Literature: Sprawl Trilogy

The Sprawl Trilogy by William Gibson is considered to be one of the earliest examples of cyberpunk, and as such is a major Trope Maker for the genre. The first book, Neuromancer, was published in 1984 and widely acclaimed, winning the Nebula, Hugo, and Philip K. Dick awards. It was followed in 1986 by Count Zero, and the final book in the trilogy, Mona Lisa Overdrive was published in 1988. All three have fallen victim to Zeerust and Technology Marches On to some degree, but remain quite readable thanks to more than a few of Gibson's ideas becoming reality, or at least a styled version of it.

Each book stands alone, more or less, though there is a distinct overlap in characters and all three share the same setting- the Sprawl. Which is nickname for the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis, a massive city state on the East Coast of the United States. As is to be expected in 80s cyberpunk, the Sprawl (and, for that matter, Gibson's entire world) is decidedly dystopian in feel. They're set in a world of Black and Gray Morality, after the The Great Politics Mess-Up, but were published in a time when that was considered quite revolutionary.

Set in the same world are the short stories "Burning Chrome", which introduced the recurring character "the Finn"; "Johnny Mnemonic", the inspiration for the movie of the same name; and "New Rose Hotel", which was also adapted into a film.

The trilogy provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girlfriend: Molly Millions
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot - Wintermute. Then also, Neuromancer.
  • The Alternet: The Matrix is probably one of the first, and the Trope Namer for Cyberspace.
  • Bad Ass - Gibson's world is full of these. Molly Millions/Sally Shears, the most famous example, is just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Brain Uploading: A key part of the plot since "The Winter Market".
  • Cassette Futurism: The series features things as complex as human memories recorded on tape. Not to mention that three megabytes of hot RAM is apparently valuable enough to kill for.
  • Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain - The infamous opening line to Neuromancer.
    "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."
  • Depraved Bisexual - Lady 3Jane
  • Disney Villain Death: In "Johnny Mnemonic", this is the fate of the Yakuza assassin.
  • Explosive Leash
  • Expy - Bobby Newmark, in Count Zero, is the new snarky-underacomplished-hacker to replace Case; Tick is the new eccentric hustler to replace the Finn, in Mona Lisa Overdrive.
  • Friend in the Black Market: Perhaps a bit redundant to even bring this trope up, given the nature of Gibson's world. But the Finn, a significant character in the series, is the embodiment of this trope.
  • Future Slang - Gibson coined a lot of terms that would later be used by other cyberpunk works.
  • Genre Savvy: Gibson's characters basically have to be this, in order to survive in his world. Two notable examples are Mona, a prostitute who's aware of how disposable the other characters consider her, and the Finn, a "fence" dealing in stolen goods, who practices extreme discretion, and knows how to defend himself.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up - By means of economic collapse. Centered around Operation Screaming Fist, where a group of U.S. spec-ops squads tried to hack a key Soviet system with experimental software. They failed, and started a war that lasted all of nine days. The Soviet Union is still up and running while America exists in name only, and mostly as a collection of city-states (for example, the Sprawl itself is an amalgamation of all the cities from Boston to Atlanta).
  • Hollywood Hacking: ZigZagged Hacking, and more specifically cyberspace, is like a virtual reality video game. Appropriately enough, that was what virtual reality was first tested for with military applications in mind. The portrayal of the actual hacking process, however, as being mostly a matter of getting the right hardware containing the right hacking tool software in the right physical location, and then doing some prodding and defending to keep it on track, is reasonably accurate.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold - Mona, one of the protagonists of the third book.
  • Immune to Drugs - Case, after receiving his new pancreas and liver with several filters built in to prevent him from being affected by cocaine or amphetamines. Subverted when he finds a new designer drug that can bypass the filters, and again when he gets another new pancreas and liver so he can resume his old drug habit.
  • Industrial Ghetto
  • Inside a Computer System - Again, cyberspace in general, though Case manages to do this with a few particular systems.
  • Japan Takes Over the World - Or, more accurately, its culture.
  • Left Field Description - Gibson is a master of this.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter - Lady 3Jane, and arguably Angie Mitchell.
  • Mind Rape
  • Master of Illusion - Riviera
  • Neural Implanting - Trope Maker
  • Playful Hacker
  • Pretty in Mink - Averted Fur and Loathing by noting all furs were from cloning.
  • Private Military Contractor - Turner
  • The Scrounger - The Finn is a rare example of a smart, Genre Savvy one, who practices smart discretion and proves more than capable of defending himself when attacked. The Finn long surpasses the general life expectancy of this character type in most stories.
  • The Stateless: A lot of people have slipped through the cracks of society and lack a Single Identification Number (SIN), without one they can't vote, can't get a credit chip, so far as the government is concerned they don't exist.
  • Street Samurai - Molly Millions
  • The Verse - the Sprawl
  • Un Reveal - Gibson often leaves many things ambiguous, the most talked about example probably being Molly's eye color.
  • Virtual Ghost - the Dixie Flatline
  • We Will Use WikiWords in the Future
  • Whatevermancy - The title of the first book. Notable for technically being a proper usage of -mancy, in that they are using a neural connection to communicate with, obtain information from, and interact with, another plane of existance.
  • Yakuza
  • Zen Survivor