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September 28, 2011

A Map Would Be Appreciated.

Often at the beginning of modern fantasy novels you will find a nicely illustrated map along with a conveniently illustrated legend with navigate the unfamiliar landscape of the author’s world. Such things are provided when authors know they are going to be dropping a reader into unfamiliar territory, in an attempt to give them some bearings on their environment or means of orientating themselves.

In Gibson’s Neuromancer, we are thrown into a futuristic world filled to the brim with places we have never heard of. We can only begin to guess where they may fit geologically. Since Neuromancer take place in the vague  future, it is safe to assume that although these may physically be places we are familiar with, they may well be changed by the throws of time and may be called something entirely different. This first happens in the beginning paragraphs of the novels opening chapter. We are introduced to the concept of the “Sprawl” while not really being told what or where it is — until much later. Although we can pick up from context clues that people speak English in the Sprawl, and that it is probably located where America used to be, we are not even sure of these facts until well into part two of the novel when it is confirmed for us that “The Sprawl” is the name of a giant city-scape — spanning from Boston to Atlanta (or what was previously Boston and Atlanta and is now “The Sprawl.” )

This sort of geographic confusion shows up again, in a major way, in the third part of the novel. When the characters are called by Armitage (or more accurately Wintermute) to go to Freeside. The place is described as a sort of futuristic Las Vegas, with lots of attractions, gambling, hookers. It is laid out as a very active place to live that attracts gambling scum as well as the flashy rich. We are not, however, told it is in space. We find out  that it is a space colony as the characters travel there. We experience with them the ride on the space shuttle and the disorientation of zero gravity and SAS (a sort of space sickness). We do not know how it got there, how long it has been orbiting — for we find out later it is not built on a planet, but an orbiting satellite of sorts –what the local people look like, how they recycle their air, how they grow food, how many people it takes to keep the satellite running.

All of these questions buzz around in my head and distract me from enjoying the plot. For every ten I have answered I feel as if a hundred more pop up freshly in their place. Although this keeps me reading on in hope of having my queries answered, it also makes me unimaginably frustrated. Part of the allure of science fiction and fantasy for me has always been the way authors blend in the fantastic with the common to make it seem natural. But there is so little common and relatable material in Neuromancer I fear getting lost among uncharted waters.

Filed by at September 28th, 2011 under Uncategorized
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