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Book Review

This science fiction book by William Gibson is published by Ace, a division of the Penguin Group, and is written for readers ages 18 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Twenty-four year-old Henry Dorsett Case was a talented computer hacker before he stole from his employers. In response, they maimed him by injecting a mycotoxin into his central nervous system. It rendered him incapable of inserting his consciousness into the cyberspace known as the matrix. After a year of visiting illegal clinics and unsuccessfully finding a cure, Case is now a depressed, drug-addicted, borderline suicidal hustler in the futuristic metropolis of Chiba City, Japan.

Molly, a mercenary who works for an enigmatic ex-military leader named Armitage, approaches Case. Armitage has promised to correct Case's neural damage if he agrees to do a hacking job. Excited at the prospect of getting back into cyberspace, Case agrees to do the job without knowing all the details about it or much about his new boss.

As payment for curing Case, Armitage gives an illegal clinic the technology to perform the procedure. Unbeknownst to Case, Armitage arranges for small sacs of the same mycotoxin that maimed him to be placed in Case's bloodstream. Armitage later tells Case that if the job is completed on time, he will arrange for the poison to be removed. Otherwise the sacs will erupt, crippling his nervous system once again. Armitage also instructs the clinic to give Case a new pancreas and graft a special tissue to his liver, leaving Case unable to break down illegal drugs. This effectively cures Case's drug addiction.

While Case and Molly have a working relationship, they also begin a sexual relationship. Molly has reservations about Armitage and tells Case to look into his background. The couple travels to New York to complete the first part of the job. They are supposed to break into the vaults of the media corporation Sense/Net and steal a computer storage device containing the saved consciousness of one of Case's mentors, the legendary hacker McCoy Pauley. Case plants a virus in the Sense/Net network while Molly works with a street gang called the "Panther Moderns,” who simulate a terrorist attack. This allows Molly to get into the building and steal the storage device.

Case and Molly investigate Armitage and find out he is really Colonel Willis Corto, a member of a failed military operation that tried to attack Soviet computer systems from an airplane. The operation went horribly wrong. Corto was the only survivor, and he needed extensive medical treatment and reconstructive surgery for his injuries. Corto also suffered a mental breakdown after the operation. He was last known to work in the criminal underworld.

Molly and Case also discover that Armitage works for a powerful artificial intelligence named Wintermute that was created by the wealthy Tessier-Ashpool family. The family is run like a corporation and uses cloning and cryogenic stasis to guarantee that the same members of the family are always in control. The Tessier-Ashpool family live in Villa Straylight, a mansion located in Freeside, an orbital space habitat that is also a resort getaway for the rich.

At Armitage's instruction, the team travels to Istanbul to recruit Peter Riviera, a sadistic performer and drug addict who is able to project holograms using his implants. Whatever Riviera imagines, you see. Armitage convinces him to do a job for him. The team heads to Freeside. Molly buys enough drugs to supply Riviera's expensive habit while they are at the resort colony.

While Case is jacked into the matrix, along with Pauley's consciousness, Wintermute contacts Case directly and tells him that it (Wintermute) is one half of a super artificial-intelligence built by the Tessier-Ashpool family, and that it needs to merge with its other half, Neuromancer. The law bans both the construction and the merging of super AIs, so Wintermute has put together the team, led by Armitage, to achieve its goal. Case and Pauley's job is to launch a powerful virus to break the barriers around the government and Tessier-Ashpool's cyber locks while Riviera forms a close relationship with Lady 3Jane, the family's current thawed clone leader. He needs to convince her to give Molly access into Villa Straylight. Molly's job is to get a password from Lady 3Jane, a password that must be spoken into a terminal at the same time the virus breaks the cyberspace barriers.

As Molly and Riviera gain access to Villa Straylight, the Turing Police, the law enforcement branch in charge of monitoring artificial intelligence, arrest Case. Wintermute manipulates several machines and computers to kill the officers, allowing Case to escape. Under the stress of the job, Armitage begins to suffer another mental breakdown. He begins to believe that he is back in his military operation. Wintermute kills Armitage and tells Case that it knows how to remove the poison sacs from his blood, but first Case must finish the job.

Things also go awry inside Villa Straylight. Riviera betrays the team, and he and Lady 3Jane capture Molly. Case and his pilot, Maelcum, go into the mansion to help Molly, but Case is tricked into jacking into a program controlled by Neuromancer, who reveals that it does not want to join with Wintermute. Case escapes the program with Maelcum's help and confronts Riviera, Lady 3Jane and her ninja bodyguard, Hideo.

Having grown tired of Riviera, Lady 3Jane has Hideo protect Case when Riviera tries to kill him. Riviera blinds the ninja, unaware that Hideo can perform as well in dark as he can in light due to years of practice. As Riviera tries to get away from the ninja, Molly tells them that Riviera is already dead because she has poisoned his drugs. They are already slowly killing him.

Case convinces Lady 3Jane to speak the password into the terminal and Wintermute and Neuromancer merge. The AI provides the cure to the poison in Case's blood, and all parties are paid well for their work. The integrated AI erases all evidence of its crime and starts looking for other entities like itself. It contacts Case for the last time after the job and tells him that it has picked up transmissions from another AI in the Centauri system of space.

After the job, Molly leaves Case. He moves back to the Sprawl area of Chiba City, finds a new girlfriend and starts doing hacking work again.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

While on a train, Case notices a pair of predatory-looking Christian Scientists moving toward a group of girls, who were wearing holographic vaginas on their wrists. Before they could run from the missionaries, the train reached the next station.

On the night of the Sense/Net theft, the Panther Moderns report to the police that a sect of militant Christian fundamentalists put an outlawed psychoactive agent into Sense/Net's ventilation system.

