Well, Jayprakash expressed an interest so I thought I'd write this up a bit here. A fuller writeup is at my blog at The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. Pechorin?s Journal
I recently finished William Gibson's Neuromancer, a 1984 novel that I have read before but had to an extent forgotten. It was a pleasurable reread, the novel was both fresher and more intense than I had recalled, having a real immediacy to it which I think helps explain why it shook up what was in my view at the time a relatively moribund SF scene.
Essentially Neuromancer is a work of near future science fiction which uses genre techniques and tropes taken from noir fiction to reinvigorate the form. A group of lowlives take on a big score, a heist essentially, in the process getting enmeshed in the plans of the privileged and secluded rich and becoming caught in a web of betrayal. A plot that could come from any noir novel, but not from that many sf novels.
Gibson uses noir techniques in a number of ways, evocation of place features heavily in the work with some of its best scenes being descriptive ones, as Gibson brings to life near future Japan (depressingly similar to the uglier parts of modern day Japan), a range of characterless international hotels of a type I have sadly stayed in too often while on business and eventually an orbital hotel and business complex reminiscent of a space based Las Vegas which contains a luxury villa for a family which reminded me rather of The Big Sleep's Sternwood family. Gibson is skilled at bringing a description to fairly vivid life using relatively few words, and often implies far greater detail than is actually present, a strength I think of the novel.
Noir also I think influences the depiction of violence in the novel (and it is a fairly violent novel) as something brutal and ugly yet horribly quotidian, and a strong theme of dehumanisation as people are turned into tools by the corporate interests and rich and connected patrons whom they serve.
The novel is in many ways curiously undated, some references do show its age (D&Desque computer games, the ascendancy of Japan) but much of it remains surprisingly current. The depiction of Cyberspace, Gibson's great invention that helped influence the development of the real world internet, is so unrealistic in the first place (Gibson knew nothing of computers) that it remains as current as it ever was (or ever wasn't). In many ways, it was the irreality of his vision of cyberspace that caused it to become a vision of the possible for many real world programmers, Gibson didn't know what was possible so simply created a vision of what he thought was interesting and others were inspired by it.
In terms of technique, it is also a very accessible novel given it deals in such fairly hard sf concepts as AI, computing, modifying human capabilities and near space colonisation. In part this is because Gibson opens his novel with an intentionally familiar future in which the elements of the new are easily and instantly understood and are mixed in with elements that are already very recognisable. This then creates a verisimilitude which encourages trust in the reader and allows Gibson later to introduce more radical forms of new technology or social development.
In terms of weaknesses, characterisation is not really Gibson's strong point (something I failed to bring out in my blog entry come to think of it), but I wouldn't recommend anyone go to SF for studies of character. To do so is rather akin to going to literary fiction and looking for examinations of the impact of new technologies on society, you may get lucky but really you're hanging out in the wrong neighbourhood. Equally, there is the occasional infodump and Gibson is fond of exposition. Often successfully in my view, many of my favourite passages were essentially expository, but for some it will be an issue.
For me, Neuromancer was an exciting and rewarding read, a vision of a future which is depressingly similar to our past and present in its portrayal of a society where money and power can take one beyond the range of ordinary humanity and in which crime can be a way to leapfrog the constraints of civil society but at potentially terrible risk. It's a work which I think Chandler would have recognised, and though Gibson isn't nearly the prose stylist Chandler is (few are frankly, it's an unfair comparison) the tradition is I think there. It's also a novel which helped change the real world, by inspiring people with its vision of a future that though bleak contains wonders, and wonders that some then sought to create.
Neuromancer is a hugely influential novel in sf, in my view it should be issued in the Penguin Modern Classics range along such novels as We (which also helped create a genre). Cutting edge science fiction novels such as Altered Carbon (The long habit of living Pechorin?s Journal) or River of Gods (It is the light of Brahma Pechorin?s Journal) would not exist without it, indeed much that is most interesting in contemporary sf would not exist without it, and I think if you have any interest in the sf field at all or a sufficient interest in noir to see where it goes to at the edges, Neuromancer is well worth a read. If, however, your preference is for carefuly honed prose and finely observed characterisation, it may not be your best choice since those are not its goals as a work.