dark, curled in his capsule in some coffin hotel, his hands clawed into the bedslab, temperfoam bunched between his fingers, trying to reach the console that wasn't there.
  • For Case, who'd lived for the bodiless exultation of cyberspace, it was the Fall. In the bars he'd frequented as a cowboy hotshot, the elite stance involved a certain relaxed contempt for the flesh. The body was meat. Case fell into the prison of his own flesh.
  • It took a month for the gestalt of drugs and tension he moved through to turn those perpetually startled eyes into wells of reflexive need.
  • But he also saw a certain sense in the notion that burgeoning technologies require outlaw zones, the Night City wasn't there for its inhabitants, but as a deliberately unsupervised playground for technology itself.
  • "And you wander back and forth in this portable bombshelter built of booze and ups, sure. Proof against the grosser emotions, yes?"

Part 2: The Shopping Expedition

  • He knew this kind of room, this kind of building; the tenants would operate in the interzone where art wasn't quite crime, crime not quite art.
  • "You need a new pancreas. The one we bought for you frees you from a dangerous dependency." "Thanks, but I was enjoying that dependency."
  • Flatline Constuct
  • "The Matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games," said the voice-over, "in early graphics programs and military experimentation with cranial jacks." On the Sony, a two-dimensional space war faded behind a forest of mathematically generated ferns, demonstating the spacial possibilities of logarithmic spirals; cold blue millitary footage burned through, lab animals wired into test systems, helmets feeding into fire control circuits of tanks and war places. "Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts...A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding..."
  • He closed his eyes. Found the ridged face of the power stud. And in the bloodlit dark behind his eyes, silver phosphenes boiling in fron the edge of space, hypnagogic images jerking past like film compiled from random frames. Symbols, figures, faces, a blurred, fragmented mandala of visual information. Please, he prayed, now - A gray disk, the color of Chiba sky. Now - Disk beginning to rotate, faster, becoming a sphere of paler gray. Expanding - And flowed, flowered for him, fluid neon origami trick, the unfolding of his distanceless home, his country, transparent 3-D chessboard extending to infinity. Inner eye opening to the stepped scarlet pyramid of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority burning beyong the green cubes of Mitsubishi Bank of America, and high and very far away he saw the spiral arms of millitary systems, forever beyond his reach. And somewhere he was laughing, in a white-painted loft, distant fingers caressing the deck, tears of release streaking his face.
  • Cowboys didn't get into simstim, he thought, because it was basically a meat toy. He knew that the trodes he used and the little plastic tiara dangling from a simstim deck were basically the same, and that the cyberspace matrix was actually a drastic simplification of the human sensorium, at least in terms of presentation, but simstim itself struck him as a gratuitious multiplication of flesh input.
  • "How you doing, Case?" He heard the words and felt her form them. She slid a hand into her jacket, a fingertip circling a nipple under warm silk. The sensation made him catch his breath. She laughed. But the link was one-way. He had no way to reply.
  • "Given their penchant for these random acts of surreal violence," someone said, "it may be difficult for our viewers to understand why you continue to insist that this phenomenon isn't a form of terrorism." Dr. Rambali smiled. "There is always a point at which the terrorist ceases to manipulate the media gestalt. A point at which the violence may well escalate, but beyound which the terroist has become symptomatic of the media gestalt itself. Terrorism as we ordinarily understand it is inately media-related. The Panther Moderns differ from other terrorists precisely in their degree of self-consciousness, in their awareness of the extent to which media divorce the act of terrorism from the original sociopolitical intent..." "Skip it," Case said.
  • It was the style that mattered and the style was the same.
  • "You can't let the little pricks generation-gap you," Molly said.
  • "Just thinking out loud...How smart's an AI, Case?" "Depends. Some aren't much smarter than dogs. Pets. Cost a fortune anyway. The real smart ones are as smart as the Turing heat is willing to let 'em get."
  • She spat into the pond. "God knows. I'd soon kill him as look at him. I saw his profile. He's a kind of compulsive Judas. Can't get of sexually unless he knows he's betraying the object of desire. That's what the file says. And they have to love him first. Maybe he loves them, too."
  • He fumbled through a pocketful of lirasi, slotting the small dull alloy coins one after another, vaguely amused by the anachronism of the process. The phone nearest him rang. Automatically, he picked it up. "Yeah?" Faint harmonics, tiny inaudible voices rattling across some orbital link, and then a sound like wind. "Hello, Case." A fifty-lirasi coin fell from his hand, bounced, and rolled out of sight across Hilton capeting. "Wintermute, Case. It's time we talk." It was a chip voice. "Don't you want to talk, Case?" He hung up. On his way back to the lobby, his cigarettes forgotten, he had to walk the length of the ranked phones. Each rang in turn, but only once, as he passed.

