Reviews of “Johnny Mnemonic” (1981) and related work

“Johnny Mnemonic” (1981Text)

William Gibson (writer).

text fiction cyberpunk

“Burning Chrome” (1982Text)

William Gibson (writer).

text spin-off fiction cyberpunk

Neuromancer (1984Text)

William Gibson (writer).

The foremost example of its genre, and a logical extension from Bester’s The Stars My Destination (1956) via Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar (1968). Gibson reduces Bester’s supernatural powers into the ambiguous holographic projections of Peter Riviera, and—brilliantly!—has no grand premiss to replace them or Brunner’s genetics. Like both Bester and Brunner, Neuromancer contains very little science, and like Bester, it still manages a little action on a cosmic scale. Bester’s Foyle travels to Aldebaran; Gibson’s Case hears of the liberated AI identifying an extrasolar peer; Brunner’s Shalmaneser does neither. The main take from Brunner is to look at the world around you and extrapolate, bringing everything at least forty years ahead as an exercise in literature. This leap, within the bounds of reason, is evidently challenging to attempt and impossible to get just right.

Case, like Batty in Blade Runner (1982), has his Christian subtext, but Gibson does even this better than his predecessors, in both style and content. No flying cars or inexplicably unidentifiable androids here. No shiggy circuit or mucker problem. Gibson’s future world made more sense than any other writer’s in his time. That may not be an end in itself, but it’s damned impressive.

References here: Eon (1985), The Songs of Distant Earth (1986), Blame (1997), Planetes (1999), Altered Carbon (2002), Elysium (2013), Belle (2021), The Orbital Children (2022).

text sequel fiction cyberpunk

“New Rose Hotel” (1984Text)

William Gibson (writer).

Human resources. Megacorporations dominate world markets not through individual technologies but with the greatest geniuses.

References here: Blindsight (2006).

text spin-off fiction cyberpunk

‣‣ New Rose Hotel (1998Moving picture, 93 minutes)

A sleazy techno-thriller with a few big-name actors. I’m somewhat surprised at how much they kept of the original short story, but in terms of pacing, this is not on Gibson’s horizon. A lot of filler, repetition and budget-conserving tricks; not much happening.

moving picture adaptation fiction

Count Zero (1986Text)

William Gibson (writer).

Gibson has admitted to the superficiality of the Voodoo motif. Alas, it is a severe weakness, covering a failure to imagine or even decide what would happen as a consequence of the events in Neuromancer.

The details are still great though. Bobby trying out Automatic Jack’s ten-year-old cyberdeck is a glorious little vision of old technology with better UX co-existing with the new, built on the mental model of an old car that “cruises” smoothly.

References here: “The Fast Track” (2001), “Metalhead” (2017), The Orbital Children (2022).

text sequel fiction cyberpunk

Mona Lisa Overdrive (1989Text)

William Gibson (writer).

A slow salute to “The Aleph” (1945), largely disconnected from the rest of the Sprawl trilogy.

text sequel fiction cyberpunk

Johnny Mnemonic (1995Moving picture, 96 minutes)

William Gibson (writer).

In 2021, a courier can carry “nearly 80 gigs of data” in his head.

Though Gibson wrote the screenplay, it is worse than the original. It doesn’t even bother to update the ideas. Unsurprisingly, in the real 2021, it was lot easier to smuggle 80 GB by other means than to travel in person and imprint the data on the brain, and not just because there was a global pandemic.

References here: Elysium (2013).

moving picture adaptation fiction