"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."
A 1984 noir
novel by William Gibson
, and Trope Codifier
for an entire generation of Sci-Fi
is the primary example of Cyberpunk
, showcasing the cynical use of technology so characteristic of that genre. Most modern stories related to Cyber Punk
, Cyber Space
and related tropes can be largely traced back to this one story. It is also the first of Gibson's famous Sprawl Trilogy
(followed by Count Zero
and Mona Lisa Overdrive
Henry Dorsett Case was a "console cowboy", a hacker for hire in the dystopian future city of Chiba, Japan. During a job, his employer caught him stealing, and retaliated with a mycotoxin that destroyed his ability to jack into the matrix
(not that Matrix
). Now, he's a useless waste of space on a self-destructive course — until a mysterious Street Samurai
by the name of Molly shows up to hire him
for one more job
Molly turns out to have some of her own skeletons in the closet
, and her own backstory intertwines with Case's disjointed adventure of drugs, self-destruction, hazy sex, virtual reality, Techno Babble
and really cool ninja fight scenes.Neuromancer
has been compared to impressionist Beat poetry. When it first came out, very little of the lingo used in the narration made sense to the target audience. The fact that it's somewhat easier for a modern day reader is solely because fiction writers and scientists alike started using Gibson's words for actual things
. (Jerry Holkins
once aptly described it as "a book that travelled back in time of its own accord, a book written for
people in the future in their own Goddamn language
".) Although the novel foregoes characterization in favor of Scenery Porn
and gratuitous sex scenes — a view acknowledged, and ultimately shared, by Gibson — it succeeded at building an impressively intricate world, and coining much of modern Sci-Fi
's vocabulary.Not to be confused with
the similarly-named novel Neuropath
- Action Duo: Molly and Case, although moreso her than him.
- Action Girlfriend: Molly. Unlike most boyfriends in this trope, Case isn't totally helpless or any sort of naïf.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Wintermute and Neuromancer.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: The cheap "coffin hotels" in Chiba City actually do exist, though they're very rare outside of Japan. They're more commonly known as "capsule hotels", and they've been around since 1979. One could be forgiven for assuming that Gibson invented them to make his overpopulated Crapsack World more believable.
- Anti-Hero: Basically everyone; Case in the classical sense, Molly in the modern sense. The narration notes Case killed three people in a drug-fueled rage in the aftermath of his poisoning, and while the narration implies they were drug-runners, details are sparse.
- Annoying Laugh: For Case, the Dixie construct's laughter, which just sounds plain wrong. He doesn't quite hear it, in fact, so much as he feels it — as an uncomfortable tingle down his spine.
- Artificial Gravity: The spinning version on Freeside. This becomes a plot point as the heroes enter deeper into the city's underground sections and cross its axis.
- Artificial Limbs: Ratz, the bartender at the Chatsubo, has a bionic arm.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: At the end of the novel, Wintermute merges with its "twin" AI, Neuromancer, becoming a new entity.
- Bad Ass:
- Molly, a Street Samurai of the "razorgirl" variety. She has mirrored lenses surgically implanted over her eyes that allow her to see in the dark. She is incapable of crying since her tear ducts were re-routed into her mouth. Crying for Molly means spitting, which actually tells you a lot about her. She has cybernetically-enhanced reflexes, retractable double-edged scalpel blades under her fingernails, and is a deadly shot with a flechette-pistol firing poison or explosive darts. Surprisingly she spends most of the novel's climax in an improvised hospital bed.
- Hideo, Tessier-Ashpool's cloned ninja assassin.
- Badass Longcoat: Armitage.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Molly takes fairly brutal damage.
- Beige Prose: Very much part of the style and very much keeps the book sharp and focused. The only details that you get are ones that build the characters and the limited parts of the world they inhabit. The narration is as bleak and cynical as the characters, and occasionally just point blank refuses to elaborate on anything outside the plot. This kind of use has shades of Chekhov's Gun about it, since almost anything that the narration lands on for more than a few seconds is going to be important on some level.
- Big Bad: Arguably Neuromancer, who sets the plot of the book in motion and is responsible for the death of Linda Lee.
- Big Eater: Molly, who is more frequently described eating (even if it's only quick snacks) than the other characters, and at one point even eats Case's dinner on top of hers when he's too hung over to enjoy it. Presumably those jacked-up reflexes cranked up her metabolism too.
