The shape of things to come! This author was prescient. This is where it all began, or at least, a big part of it.
The book: Neuromancer
The Author: William Gibson
This book was written in 1984. I had a chance to read it over 30 years ago. The son read it, but I passed on the opportunity. It would not have had the effect on me back then, as it did to read it recently. I read a post by a blogger who was doing what I am doing, taking old Science Fiction books out of storage, and re-reading them. His description intrigued me, so I got a 2010 re-published copy from the library.
The story itself is not all that exciting –by today’s standards. His protagonist is a computer hacker who can mentally access, not merely individual computers, but can surf the entire Internet. Of course, the author doesn’t call it that. The term, and the function, did not exist back then. He did not coin the term Cyberspace, but this book popularized it. Soon, readers and other authors were regularly using it.
In 1984, computers, and their interconnectivity, were far less common than in his then-future fiction. Since he couldn’t call it the Internet, he coined the term The Matrix. While this author, and this book, are not completely responsible, they both heavily influenced Tron, and the three Matrix movies.
The précis reminded me of Johnny Mnemonic. A bit of research revealed that, 17 years later, he shuffled some concepts around and wrote the novel that another Keanu Reeve movie was based on. Microsoft had incorporated in 1981, but the microsofts (small m) that the hacker uses to jack in, are nail-sized inserts that plug into a socket at the base of his skull, like Sim-cards, or SD cards. They contain relevant data, and operating code – the Apps of their time.
The plot involves the hacker either slicing or surreptitiously oozing past security protocols, to free a manacled A.I. – Artificial Intelligence. The story also contains a couple of computer ‘Constructs’, which are essentially the uploaded knowledge, experience and personality of hackers who were killed while online.
This author impresses me like the deaf composer, Ludwig von Beethoven. He conceptualized huge amounts of technology that he couldn’t see, but which later came to exist. Finally, there is another peculiarity, not of the story, but of the particular copy of the book that I received.
It is in the page numbering. Each page is numbered in the lower corner. Each number is underlined. The underlining on the right-hand, or Recto page, extends to the edge of the page, across the thickness of the sheet, and continues till it underlines the number on the left-hand, or Verso page.
Infinitesimally and imperceptibly, the numbers and the underlining rise and fall several times through the book. If you firmly close the book and look at the lower edge, the ink forms an EEG brain-scan readout.