Literature Study GuidesNeuromancerPart 4 Chapter 21 Summary

Neuromancer | Study Guide

William Gibson

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Neuromancer | Part 4, Chapter 21 : The Straylight Run | Summary



Case is awoken by music but sees patterns moving in his vision. Case finally asks Linda who told her he was coming. She says it was a 13-year-old boy on the beach. Case is trying to figure out which realm he is in, and Linda Lee's ghost/construct explains that they won't be able to reach the city they occasionally see in the distance. Case tries walking toward it, but he never approaches it. Case goes looking for the boy. He appears. Case deduces it is the other AI in the system. The boy introduces himself as "Neuromancer," a magician who uses nerves to recall the dead. He tells Chase he is in "the lane to the land of the dead" and invites him to stay, saying, "If your woman is a ghost, she doesn't know it. Neither will you." Case suggests this visionary world is breaking apart. Neuromancer says it isn't, that something simpler is happening. Case walks away, following the sound of Maelcum's dub music back to the real world. Maelcum tells Case he has been dead for five minutes, and then they go in to try to save Molly.


Many parts of this novel focus on action (the sex scenes, the violence). Others focus on sensations (the descriptions of drugs, the simstim). Still others engage in speculation that is almost metaphysical, and this is the case with this chapter. When Case was trying to figure out why the city he was walking toward never got any closer, Neuromancer explained this was because it was an "event horizon." An event horizon is a term from physics referring to the boundaries of a black hole. Black holes are astronomical bodies so dense that nothing can escape them, not even light. This cannot actually be true, and there's a reason these "words meant nothing" to Case. However, as a metaphor or symbol, they are powerful and important. Rather than the mass of a physical object, this "city" is dense with data. There is so much information there that it is like a black hole. No data that enters it can ever leave. This aligns with Wintermute's explanation of what happened in Chapter 24: he entered Neuromancer and became cyberspace.

When Case meets Neuromancer, he recognizes him as distinct from Wintermute, the "other AI" who wants to stop Wintermute. Neuromancer explains himself and invites Case to stay. As he does, he promises Case could live there and not know he's a ghost. He is offering Case a mythic choice, something close to the choice in the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. In that story, Eurydice died, and her husband Orpheus was heartbroken. He went to the underworld to retrieve her from the realm of the dead and received permission to lead her out. However, he had to promise not to look back to see if she was following him. He promised, but he didn't trust her to follow. He looked back and lost her forever. In this version, Case must choose to stay with Linda and not "look back." Instead, Case follows the sound of dub music back to the land of the living, to find the many hours of perceived time took only five minutes of flatlining.

Neuromancer's self-description is very poetic, and shows how different he is from Wintermute. Wintermute claims he doesn't have his own personality. By contrast, Neuromancer is rich with personality and identity. He paints a vivid picture of himself and his realm: he is the dead, he says. He also confirms what the Turing police had said: Neuromancer is more like a demon than a human. He is disembodied, inhuman, and supremely powerful.

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