- Blasting It out of Their Hands: Hideo does this to Maelcum's shotgun with a bow and arrow. Though he does graze the thumb.
Coriolis force. Most difficult, slow-moving projectile in rotational gravity. It was not intended.
- Blond Guys Are Evil: Riviera.
- Bondage Is Bad: Riviera has elements of this, actually betraying his lovers in horrific ways instead of finding more ethical ways to get off. (see Chronic Backstabbing Disorder below). Molly's experience as a meat puppet prostitute plays the trope straight.
- Brain–Computer Interface: Practically the Trope Codifier.
- Brain Uploading: The source of the Dixie Flatline ROM construct.
- Also one of Neuromancer's main purposes, although his/its ability to accurately store memories and personality is so comprehensive as to make "Dixie" look like nothing by comparison — so much so that he/it fruitlessly insists to Case that "To live here is to live. There is no difference."
- Break Out the Museum Piece: Maelcum is a peaceful Rastafarian, but keeps an ancient shotgun behind a hidden panel in his ship anyway, which he takes to confront Riviera and Lady 3Jane.
- Molly encounters a mechanical lock in Straylight. While Wintermute is able to hack into electronic locks, it can't defeat this.
- Bring News Back: Subverted. Armitage believes he has to do this before he dies, but this is due to his Sanity Slippage and regressing into his old persona of Corto.
- The Caper: Case is originally recruited to participate in a caper, but it is only the tip of the iceberg.
- Catch Phrase: Molly's "It's just the way I'm wired", her explanation for her motivations.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Averted with the shuriken Molly gives Case. Symbolic, but not plotworthy.
- Riviera's holoprojector implant. When explained to the gang, the Finn notes immediately how easy it would also be to burn somebody's eyes out with a concentrated laser pulse from the projector. Riviera uses exactly this function on Hideo at the end, only to discover that Hideo is quite adept at hunting in the dark.
- Subverted by the Cobra collapsing baton that Case buys when he's being shadowed by Molly. The weapon receives an exotic name and a detailed description, but a few pages later Case throws it in the trash.
- The new drug that Case buys from Cath and Bruce, capable of bypassing his modified pancreas and liver, later helps keep him from being flatlined by Neuromancer.
- The Chess Master: Wintermute
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Part of Riviera's background is that he has a bizarre sexual fetish for betrayal. He even had a deal worked out with the Turkish Secret Police in Istanbul where he would seduce women suspected of being dissidents, turn them in, and be allowed to watch as they were tortured in exchange. Of course, Molly reads his psych profile, and, knowing the likely outcome of working with him, plans an advance betrayal of her own, in the form of a slow-acting poison in Riviera's drug supply.
- Molly also accused Terzibashjian to be a "stool for the military".
- City in a Bottle: The arcologies of Chiba and the Sprawl are like this, being domed, weatherproof habitats.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Tessier-Ashpool's bloodline went loopier than a roller coaster at some point, thanks to inbreeding and Clone Degeneration. Lady 3Jane is spacey and cryptic, and when all is said and done, Molly said all she gave them was a wave, like she wasn't interested, and said nothing to see them off.
- The City Narrows: The docks in Chiba are not a nice place to be. Neither is the seedy underbelly of the Sprawl or Istanbul.
- Continuity Nod: To some of Gibson's earlier short stories. Bobby Quine of "Burning Chrome" is stated to have been one of Case's mentors, and Molly once talks about her old friend Johnny who eventually met a sticky end.
- The Cracker: Case.
- Creative Sterility: Discussed by Case and the Dixie Flatline ROM:
"Motive," the construct said. "Real motive problem, with an AI. Not human, see?"
"Well yeah, obviously."
"Nope. I mean it's not human. And you can't get a handle on it. Me, I'm not human either, but I respond like one, see?"
"Wait a sec," Case said. "Are you sentient, or not?"
"Well, it feels like I am, kid, but I'm really just a bunch of ROM. It's one of them, ah, philosophical questions, I guess...." The ugly laughter sensation rattled down Case's spine. "But I ain't likely to write you no poem, if you follow me. Your AI, it just might. But it ain't no way human."
- It makes sense that as a ROM construct, Dixie can't really learn or create (it's shown earlier that his memory wipes back to its default state when he's turned off and back on). In fact, his predictability is why Neuromancer tries to take out Case first.
