Literature Study GuidesNeuromancerPart 1 Chapter 1 Summary

Neuromancer | Study Guide

William Gibson

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Neuromancer | Part 1, Chapter 1 : Chiba City Blues | Summary



Neuromancer takes place some time in the 21st century. A "cyber cowboy" named Case is in Chiba City, Japan. He used to work stealing data, until he got greedy. He kept something he was hired to steal. Case's employers punished him by damaging his nervous system so he could no longer jack into cyberspace. He's now a poor hustler, performing small, illegal deals to get by.

Case's girlfriend Linda Lee approaches him with a warning: a drug dealer named Wage wants him dead. Case goes to see Julius "Julie" Deane, an information dealer, to see if this is true. Julie says he doesn't know of anyone who wants Case dead, but after leaving, Case realizes someone is following him. He buys a "cobra" (a specialized baton) to protect himself but realizes the man has followed him home. Case buys a gun and then sets up a conference with Wage, who denies he wants to kill him. Case thinks Linda may have set him up. When he gets home, Case encounters a strange woman named Molly. She tells him Linda has been in his room and stolen his belongings, including the goods he was planning to sell.


Chapter 1 of Neuromancer introduces Gibson's fictional world—the world of "the Sprawl." Gibson doesn't specify when the novel takes place, but internal clues indicate that it is on Earth, in the 21st century, after a major war. The result is a fragmented but interwoven global society—technologically advanced but emotionally and spiritually damaged.

This first chapter also introduces two key aspects of the novel. The first is Case's motivation. Jacking into cyberspace is incredibly important to Case. It's an intense addiction but also forms part of his identity. When the novel starts, he is unable to jack in. He is damaged, and he knows it is his fault. The second aspect Gibson introduces here may be even more important: the style. From the classic opening line of the book to the end of the first chapter, Gibson moves at an incredibly fast pace, throwing images at the reader and sketching the nature of this world in quick, intense details, such as the bartender's "heraldic" ugliness. He also gives locations names rich with potential meaning, such as "Night City," which he then leaves to the reader's imagination.

The title of Part 1, "Chiba City Blues," suggests a couple of things about the novel. First, the novel draws inspiration from music, and—like music—it will be as much about tone and mood as specific content. Second, Chiba City specifically represents the American musical genre of the blues, which celebrates the suffering of the common man.

Finally, this first chapter introduces most of the novel's key themes. There is no natural world left. All references are to technology or technological products. The line between human and machine is blurred. The bartender Ratz has an artificial arm, and before his employers modified him, Case lived to jack into cyberspace. Even his employers' method of punishing Case develops this theme, as they are using neurotoxins as weapons. This world is also fragmented. Ratz's arm is a good example, as is Case's inability to access cyberspace. Information is key: Case spends much of this first chapter trying to gather or verify information—who is trying to kill him, the reasons, and so on.

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