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Neuromancer | Quotes

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1.

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

The novel's first line is well known—science fiction magazine io9 uses it as an example of great opening lines in science fiction. It works by evoking a technological environment cut off from nature. People don't compare things to trees or rivers in this book. Instead, they compare them to technologies such as television. One critic described this opening line as capturing "a whole genre's characteristic," given the way it (and cyberpunk) disturbs readers by subverting expectations.

2.

Case fell into the prison of his own flesh.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

This line sums up a key aspect of the novel as well as cyberspace in particular. In this world, being online and jacked into the matrix represents freedom. Living in one's own biological body is like going to prison. While this is especially true for cyber cowboys and their relationship to cyberspace, it is also accurate for other characters in different ways. The technology of simstim lets people in the novel escape the limits of their own flesh and perceive things through others' senses. Molly's mirrored eyes let her see more than her natural eyes could, and Riviera projects his fantasies as reality. In this world, no one stays in their own natural flesh if they can help it.

3.

Anybody any good at what they do, that's what they are, right?


Molly, Part 2, Chapter 3

Molly says this to Case when he asks her why she is involved in their current situation. Specifically, he asks what Armitage is using to blackmail her into working for him. This is her answer. In a novel deeply concerned with identity, this is one of the book's clearest statements about identify and motivation. People do things because they are good at them, and they are what they are good at. This makes Case a data jockey and Molly a fighter, beyond anything else. And it raises intricate ethical questions about relationships between people who are reduced to their commercial, capitalistic function.

4.

Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation.


Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 3

Armitage gets Case to work for him by repairing the nerve damage that is preventing him from jacking into cyberspace. After the operation, Case must wait eight days before jacking in. Just before he tries it for the first time in over a year, he watches a children's show about cyberspace. Science fiction often uses fictional references to give background on its futuristic locations. The statement forces the reader to question the nature of the novel's reality. Case feels most intensely alive only when he is jacked in, and several characters exist only in cyberspace; if it is a "hallucination," what sort of legitimacy do these characters have? The question is complicated by the quote's situational irony, given that Case and his fellow characters act as illegitimate operators.

5.

You can't let the little pricks generation-gap you.


Molly, Part 2, Chapter 4

In Chapter 4 Case and Molly team up with the Panther Modern gang. Gibson describes them as "practical jokers" and "nihilistic technofetishists." This shows up in many ways, including the methods the Moderns use to modify themselves. Molly says this when Case is actively disturbed by meeting Angelo, who has animal teeth and a face built on shark cartilage. Because Case is only 24, for him to be disturbed by how fast technology and trends move says a lot about the pace at which this world moves. It also furthers the idea that appearances can be deceiving.

6.

Probably got him on ice. Thaw when needed.


The Finn, Part 2, Chapter 5

After the Finn tells a story about the Tessier-Ashpool organization sending a genetically engineered assassin to retrieve stolen goods (and kill the thief), Molly asks him what he thinks happened to the assassin. This is his answer, but in this case, it may not be metaphorical: Tessier-Ashpool may not just keep him in reserve. Because they use cryogenic sleep for other purposes, they may literally freeze their assassin and revive him when needed. This shows their power, their control over lives, and the denatured, fragmented reality of the novel.

7.

Very flash. What he imagines, you see.


The Finn, Part 2, Chapter 7

In this brief line, the Finn sums up Riviera's augmentation. He can project holograms based on his imagination, which become vivid—even convincing—images other people see. At the time, he is only talking about Riviera. However, as the novel develops, it becomes clear Wintermute also possesses this power, and to a far greater degree. He edits Case's memories, changes what he sees through simstim, and when Case is flatlining, controls the visions Case sees, conjuring up entire visible worlds.

8.

The ... smart ones are as smart as the Turing heat is willing to let 'em get.


Case, Part 2, Chapter 7

Both cybernetics and science fiction have long speculated about the possibility of building a computer that is as smart as a person. One such real-world assessment was developed by Alan Turing and is based on an AI's ability to maintain a conversation with a person. Case and Molly talk about the test in slang and in passing, and Gibson assumes his audience understands the allusion. The quote furthers the ethical complexity of the relationships between people, technology, and capital.

9.

Operators above a certain level tended to submerge their personalities, he knew.


Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 7

Case thinks this when he is still trying to figure Armitage out. He judges the man by the standards he developed on the streets of Chiba City and finds him alien. He's right; Armitage is something completely different, a constructed personality (built by a computer). But the line itself is also striking. It proposes a relationship between a person's power or position and their personality. It suggests that as a person rises in status, their personality changes.

10.

For ... years men dreamed of pacts with demons. Only now are such things possible.


Michèle, Part 4, Chapter 13

Michèle is one of the Turing cops who arrest Case for helping Wintermute. She and her two colleagues worry that Case will help Wintermute escape the limits humanity place on him and all AIs. This line would be very odd coming from most police officers. However, in this case, it may be fitting; Wintermute seems omnipresent and changeable, like many stories of demons. His capacity is greater than that of humans—he kills Michèle and her peers a few pages later.

11.

You dead awhile there, mon.


Maelcum, Part 4, Chapter 15

Maelcum's statement emphasizes a key aspect of the novel that is both literal and symbolic: characters must pass through death to emerge as new beings. Death has multiple meanings here. First, Maelcum's casual delivery emphasizes the nature of Gibson's world: death is something people take for granted, part of the cost of doing business. Second, Dixie Flatline earned his name through flatlining while on a job, so in choosing to flatline repeatedly, Case is becoming like his mentor. Third, because this is when Wintermute communicates with Case, death is the price of new insight.

12.

Power, in Case's world, meant corporate power.


Narrator, Part 4, Chapter 17

Case thinks this in passing as he tries to make sense of the Tessier-Ashpool clan. He is making a distinction between the reality he has known—of relatively impersonal power structures—and the intensely personal, at times even incestuous, power structure of the Tessier-Ashpool clan. This line also helps define the world of the novel: power lies with corporations, not governments. This is part of Gibson's critique of Reaganomics specifically and capitalism more broadly.

13.

She dreamed of a state involving very little in the way of individual consciousness.


3Jane, Part 4, Chapter 18

3Jane says this to Molly as a way to explain her clan's background, once she takes Molly prisoner. She is speaking of an older clan member's vision of how the Tessier-Ashpool clan should operate. The clan is consciously working to reshape human consciousness and identity, but the result is not healthy, at least for humans. Because Case refers to Wintermute as a "hive mind" in the novel's final chapter, readers can draw a direct connection between Tessier-Ashpool's goals and what Wintermute becomes.

14.

Wintermute was hive mind ... effecting change in the world ... Neuromancer was personality. Neuromancer was immortality.


Narrator, Coda, Chapter 24

These are part of Case's musings in the novel's final chapter about the fusion of the two parts of the AI. These musings parallel the final chapter in classic detective novels when the detective explains to his eager audience how he solved the crime. However, Case's summary, while essential for the book, is incomplete and ambiguous. He is still speculating, so readers can take this classification of the two AIs with a grain of salt—especially because Dixie, his mentor, warned him that AIs don't think the same way as humans and are therefore difficult to understand. It is also very cryptic, as hive minds are closer to immortal in this novel and personalities only persist if stored, such as Dixie, or remembered by others.

15.

Things aren't different. Things are things.


Wintermute, Coda, Chapter 24

In Zen Buddhism, there is a saying: "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water." This refers to the idea that enlightenment doesn't change what a person does but simply changes the meaning behind it. Wintermute experiences this. The time before he fused with the other AI is like a state of pre-enlightenment. Now everything is different, yet everything is still the same, although with a different meaning.

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