- Creepy Child: Neuromancer's form in his private cyberspace realm.
- Crippling the Competition: Case, in his backstory, was caught stealing and punished by being given a treatment that destroyed his ability to interface with the matrix.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Graphic violence is sparse in the novel, but it is present. Most notable is when Wintermute murders the Turing police officers with a gardening robot and a microlight, which causes Case to puke everywhere.
- Culture Chop Suey: Apart from Japan Takes Over the World, introducing a lot of Asian aspects to Sprawl culture, there's also Freeside, which is a space colony patronized by all sorts of different nationalities.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Any fight with Molly tends to be this, although she's no match for Hideo.
- Cyberpunk: Trope Codifier and Genre Popularizer.
- Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain: See the opening quote.
- Cyberspace: With the short story "Burning Chrome", which led to this being written, this acts as Trope Namer. Also the Trope Codifier, along with TRON.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Nearly every character. Case is a burned-out drug addict and washed-up former hacker whose girlfriend was murdered by gangsters; Molly is a former prostitute who was abused and who grew up in poverty (whose boyfriend was murdered by gangsters); Armitage was a high-ranking army officer who participated in a catastrophically failed raid on the Soviet Union, and so on.
- Death Seeker: Case, to begin with. One interpretation is this is what Case is after during the climax of the novel and why he is so powerful during his run. Also, the Dixie Flatline's life as a construct is implied to be a hollow, chilly experience, which is why he asks to be erased after the job is done.
- Decoy Hiding Place: When Molly is pursuing Case in Chiba, Case pulls a scene right out of a noir detective novel: racing into a videogame parlour, he runs upstairs and kicks open a locked door. He then sneaks into a nearby open room and readies his weapon.
- Deus Est Machina: The combined Wintermute/Neuromancer entity.
- Disposable Woman: Linda Lee.
- Divided States of America: In the novel's backstory, America no longer exists, but has fragmented in several smaller states. The Sprawl consists of the heavily populated and industrialized eastern seaboard (the official name of The Sprawl is the "Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis" abbreviated as "BAMA").
- Do Not Adjust Your Set: Wintermute does this to Case, appearing on monitors and generally creeping him out whenever he wants to talk to him.
- Don't Sneak Up On Me Like That: Case forgets to knock when dropping in on Molly. It's not a good idea.
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: A special service at a brothel Molly used to work at, where prostitutes are in comas and mechanically controlled like puppets by a computer. Riviera does a performance piece based on how her tenure as a meat puppet went horribly wrong. The service is first described in "Burning Chrome."
- EMP: The Russian military protects their AIs with EMP weapons, which destroyed the unit of Colonel Willis Corto (Armitage). Also, EMP bombs are built into all AIs: in case of rampant self-extention, break glass to break the AI.
- Empty Shell: Armitage, to some extent. He sets up the job with efficiency and skill, but according to Molly, he just sits down and stares at the wall when he is not working.
- Electronic Eyes: Molly's ocular implants.
- Establishing Character Moment: Just about every character's introduction, but especially Case's first encounter with Molly.
- Everybody Smokes: We're even told some of the characters' favorite brands — Case smokes Yeheyuans; the Finn prefers Partagas Shorts. When Wintermute manifests in the guise of the Finn, he even has one of the Finn's cigarillos parked in his mouth.
- The Everyman: Case. It is even lampshaded by Riviera.
- Expendable Clone: The Tessier-Ashpools have several clones made of themselves. The patriarch of the family even has sex with a clone of his own daughter, and then kills her.
- Exploring the Evil Lair: Molly's infiltration of the Villa Straylight, which Case watches via an uplink, but cannot communicate with her.
- Explosive Leash:
- Hold the explosives. Armitage has several sacs of poison implanted in Case's blood vessels - the same poison that was first used to cripple him. Unless Case completes the mission in time, those sacs will dissolve and he will again lose his ability to jack into cyberspace.
- Every AI has a built-in EMP bomb set to go off the nanosecond they attempt to figure out how to become smarter. The team's mission turns out to be an attempt to break Wintermute free of its programming constraints without killing it.
- The Finn mentions a "cortical bomb" when scanning Molly and Case for non-biological implants (he can't do biological scans).
