Neuromancer | Study Guide

William Gibson

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Neuromancer | Part 3, Chapter 11 : Midnight in the Rue Jules Verne | Summary

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Summary

Later that evening, Armitage takes Case and Molly to dinner at Freeside's most expensive restaurant, the Vingtième Siècle (French for "Twentieth Century"). Case is shaking as he comes down from his drug trip and can barely eat. Riviera takes the stage to perform his "holographic cabaret." Riviera tells a story and, using the projectors built into his body, projects visions for the audience to accompany the story. The story is about his desire for a woman, who is an idealized version of Molly. The story is pornographic and explicit. Riviera has sex with the vision of Molly, and then the woman in the vision uses the razors in her hands to kill him. Case leaves partway through to vomit.

When the performance ends, the audience cheers. Case returns to the restaurant. Molly is gone, and the stage is empty. Riviera is gone as well. Armitage says Molly left to prepare herself for the job. Before Case leaves, he notices a young woman with a striking face. Outside, he sees two French men and a woman who he had seen earlier. Once he gets back to their hotel room, he calls the Marcus Garvey and gets Maelcum to hook Dixie up to the phone. He tells Dixie to access the computer system to find Molly's room number and the name she is under. Dixie does, but Wintermute contacts Case as soon as he is done. Using personalities from Case's past, Wintermute tells Case that Dixie's activities are drawing attention. Case enlists Bruce and Cath's help as local experts. They guide him to the level where Molly is staying.

Case finds Molly's room. When he knocks, she punches him and then tells him the story of how she paid for her surgical augmentation. She served as a special kind of prostitute, a "meat puppet." She had a "cut-out chip" implanted, which let her rent her body without experiencing it. However, the memories started to bleed through as dreams.

Analysis

Riviera performs his holographic, pornographic story in the restaurant the Vingtième Siècle (the "Twentieth Century"). The restaurant is meant to be retro, like a 1950s diner today, and is therefore a commentary on the modern era in which Gibson wrote the book. The restaurant is a place of technological marvels, extremes of wealth, and horrifying, inhuman display—the products of capitalism and technology without conscience. Riviera's "artwork" is technologically advanced and sounds very impressive, but the level of public sex and violence involved and the wealthy spectators watching make the spectacle seem like something out of imperial Rome. Gibson himself has said he wrote Neuromancer in part to dramatize the effects of Reagan-era government policies. Riviera's performance is one place this critique becomes explicit.

Molly's story demonstrates yet again the complex interplay of humanity and technology in this novel and the role fragmentation plays. She allows one form of augmentation, the "cut-out chip," to block her memories. This chip lets Molly prostitute herself more easily to pay for the surgeries that make her a "razorgirl." The second augmentation interferes with the first, and her reality begins to fragment and become whole. Here, one of the novel's central themes—indeed a central theme of science fiction—emerges: What happens to the concept of personal responsibility when people no longer control their own bodies, as happens with Molly? Is she a killer in her meat puppet role? Or is she a victim as well?

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