Part 3: Midnight in the Rue Jules Verne

  • "How you doing, Dixie?" "I'm dead, Case. Got enough time in on this Hosaka to figure that one." "How's it feel?" "It doesn't." "Bother you?" "What bothers me is, nothin' does." "How's that?" "Had me this buddy in the Russian camp, Siberia, his thumb was frostbit. Medics came by and they cut it off. Month later he's tossin' all night. Elroy. l said, what's eatin' you? Goddam thumb's itchin', he says. So l told him, scratch it. McCoy, he says, it's the other goddam thumb." When the construct laughed, it came through as something else, not laughter, but a stab of cold down Case's spine. "Do me a favor, boy." "What's that, Dix?" "This scam of yours, when it's over, you erase this goddam thing."
  • Aerol, with no particular provocation, related the tale of the baby who had burst from his forehead and scampered into a forest of hydroponic ganja. "Ver' small baby, mon, no long' you finga." He rubbed his palm across an unscarred expanse of brown forehead and smiled. "It's the ganja," Molly said, when Case told her the story. "They don't make much of a difference between states, you know? Aerol tells you it happened, well, it happened to him. It's not like bullshit, more like poetry. Get it?"
  • The sagging face of the Dali clock still told the wrong time.
  • "Bitch, bitch, bitch," he said, unbuckling his belt. "Doom. Gloom. All I ever hear." He took his pants off, his shirt, his underwear. "I think you oughta have sense enough to take advantage of my unnatural state." He looked down. "I mean, look at this unnatural state." She laughed. "It won't last." "But it will," he said, climbing into the sand-colored temperfoam, "that's what's so unnatural about it."
  • He sat on the bed for a long time, savoring the new thing, the treasure. Rage.

Part 4: The Straylight Run

  • "You are worse than a fool," Michele said, getting to her feet, the pistol in her hand. "You have no care for your species. For thousands of years men dreamed of pacts with demons. Only now are such things possible.
  • "Minds aren't read. See, you've still got the paradigms print gave you, and you're barely print literate. I can access your memory, but that's not the same as your mind."
  • One burning bush looks pretty much like another.
  • "Really, my artiste, you amaze me. The lengths you will go to in order to accomplish your own destruction. The re-dundancy of it! In Night City, you had it, in the palm of your hand! The speed to eat your sense away, drink to keep it all so fluid, Linda for a sweeter sorrow, and the street to hold the axe. How far you've come, to do it now, and what grotesque props.... Playgrounds hung in space, castles hermetically sealed, the rarest rots of old Europa, dead men sealed in little boxes magic out of China...." Ratz laughed, trudging along beside him, his pink manipulator swinging jauntily at his side. In spite of the dark, Case could see the baroque steel that laced the bartender's blackened teeth. "But I suppose that is the way of an artiste, no? You needed this world built for you, this beach, this place. To die."
  • "To call up a demon you must learn its name. Men dreamed that, once, but now it is real in another way. You know that, Case. Your business is to learn the names of programs, the long formal names, names the owners seek to conceal. True names. . ." "A Turing code's not your name." "Neuromancer," the boy said, slitting long gray eyes against the rising sun. "The lane to the land of the dead. Where you are, my friend. Marie-France, my lady, she prepared this road but her lord choked her off before I could read the book of he; days. Neuro from the nerves, the silver paths. Romancer. Necromancer. I call up the dead. But no, my friend," and the boy did a little dance, brown feet printing the sand, "I am the dead, and their land." He laughed. A gull cried. "Stay. If your woman is a ghost, she doesn't know it. Neither will you." "You're cracking. The ice is breaking up." "No," he said, suddenly sad, his fragile shoulders sagging. He rubbed his foot against the sand. "It is more simple than that. But the choice is yours." The gray eyes regarded Case gravely. A fresh wave of symbols swept across his vision, one line at a time. Behind them, the boy wriggled, as though seen through heat rising from summer asphalt. The music was loud now, and Case could almost make out the lyrics. "Case, honey," Linda said, and touched his shoulder. "No," he said. He took off his jacket and handed it to her. "I don't know," he said, "maybe you're here. Anyway, it gets cold." He turned and walked away, and after the seventh step, he'd closed his eyes, watching the music define itself at the center of things. He did look back, once, although he didn't open his eyes. He didn't need to. They were there by the edge of the sea, Linda Lee and the thin child who said his name was Neuromancer. His leather jacket dangled from her hand, catching the fringe of the surf He walked on, following the music. Maelcum's Zion dub.
  • His eyes were eggs of unstable crystal, vibrating with a frequency whose name was rain and the sound of trains, sud- denly sprouting a humming forest of hair-fine glass spines. The spines split, bisected, split again, exponential growth under the dome of the Tessier-Ashpool ice. The roof of his mouth cleaved painlessly, admitting rootlets that whipped around his tongue, hungry for the taste of blue, to feed the crystal forests of his eyes, forests that pressed against the green dome, pressed and were hindered, and spread, growing down, filling the universe of T-A, down into the wait- ing, hapless suburbs of the city that was the mind of Tessier- Ashpool S.A. And he was remembering an ancient story, a king placing coins on a chessboard, doubling the amount at each square.... Exponential.... Darkness fell in from every side, a sphere of singing black, pressure on the extended crystal nerves of the universe of data he had nearly become.... And when he was nothing, compressed at the heart of all that dark, there came a point where the dark could be no more, and something tore.
  • And then-old alchemy of the brain and its vast pharmacy - his hate flowed into his hands.

Coda: Departure and Arrival

  • I never even found out what color her eyes were. She never showed me.
  • He spent the bulk of his Swiss account on a new pancreas and liver, the rest on a new Ono-Sendai and a ticket back to the Sprawl. He found work. He found a girl who called herself Michael. And one October night, punching himself past the scarlet tiers of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority, he saw three figures, tiny, impossible, who stood at the very edge of one out the vast steps of data. Small as they were, he could make out the boy's grin, his pink gums, the glitter of the long gray eyes that had been Riviera's. Linda still wore his jacket; she waved, as he passed. But the third figure, close behind her, arm across her shoulders, was himself. Somewhere, very close, the laugh that wasn't laughter. He never saw Molly again.

Page last revised on: 2024-05-05