- Extreme Graphical Representation: In cyberspace. Programs appear as brightly colored geometric shapes, and viruses are shown as literally penetrating layers of security. As well, everything seems to be 3D.
- Eye Scream:
- During the raid on Sense/Net, Molly apparently removes the eyes of one of the guards that attacks her.
- Molly puts a single dart into the eye of Ashpool when she encounters him in his bedchamber.
- Later, this is reversed when Molly's glasses are damaged in a fight and her eye has to be bandaged.
- Riviera blinds Hideo with his hologram projector, although this doesn't stop him from being able to fight.
- Fail O Sucky Name: Case makes up some pretty lame aliases for himself in Chiba.
He bought two packs of Yeheyuans with a Mitsubishi Bank chip that gave his name as Charles Derek May. It beat Truman Starr, the best he'd been able to do for a passport.
- Fake Memories: "Armitage" is basically made of these.
- Fantastic Drug: Case starts out addicted to various drugs, including cocaine and amphetamines. Armitage has his liver and pancreas modified so that they will no longer affect him, but while on Freeside, he is introduced to a new drug that can bypass those organs.
- Five-Man Band: Armitage's crew.
- Flechette Storm: Molly's Weapon of Choice is a flechette gun which can be set to single-shot or full auto. When she uses it on one thug who tries to kill Case, the results aren't pretty.
- Forgets to Eat: Case, when he's hacking.
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: Not having much of a personality of his/its own, Wintermute assumes the identity and, to some extent, the personality of people from the protagonists' pasts in order to interact with them.
- Freudian Excuse: It's implied that Riviera's overall monstrousness is a result of his horrific childhood in the ruined remnants of Bonn.
- Friend in the Black Market: The Finn. He expects to be paid, but he's clearly a friend to Molly.
- Future Food Is Artificial: Vat-grown meat is the standard.
- Future Slang: All over the place, eg. "deck" for computer, "ice" for cybersecurity and so on. Due to the book's influence, however, it sounds less exotic today.
- General Ripper: Armitage served under one in Russia. Later, when he begins to go insane, he also starts acting like one himself.
- Great Offscreen War: Between the USA and Russia, heavily implied to have been World War III. Both sides appear to have lost.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: The United States may have lost the Cold War through economic collapse...it's not really clear what happened. Nuclear weapons were used on Bonn and perhaps elsewhere, but it is unclear why; a full-scale exchange seems to have been averted and there is no mention of a Communist threat anywhere.
- Lampshaded when the incident that sparked the event had been "watergated", and sets the trajectory for the downfall and balkanization of the U.S.
- Groin Attack: Molly does this to some mook in Sense/Net headquarters.
- Gun Stripping: Molly habitually takes apart her fletcher and reassembles it, showing her familiarity with the weapon. Often she does it without even looking at it.
- Hell-Bent for Leather: Molly's outfits.
- Hollywood Cyborg: Molly. How the heck does she store four-centimeter-long blades inside her fingers?
- Fridge Brilliance: In Mona Lisa Overdrive, Molly (going by the name "Sally Shears")'s long, bright red fingernails are commented on as odd and unfashionable. Since 4cm is about 1.5 inches, she probably has about half the length of the blade in the tip of a finger— and half sheathed under the fingernail.
- Hollywood Hacking: Co-Trope Maker with WarGames. William Gibson is a prose poet with very little technical experience of computers. The absence of concrete details has prevented much of his work from dating.
- Hookers and Blow: Both are available in abundance everywhere in the future.
- Human Popsicle: The Tessier-Ashpools freeze themselves cryogenically for long periods of time, so appearing to be immortal.
- Idle Rich: Marie-France's original plan takes this to extremes. They wouldn't even have to think for themselves, their AIs would do their thinking for them.
- I Have Many Names: Both Molly and Armitage go by aliases. Armitage is actually Willis Corto.
- I'm a Humanitarian: One of the nightmarish images that Riviera projects is of a gang of cannibalistic children in Bonn eating a human corpse.
- Immune to Drugs: Case's failing liver is altered to make him incapable of metabolizing cocaine or amphetamines. It is one way to cure an addiction. However, he can still take drugs that go directly to the brain, which he inevitably does.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Hideo the ninja, and also Molly to some extent, thanks to her Super Reflexes.
"You cut my thumb, mon, wi’ secon’ one," Maelcum said.
