Neuromancer by William Gibson
1985 Hugo Award Winner
Audiobook read by Robertson Dean
Got it from: Public Library
In Neuromancer, the dream of brain-computer interfaces has become a computing reality (people dream about that right?) and hustlers like Case have capitalized on their augmented ability to hack complex computer systems. After being poisoned and becoming addicted to drugs, he is then “saved” by a mysterious figure looking for a cyber-cowboy like Case, but his saviors only lead him to an even more mysterious and dystopian underworld.
This was a really strange…and dumb week for me. I chose to listen to the audiobook (published in 2011 by Books on Tape) because I’m still struggling to get through Cyteen and I thought, even though I really wanted to physically read this one, that I could score some kind of mega-bonus, triple-double reading time by listening to one book while I drive and run and reading Cyteen at night. As it turns out, my resolve completely failed and while I made it through Neuromancer just fine, I read almost nothing from Cyteen all week. AHHH! Instead, I sat around drinking wine and watching the first season of ‘24’ (which is soo BAD, but it was nice to just relax and laugh at something stupid with my wife) while the house crumbled around me. So it turns out, I probably should have just read the stupid book since it was pretty short anyway and as I’ll go into later, would have been a lot more enjoyable.
There was a lot I enjoyed about Neuromancer. Mostly, it fits into a gigantic lexicon of books and films that never fail to disappoint me. Of course it’s easy to make comparisons to Blade Runner (I wouldn’t say Androids so much though) or The Matrix, (though I would say Ghost In the Shell is probably a closer match). The best way I can describe my experience though, is like that of possibly reading a Cronenberg film from the late 70’s to early 80’s. I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone other than actual fans of movies like the delightful, Videodrome, but the dark and oozing atmospheres, the quick use of slang that is both arcane and familiar, the comfortable and easy relationship between male and female protagonists that still bleeds tension off the page, the attractive yet terrifying underworld, all reminded me of those same aspects of some of Cronenberg’s greatest. While all that comparison is fun, there’s really no need though. Gibson’s drug addled, illicit electronic setting is unmatched by anything it has ever been compared to.
If I had any gripes about Neuromancer, it would be that it is a little difficult to follow sometimes and immediately decipher which reality is which. Ultimately though I think that was one of the charms of this book and I’m excited for a more thorough re-read later. As a result, I don’t feel that after listening to the audiobook once (especially since the reader was constantly threatening to put me to sleep despite the enthralling content), I’m not sure I can claim expert status on the finer details of the narrative. Robertson Dean, was really difficult to pay attention to and I’ll admit that even though I enjoyed this book so much, my attention was not always thoroughly riveted and I feel pretty bad for not giving this one everything I had. I blame C.J Cherryh for draining me ;-)
This was - by far - the worst audiobook experience I’ve ever had. The reader, Robertson Dean, had a lifeless, dead pan delivery that maybe someone thought could have actually worked with the dark and brooding tone of the book…I suppose… The actual effect was to completely disrupt my attention and enjoyment of what was otherwise exactly what I needed to read right now.
|The glass-eyed Molly Millions|
I actually have many gripes about the choice of Dean for this book. I know how easy it is to get an audition for a voice actor and I know there are many great voice actors out there so I am having a really hard time understanding why a man who does not possess the capability to affect a Jamaican patois in any way AT ALL would be chosen for this role. I always hate to completely trash a book (in this case audiobook) without finding something worth a positive mention, but this is a rare case in which the garbage is the only appropriate place for this recording. Dean completely manhandles and nearly ruins a book that is so overwhelmingly moody that it must have actually been difficult to read it with so little emotion. Please if you are considering an alternative experience to just reading this book, pass the audiobook up and just wait for the movie.
My recommendation is simple, but also mainly directed back at myself: READ THIS BOOK. There have actually been a couple of Hugo winners that I’ve immediately identified as potential re-reads in the near future and this one immediately jumped to the top of the list. That which I loved most about this book, the shadowy cyber-space underworld subculture and the brooding and edgy visual and emotional textures were exactly the elements that most suffered from Robertson Dean’s reading. But even more than trying to correct my horrendous mistake, there are so many levels of subtle and nuanced seediness that I’m pretty sure it will hold up to years of re-reading.
Social/Political Climate 5/5
Scientific Wonders 5/5
This week’s book is The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke. Yet another from the Master. It’s short, so I’m not going to make the same mistake twice. I’ll definitely be reading!
Next week’s book is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.