For me, in the past few weeks, I have pretty much been between novels. I found that reading relatively short graphic novels have been a good counterpart to the lengthy novel series I normally read. The stories are quick and to the point, yet complex and intriguing. I found this to be the case with the following two graphic novels I recently finished reading.
When I first heard this book, the archetype cyber-punk novel, was being made into a movie, I decided it was the perfect time to read it. Luckily I had already picked up a copy for around a buck at my local library’s booksale. On the back cover I read, “Case was the best interface cowboy who ever ran in Earth’s computer matrix. Then he double-crossed the wrong people…” I come to find that he’s not so much a cowboy, and he really hasn’t double-crossed anyone (or at least the main plot of the story does not involve him double-crossing anyone.) Really, that’s just the beginning of the story.
The story starts off with Case having already double-crossed a past client, and as a result, can no longer access the Matrix (which is basically a virtual-reality version of the internet). That being his main purpose in life, he is left to rot in a slum of an urban city. He now spends his time traffiking illegal products, doing all sorts of drugs, and for the most part self-destructing. Rather than a typical cowboy type, we see a shell of a man with no will of his own.
Out of nowhere, Case is targetted, captured, and recruited onto a team where he will help hack into a system and steal an AI. The rest of his team includes Molly, a female assassin who he becomes intimately involved with, and Armitage, a mysterious man who seems to be directing the crew even though someone behind the scenes might be calling the shots. Later they enlist Peter Riviera, a man with the ability to create extremely life-like illusions, and the Dixie Flatline, a personality construct of Case’s former mentor, McCoy Pauley.
In the lead up to the final run, the crew heads to their destination, Freeside, which appears to be some kind of orbital city. It is here they find the Villa Straylight, the home of a major industrial clan, and the location of the AI they mean to steal. Freeside proves to be a place of luxury where Case manages to get himself into trouble, taking drugs and screwing with the plan. He also has a run in with the Turing Police, a group that deals with the governing of Artificial Intelligences. Here, we also start to see a darker side of Riviera in one of his illusory displays.
During the actual run on the Villa Straylight, we finally see everything come into place. Molly heads into the complex and is at her assassiny best, while Case, in a secure location just outside of Freeside, is at his hackery best. Case and Molly are linked via a one way sensory input. Whenever Case decides, he can flip a switch and he sees, hears, and feels everything Molly is experiencing. Personally, I think this was a pretty ingenious literary device used to show what is happening to Molly in the thick of things without taking the focus off of the main character. Case also flips from Molly’s point of view, into the Matrix where with the help of the Dixie Flatline, he plants an extremely advanced virus on the Villa Straylight’s defenses (or ICE). From here, he also visits his real body where events with Armitage eventually unfold.
There is a forth “place” that Case vists as well, and here he is trapped for a period of time. It is much like being in the Matrix but more real. Here he learns the final secrets of their end goal and uses this knowledge to help his team.
Throughout the book you get a sense of the ultra-modern. The surprising part about this to me is that the book was published in 1984, about 25 years ago from the date of this post. In this world of fast paced technology, I would imagine it to be difficult for a cyber-punk author to forsee the changes in modern devices and their uses. It is no surprise that Neuromancer has received the acclaim and the following it has. The referrences to technology in the book remain somewhat “futuristic” even today, and likely will for a good amount of time.
With an ending like this, it transforms the entirety of the story. Were it to have an upbeat, happy ending where everyone lives happily ever after, the statement made by the whole comic would have been ruined. As it is, it really makes you think, and it really strikes a cord with reality… rather than just being a thing of fantasy.
Along with this, we really have a good storyline. Instead of simply a display of highly advanced technology, we also get to know some interesting characters and their intereactions with one another. The reader can relate to the main character even if they haven’t been through quite the same circumstances.
I very much enjoyed reading this book and look forward to seeing the movie which is planned for release this year.
(PS. At the time of the original posting, there was next to nothing known about the film. Currently, it is set to release in 2011, and there has been a bit of talk about who the director and actors will be. Some of that information is promising, some not so much. I’m still curious to see how it all turns out.)