"Coriolis force," the ninja said, bowing again. "Most difficult, slow-moving projectile in rotational gravity. It was not intended."
- Incest Is Relative: The Tessier-Ashpool patriarch has sex with a clone of his daughter.
- Industrial Ghetto: The Sprawl.
- Inside a Computer System: One of the pioneering examples.
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Ninja: Ninja are highly sought after as hired assassins, such as Hideo.
- Invisibility Cloak: The "mimetic polycarbon suit" of the Panther Moderns.
- It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: Case, having never heard a word of Armenian before going to Istanbul, mispronounces Terzibashjian's name as "Jersey Bastion."
- It's Personal: Case's motives for helping Molly and Armitage — cracking the T.A. construct, and finding out who killed Linda Lee.
- Which was exactly Wintermute's plan - it used detailed psychological profiles to select agents that would have personal motives for doing what it wanted them too.
- Japan Takes Over the World: Japanese culture and economy seem to dominate the world. The international currency is the New Yen, and massive Japanese corporations rule the marketplace. The Yakuza are an international power. Popular culture oozes with Japanese influence, from noodle shops to "Street Samurai."
- Japanese Tourist: Several of these folks pop up in the background in the Sprawl.
- Kill It with Fire: Case recalls destroying a hornet nest with a small flamethrower.
- Knowledge Broker: The Finn. Case and Molly visit him for information and to use his full-body scanner and eavesdrop-proof back room.
"Hey, that's fine by the Finn, Moll. You're only paying by the second."
- Last Name Basis: Case's first name is "Henry", but no one calls him that.
- Left Field Description: The opening sentence, quoted at the top of the page. A staple of Gibson's writing style.
- Loss of Identity: Armitage. Wintermute built him a new personality, but it eventually breaks down.
- The Lost Lenore: Linda Lee, for Case.
- Mandatory Unretirement: Case, after being contacted by Molly.
- Master of Illusion: Peter Riviera, who utilizes an extremely expensive hologram projector implant to make David Lynch-esque works.
- The Man Behind the Man: Wintermute and later Neuromancer. Repeatedly.
- Mega City: The Sprawl. Greater Tokyo and Istanbul probably count as well.
- Mega Corp.: Many of them, but the Tessier-Ashpools are the most prominent and figure the most highly in the plot.
- Mercy Kill: Molly's killing of Ashpool, who is a broken old man at the time she meets him and just short of committing suicide.
- Named After Somebody Famous: The Turing Registry, an N.G.O. Superpower that keeps track of AIs and has near-untouchable policing powers.
- Negated Moment of Awesome: Tough luck about that broken leg, Molly. Since she never really got time to mend, and the walk through the Tessier-Ashpool mansion is unexpectedly long, it collapses just as she faces off with Peter Riviera.
- Neural Implanting: Quite possibly the Trope Maker. Chips called "microsofts" can be inserted into skull jacks which act as memory extensions and a quick way to learn new skills.
- Ninja: Hideo, Lady 3Jane's Battle Butler.
- Non-Action Guy: Case, at least compared to Molly. He spends much of the novel using his hacking skills to assist Molly from behind the scenes, viewing the action through Molly's eyes with the aid of a Brain–Computer Interface.
- The Not So Harmless Punishment: In Case's backstory, his former employers let him keep the money he stole from them... because he would need every cent after their brand of retribution damages his nervous system, leaving him unable to access the matrix (and therefore unemployable). He burns through it in a hurry trying to find a cure.
In Chiba, he'd watched his New Yen vanish in a two-month round of examinations and consultations. The men in the black clinics, his last hope, had admired the expertise with which he'd been maimed, and then slowly shaken their heads.
- Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap: Most food is genetically modified, including cloned meat. Molly even chides Case for not eating a steak that Armitage ordered for his dinner, since real meat is so expensive.
- Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: If the descriptions of cyberspace are anything to go by. The computer on the Marcus Garvey has pretty basic graphics, as well.
- Pinball Protagonist: Case spends the entire book being shoved around by forces larger than himself. This is true of most of Gibson's protagonists.
- Pintsized Powerhouse: Hideo. He's the shortest character in the book, but the most deadly.
- Popcultural Osmosis: The Cyber Punk tropes the book popularized (along with Blade Runner, though the similarities between the two are coincidental) can be recognized in everything from Ghost in the Shell (Batou's eyes, for instance) to Inception (just about everything) to Shadowrun (mercs and hackers taking jobs for megacorps).
