Neuromancer | Study Guide

William Gibson

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Neuromancer | Part 2, Chapter 3 : The Shopping Expedition | Summary

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Summary

Case, Molly, and Armitage travel to North America, to "the Sprawl" stretching from Boston to Atlanta, a region Case calls home. When Case complains about the new pancreas, Armitage informs him of another change. The clinic also implanted 15 sacs full of the same toxin Case's previous employers used to destroy his nervous system. Armitage did this to blackmail Case and keep him focused completely on the job for which he was hired—and nothing else. If Case completes the job, Armitage will give him the means to dissolve the sacs without damage. If he doesn't, he dies.

Molly takes Case to visit the Finn, who scans Case's body to see if they can tell whether Armitage is telling the truth or not. The Finn says the sort of implant placed in Case's body is too subtle to show up, but he does give them more background on Armitage.

Once eight days pass, Case jacks into cyberspace successfully. He is so happy to be home, he weeps with joy. Finn, whom Armitage hired as tech support (without knowing about the earlier consultation), fits Molly with technology to broadcast what she senses. Molly explains that she has been researching Armitage ever since he hired her but can't find his real boss—and they'll be stealing a recording of McCoy Pauley (Dixie Flatline)'s personality from a company named Sense/Net.

Analysis

Chapter 3 sketches in more of the world of Neuromancer and does so—as Gibson often does—through suggestion and implication rather than direct statement. Case is from a place called "the Sprawl" rather than from a specific city or from the United States. This suggests both the connectedness and fragmentation of modern culture and suggests the United States may no longer exist.

This chapter emphasizes how powerful knowledge is in this novel and how ambiguous it is. Finn uses advanced technology and makes his living doing things such as scanning for implants. However, the toxin sacs are so subtle, the Finn can't tell if they exist or not. This becomes a fictional version of the famous scientific thought experiment known as "Schrödinger's cat." In the story, meant to illustrate principles of quantum physics, a cat is placed in a box with a vial of poison and some radioactive material. When the material decays to a certain point, the poison is released, killing the cat. However, until someone opens the box, the cat exists in a state of uncertainty: no one can say for certain if the cat is alive or dead. In this novel, with the toxin sacs that may or may not be in his body, Case becomes like the cat, scrambling to finish the job before the poison is released.

The part title, "Shopping Expedition," points to how people lose their humanity under global capitalism. This "shopping expedition" is as much for people as it is for objects. They steal Dixie Flatline, who used to be a person but is now an object.

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