This week’s recommendation is Neuromancer by William Gibson. I’ve been told (rather I’ve read) that this is one of the essential/influential books in science fiction. I first heard of Gibson when he was referenced in a show called Psycho-Pass alongside Philip K. Dick who wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which inspired the movie Blade Runner. I believe the book was infinitely better than the movie. Both of these guys are excellent writers and their stories have influenced much of the science fiction we read/see today. Check them out.
Update (to give proper recommendations):
Neuromancer is justifiably one of the essential/influential books in the history of science fiction because of the way it shaped the genre after its publication. The story follows a “hacker” across not only the physical universe but the digital one as well in the pursuit of an artificial intelligence. The descriptions of the environments are especially impelling. However, the famous first line is now a little dated.
“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”
Yeah, though descriptive in a way that everyone knew what that looked like, the advancement of technology has made this description non-existent in today’s times. Many new readers (or should I say younger readers [or am I just old now?]) won’t understand this detail because television no longer goes to a static screen when there is no signal.
The character descriptions are also unique. Physical augmentations of the characters can be seen to have influenced many science fiction stories after Neuromancer. This book was published in 1984 before the exponential growth in technology began. You wouldn’t really know from reading it though because it reads like a modern science fiction novel (aside from that first line).
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is also a story that involves a sort of digital plug-in, but this subject plays a minor role in the overall story, which follows Rick Deckard as he hunts down androids. These androids look and act as humans, so it is difficult to weed them out among the actual humans of the city. This simple, one-line description is what they use for the premise of the move Blade Runner, but what I think the book really focuses on, and what the movie left out, is what makes someone human in this futuristic society. Also that some of the androids actually live better lives than the actual humans. One large part of this is the focus on empathy.
The ability to feel empathy for other living things is supposed to be the main distinction between androids and humans. This is also what creates the title. In this society, people pride themselves for having live animals as pets because living animals are rare and are seen as a prize possession that improves ones ability to feel empathetic. Rick can’t afford a real sheep, so he owns a fake one (that looks and acts real) to stay in good standing with the neighborhood, and so he and his wife don’t look suspicious for not having an animal. His concern about the “electric sheep” is missed in the movie, but is a core theme in the book. What I like about most of Philip K. Dick’s stories is the way he uses science fiction elements to make you think about human existence and behaviors. This book is one that can do just that.