When Rivera shoots up drugs, he tells Case that if God made anything better than the drugs he takes, God kept it for himself.

The Rastafarians, who live in Freeport, tell Case and Molly that their world is in its final days. They heard a voice in the wilderness prophesying the ruin of Babylon, which they interpret as the Tessier-Ashpool family. The voice is Wintermute's, asking the Rastafarians to help the team complete the job. The leader of the Rastafarians tells Case and Molly that the Rastafarians have no regard for the law.

After Wintermute and Neuromancer merge, Case asks the artificial intelligence if it is now God. The AI answers that things are different. Things are things.

Authority Roles

Ashpool, the patriarch of the Tessier-Ashpool family, strangled his wife and has sex with cloned versions of his daughter. The current Lady 3Jane tells Molly that Lady 3Jane's father strangled her mother because he could not accept the direction she intended for the family. Lady 3Jane has never met her father as he has been in a cryogenic sleep since before she was thawed; but she manipulated the sleep program, giving him dreams that drove him mad.

Most of the main characters have very little regard for the law. Police officers are often seen as enemies, and government is a force to rebel against.


God's name is taken in vain several times with knows, is my witness, swear to, honest to and awful. Jesus' name is also taken in vain. Profanity used includes the f-word, s---, c--t, a-- (and variations), h---, d--n, b--ch, p---, pr--k.

After losing the ability to jack into cyberspace, Case remembers becoming a hustler and killing three people over money. Case believes he is being followed, so he rents a gun to protect himself.

When Wintermute talks to Case in the matrix, the AI appears as people whom Case knows. When Case feels that he is being manipulated by Wintermute, he shoots the projected image in the head. Even though the entire event happens in the matrix, the shooting leaves a lot of blood and gore at the scene.

While breaking into Sense/Net one of the guards breaks Molly's leg and she ends up killing several of them. Later, the Turing Police tell Case that 15 people were killed in the panic that followed the simulated terrorist attack on Sense/Net. When Case is arrested, Wintermute reprograms various machines to kill the police so Case can get away.

Molly kills Ashpool by shooting a toxin dart through his left eye. Hideo shoots Maelcum in the arm with an arrow. Riviera shoots lasers at Hideo's eyes and blinds him.


When Case's old girlfriend, Linda Lee, visits him in a café, he feels lonely. He remembers being with her, and he is hit with a wave of lust and longing.

A pimp named Lonny Zone watches over his prostitutes in the bar that Case frequents. After the surgery to repair Case's nerve damage, he wakes up in his hotel room in considerable discomfort. Molly is with him and offers him a massage. They have sex, which is described in graphic detail.

Shortly after they start the job, Case jacks into Molly's sensory system through one of her implants. While Case can experience all of Molly's senses, he can't respond to her. Molly knows this and to tease Case, she puts her hand in her shirt and fondles her nipple. While he is experiencing her senses, Case wonders how much he really knows about Molly. He realizes one of the few things he knows about her is how she feels against him when they have sex and how she likes her coffee afterward.

Wintermute tells Case that when he found Corto, the man was so far gone that all he could do was eat, excrete and masturbate.

Case purchases scores of powerful stimulants that give the high he wants and has not been able to get since his organ transplant. The drug also gives him an erection. He goes back to the hotel room he shares with Molly and tells her that she should take advantage of it.

Riviera puts on a holographic show at a club for Lady 3Jane's entertainment so she will invite him back to Villa Straylight. In the show, he creates an image of Molly naked and has sex with the image while the holographic Molly uses the razors surgically implanted in her nails to rip him apart. Furious, Molly leaves the show, but Case finds her and talks to her about it. Molly admits that Riviera hit a nerve and reveals that she earned the money to finance her enhancements through prostitution. She worked as a "meat puppet" in a brothel where the prostitutes loan out their bodies while an implanted computer chip programs their actions. While the prostitutes are not supposed to remember anything about the sex acts, Molly began to have dreams about what she was doing, and she admits not all the dreams were bad. Her employers found out about her razors and started renting her out to special customers. One man, a senator, used her to kill another woman while they were having sex. Molly implies that after she realized what happened, she killed the senator as well.

While breaking into Villa Straylight, Molly takes a wrong turn and walks in on the patriarch of the Tessier-Ashpool family attempting suicide by overdosing on alcohol and drugs. He tells Molly that he is over 200 years old, and when he came out of his cryogenic sleep, he ordered a clone of his daughter Lady 3Jane thawed and had sex with her, something that he does every few decades when he wakes up. Molly finds the body of the cloned Lady 3Jane dead on the floor with her throat cut.

When Case is trapped inside Neuromancer's program in the matrix, he finds the consciousness of his dead lover, Linda Lee, trapped there, too, and the pair have sex.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Drugs: Case is addicted to drugs. Before his pancreas was replaced, he regularly takes a drug he describes as a potent species of Brazilian dex, a stimulant. He also traffics ketamine for a local thug and is responsible for introducing Linda Lee to drugs, resulting in her addiction. The Rastafarians in Freeside smoke marijuana regularly. Riviera uses a mixture of cocaine and meperidine to get high and cannot function without it. Case knows the drugs he took in the past have no effect on him now. Desperate for a hit, he scores a very powerful stimulant from a guest at the hotel where he is staying. The drug gives him the high he wants, and his euphoria is described in detail. He gets very sick as the drug wears off. When he is trapped in Neuromancer's program, Maelcum gives him an overdose of this drug to bring him out of the program. Other minor characters in the story are drug addicts.

Drinking and smoking: Throughout the book, the characters regularly drink alcohol ranging from beer and wine to brandy and vodka. They also smoke cigarettes and cigars.

Nudity: Case and Molly are often naked around each other. Hotel guests in Freeside sunbathe nude.

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