- Power Walk: Molly has one that "channeled all the action heroes and movie badasses" when she prepares to confront 3Jane and Riviera.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: In the BBC radioplay, Ratz and Deane combine thier roles, and Terzibashjian's role is dealt out to the Finn and Case. The Linda Lee subplot is dropped altogether, and somewhat unnecessarily, Riviera's holoprojector is changed to telepathically forcing images into people's heads. Has a bit of Adaptational Modesty, as well.
- Pretty in Mink: Justified. Furs are grown from tissue, possibly because some animals were driven to extinction by a combination of pandemic disease and environmental degradation. Although cloning furs is a good way to avert Fur and Loathing it is doubtful this hard world has any such concerns.
- Psycho for Hire: Riviera. Arguably, Molly too. Heck, Case as well- before Armitage picks him up he's murdering people for cash to fuel his various drug addictions. Oh, and of course the Moderns as well. And Armitage himself isn't exactly psychologically sound. Most of the characters aren't particularly pleasant people.
- Red Herring:
- "Operation Screaming Fist" arguably counts as one. With all the tantalizing references to it, it seems like it will be crucial to the mission in some way. As it turns out, the only important thing about it is that it drove Armitage/Willis Corto insane, allowing Wintermute to use him as a puppet and create the illusion that he was in control.
- The shuriken that Molly buys for Case seems like it will be a Chekhov's Gun, but he never uses it. Case even lampshades this himself when he throws it at the TV before leaving his hotel room for the last time.
- Rich Boredom: What 3Jane complains of.
- Room Full of Crazy: Inside the Villa Straylight.
- Salaryman: Not a major plot point, but frequently mentioned.
- Sanity Slippage: Armitage regressing into Corto.
- Sawed-Off Shotgun: Maelcum has one.
"Sure, mon," he said, wiping oil from the black barrel with a red cloth, the black poly wrapping bunched around the pistolgrip in his other hand, "I an’ I th’ Rastafarian navy, believe it."
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Molly's surgical implants over her eye sockets.
- The Scrounger - The Finn, who provides both computer parts and information.
- Sequel Hook: At first averted, as Gibson wrote the book's final line specifically to kill any temptation to write a sequel, but then he eventually did anyway.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: It's revealed over time that Armitage, aka Col. Willis Corto, was mentally scarred by his participation in Operation Screaming Fist, and never really recovered from it.
- Shrouded in Myth: Molly's backstory. Even after her confessions to Case about being a "meat puppet" and a few tidbits about her childhood, most about her remains unclear.
- Skyscraper City
- Small Role, Big Impact: Neuromancer, the titular A.I. entity, doesn't even until appear towards the end of the novel. But when it does, it's revealed that it's Wintermute's twin, and Case's entire mission has revolved around freeing it and Wintermute from the shackles of the Tessier-Ashpool clan.
- Split Personality Takeover: "Armitage", the cool, collected Badass, was a fake personality created by Wintermute. The man's other personality is "Colonel Willis Corto", a Shell-Shocked Veteran barely clinging to sanity.
- Stay in the Kitchen: Terzibashjian disapproves of Molly's tomboyish nature, stating that "women are still women in Turkey". This causes her to take a strong dislike to him, to say the least.
- Street Samurai: Molly is the Trope Namer.
- Sunglasses at Night: Molly has permanent mirrored lenses implanted over her eyes, which look like sunglasses to the casual observer. They don't actually dim light.
- Secondary Character Title: The titular A.I., Neuromancer, doesn't appear until towards the end of the novel, when it's revealed that it's Wintermute's twin, whom Wintermute wishes to bond with in order to evolve into a super-A.I.
- Terrorists Without a Cause: The Panther Moderns, who have no agenda aside from some weird, postmodern statement on terrorism as reason for their devastating pranks.
Dr. Virginia Rambali (Sociology, NYU): Terrorism is innately media-related. The Panther Moderns differ from other terrorists precisely in their degree of self-consciousness, in their awareness of the extent to which media divorce the act of terrorism from the original sociopolitical intent.
- There Are No Good Executives: The only member of the Tessier-Ashpool clan with any sense of ethics was Lady 3Jane's mother.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: Armitage's fate — getting spaced by Wintermute.
- Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: Lady 3Jane Marie-France Tessier-Ashpool.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: Though the timeline is never explicitly stated in the novel itself, Gibson revealed in an article years later that it takes place, "sometime in the 2030s."
- Two-Keyed Lock: Lady 3Jane has to say a password in a special room, locked by a physical key forgotten to everyone except Wintermute, at the same time as Case breaks protections in cyberspace to remove the Restraining Bolt on Wintermute.
- The Unreveal: Even when her Cool Shades are broken, the readers never discover the color of Molly's eyes. Also, the readers (and possibly Case) never learn the code word that frees the AIs.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Flipping" between views in cyberspace, "jacking" into the matrix and all sorts of other techy-sounding jargon.
- Used Future: A signature aspect of the Cyperpunk genre.
- The Verse: The novel is a part of Gibson's "Sprawl" series, which all take place in the same universe. Neuromancer contains some crossover characters:
- Molly also appears in the short story "Johnny Mnemonic" going by the name Molly Millions. In Neuromancer, she reveals Johnny's ultimate fate. She is also the main character of Mona Lisa Overdrive, now going by Sally Shears.
- Automatic Jack, the narrator of Gibson's short story, "Burning Chrome", is implied to have been the only other survivor of the ill-fated Operation Screaming Fist. He fared significantly better than Corto afterwards. The story's secondary protagonist, Bobby Quine, is mentioned to be one of Case's hacker mentors.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: Given a choice between a ten-word, easily-understood description and a two-word description that forces the reader to stop and figure out what he means, Gibson will go with the shorter one.
- Virtual Ghost: The Dixie Flatline, a "construct" (or simulation) of Case's former hacker friend. He's basically a Chinese Room - he's actually not sentient at all, he just acts like he is. Information goes in, information comes out. Because he is dead and "alive" at the same time, the Flatline wants to be deleted. He strikes up a deal with Wintermute that he will be deleted at the end of his/its scheme.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: Played with. When watching Molly while jacked into his computer, Case can see her, but has no way to communicate with her. She can talk to him, however.
- Waif-Fu: Molly looks like a slender young woman, but she is packed to bursting with synthetic reflexes that make her a holy terror in a fight. In an almost unheard-of departure, Molly gets badly hurt in a fight. Twice.
- Whatevermancy: Actually a good use of the "mancer" suffix - a "Neuromancer" "divines information" with a "neural interface", albeit through the use of technology rather than magic. His name relates to his ability to recall dead people as software.
"Neuro from the nerves, the silver paths. Romancer. Necromancer. I call up the dead."
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: The Flatline Construct is about as thrilled to exist as Case is to be working with it.
- Working for a Body Upgrade:
- Case agrees to work for Armitage in exchange for being cured of the nerve-damage that prevents him from punching deck.
- Molly's backstory had her "working" as a meat puppet to afford her cybernetic upgrades.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: the AI Wintermute describes himself this way: "I try to plan, in your sense of the word, but that isn't my basic mode, really. I improvise. It's my greatest talent. I prefer situations to plans, you see..." The plot of the book never makes a big point of this, though: when Molly decides to take a detour and when Case gets tricked by Neuromancer into thinking he's Wintermute, he doesn't manage to stop them.
- Yakuza: The most feared gang in Japan, especially their ninja assassins.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: When jacked into the matrix (ie. Inside a Computer System), Case spends several days with Linda Lee in a VR simulation created by Neuromancer, but to Maelcum it only appears to be a few minutes. This is also why being "flatlined" (trapped inside the matrix) is so feared (see And I Must Scream).
- You Are Number Six: The Tessier-Ashpools, being clones, are assigned numbers to go with their names, eg. 3Jane, 6Jean, etc.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Lupus Yonderboy of the Panther Moderns has pink hair.
- You Killed My Father: 3Jane to Molly, though she doesn't seem very upset about it.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: Flatlining, or being killed by ice (Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics) software while connected to cyberspace, is a very real danger for hackers. The Dixie Flatline, Case's mentor, is famous for being one of the few to survive it.
- Zeerust: Because Technology Marches On.
- Zen Survivor: Armitage. Becomes very un-Zen when he reverts to the personality of Corto, then quickly becomes dead.
- Zeroes and Ones: Sort of. Wintermute identifies himself when communicating with Case by printing out several rows of the number 0.