Neuromancer | Study Guide

William Gibson

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Neuromancer | Part 4, Chapter 15 : The Straylight Run | Summary

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Summary

Case comes out of the vision, after having flatlined again. He jacks into simstim so he can monitor Molly and see through her eyes as she penetrates Villa Straylight. As he does, Wintermute sends him brief messages via a digital readout, letting Case know he's monitoring the situation too. As Molly moves through the villa, she tells Case a story about a man named Johnny she used to be involved with and an unusually graceful assassin whom the Yakuza sent to kill Johnny after he betrayed them. As she shares her story with Case, Wintermute guides Molly through Villa Straylight, sending her directions and unlocking magnetic locks for her. She finds the physical key she was looking for. Once she does, Case shifts from following her and jacks in to see how Dixie is doing hacking the AI. Case once again flatlines.

When he returns to the simstim, Case's consciousness rides along with Molly as she passes through a tunnel and ascends to a realm of lower gravity. When Molly comes to a place where the tunnel branches, she wants to look around, but Wintermute warns her it is dangerous. She hears a voice and goes to investigate. It is one of the members of the Ashpool clan, an older man, in the process of committing suicide. He tells Molly a story of his daughter, one in which he "ordered a Jane thawed." He falls asleep while talking to Molly, who takes his gun and continues to explore. She finds someone who appears to be 3Jane with her throat cut. For an instant, Wintermute modifies the image Case sees through the simstim link so Case sees Linda Lee's face. Molly takes her own gun and shoots the Ashpool man in one eye with a poison dart. He dies, and she leaves.

Analysis

Molly's story serves several purposes. First, like the story of how she became a razorgirl, this is another glimpse into her past, which is just as violent and fragmentary as her present. By sharing the story with Case, she reveals Case's importance to her. The story focuses on Johnny, more accurately Johnny Mnemonic, a character from one of Gibson's earlier works. This raises the stakes for their caper, by involving a highly skilled link from Molly's past. Finally, telling the story helps distract Molly from the dangerous situation she is in.

The content of Molly's story also links her to the figure of Neuromancer, who won't technically appear in the novel for several chapters. She transmits this story to Case via manipulation of her nerves. It is a romantic story about a past love. In it, Molly finds beauty in death and killing, much like the poet of Old England's epic Beowulf or Homer's Iliad. Throughout the novel, Molly's speech has been intelligent, but emotionally it has fallen on a narrow spectrum between shallow and functional. Here, Molly speaks with awe and admiration about the assassin who was sent after Johnny. Like Wintermute's cyber sibling, Molly is here evoking a Romantic, or literary, necromancy.

As with the story Molly tells, her encounter with the Ashpool man serves several purposes. The first is to drag a red herring across the plot, by seeming to indicate 3Jane is dead. However, at one point in the encounter, the Ashpool man says, "I'd ordered a Jane thawed." The a is crucial: there is more than one, and Molly in Chapter 23 refers to 3Jane's "clone sister." The Ashpool man killed a cloned replica of 3Jane. The encounter's next purpose is to vividly demonstrate two things: the perversity of the Tessier-Ashpool clan and the sharp division between technological capacity and ethics. Both are summed up here: this man clones, rapes, and kills his daughters.

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