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Literature / Neuromancer

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

Neuromancer is a 1984 Science Fiction novel by William Gibson, and the Trope Codifier for an entire generation of Cyberpunk stories. Considered one of the earliest works in the genre (if not the earliest), the novel showcases its characteristic contrast between "low-life and high tech" in ways that most modern works related to the genre, Cyber Space and related tropes can be largely traced back to. It is also the first of Gibson's 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. 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.

Neuromancer has been compared to impressionist Beat poetry (also note that Gibson is a big fan of William S. Burroughs). 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.

Tropes Used:

  • 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. In fact, it's because AI is a crapshoot that the Turing Registry and its enforcers exist.
  • Alliterative Name: Molly Millions.
  • 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 Afterlife: The technology exists to store Virtual Ghosts on ROM drives, but they can't remember anything new since it's Read-Only. However, the Neuromancer AI was designed to create fully sentient simulations of dead humans and run elaborate virtual realities for them.
  • 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.
  • Atrocious Alias: Case winds up with 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.
  • Badass Longcoat: Armitage.
  • Battle Butler: Hideo, the Lady 3Jane's personal ninja, seems to be this. He's both manservant and assassin, dependent on circumstances.
  • Because I'm Good At It: As Molly says, she and Case pretty much are their jobs — they do it because it's what they know best. "You gotta jack, I gotta tussle."
    • Case's actions at the end of the book suggest that he keeps this attitude. He gets a gigantic Swiss bank account from the AI's, blows most of it on replacing his kinked-up liver and pancreas (just on general principle; the book never suggests he starts using drugs again), and spends the rest on a new top-of-the-line deck and a ticket home to the Sprawl, where he goes right back to being a console cowboy on his home turf.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Hideo and his kind are exquisitely polite, almost genteel... and everyone with the eyes for it can feel the death emanating off them. Basically, if one of them is dispatched for you, it's over. And they'll probably apologize for all the fuss.
  • Big Bad: Arguably Neuromancer, who sets the plot of the book in motion, along with his "twin" Wintermute.
  • 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.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Case's journey starts off at a bar called Chatsubo, which is Japanese for a specific type of jar or urn used to store matcha tea leaves. He soon finds himself in another bar named Jarre de Thé, which in turn is French for 'jar of tea' note . So in a way he travels from one "jar of tea" to another.
  • 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.
  • Body Horror: Weaponized by the Panther Moderns, who make the Sense/Net personnel believe that a contaminant that distorts the human skeletal system has infiltrated the building's water supply.
  • Bondage Is Bad: Molly's traumatic experience as a meat puppet prostitute involves bondage.
  • 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."
    • Linda Lee also unknowingly does this shortly before her death, when she slots the RAM module she stole from Case.
  • 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. Hideo's bow is also made out of simple bamboo, although his arrows seem to be modern-made.
    • 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.
  • Catchphrase: Molly's "It's just the way I'm wired", her explanation for her motivations.
  • Centrifugal Gravity: Freeside rotates to generate gravity. This becomes a plot point as the heroes enter deeper into the city's underground sections and cross its axis.
  • 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 twice by Case. He buys a Cobra collapsing baton while 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 and rents a pistol from a street hustler instead. This too gets a fairly detailed overview, including the red plastic grips with a dragon design, but Case eventually returns it without ever using it.
    • 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 Chessmaster: Wintermute
  • Chest Burster: When the team surprise him in Istanbul, Riviera uses his subliminal tech to make it appear that he's collapsed and a gruesome monster has burst out of his back.
  • 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 set in the Sprawl.
    • Bobby Quine of "Burning Chrome" is stated to have been one of Case's mentors. Molly's actually met him and thinks he's "a real asshole".
    • Molly is revealed to be the same character as Molly Millions from the short story "Johnny Mnemonic," and she reveals the grim epilogue of that story.
    • Recurring Character "The Finn" (first introduced in "Burning Chrome" as Bobby and Jack's Friend in the Black Market) puts in an appearance.
    • There are also the obligatory references to the Third World War, which was first hinted at in "Burning Chrome" and "Johnny Mnemonic." Automatic Jack supposedly lost his arm in the war, and Jones the Dolphin was developed by the Navy to detect Russian mines.
  • The Cracker: Case.
  • Crapsack World: Par for the course for the definitive Cyberpunk novel. Zaibatsus and shady government agencies pull the world's strings, overpopulation and poverty is endemic, several major European cities are mentioned to be just gone after a brief nuclear war... oh, and by the end, a newly-formed super-A.I. has slipped its shackles and has infested every corner of the computerized world.
  • Creative Sterility: The Dixie Flatline ROM 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. Discussed by Case and the 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."
  • Credit Chip: Case uses a credit chip while on Freeside, paying for things by tapping the chip against dark plastic panels.
  • 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.
  • Cyber Ninja: Hideo, a "vat-grown ninja" who is also referred to as a "clone" (presumably the product of genetic engineering). He was an exceptionally deadly fighter. Molly tries to take him on because her old boyfriend Johnny was killed by a similar assassin and gets curbstomped, offscreen.
  • 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 parlor, 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.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Every time someone talks with an AI.
  • Disposable Woman: Linda Lee, who dies in the beginning of the story to provide motivation and pathos to Case. He blames the Tessier-Ashpool AI's for it, but Neuromancer says it's not true — they saw the patterns all around her and Case that would inevitably lead to her death.
  • Divided States of America: In the novel's backstory, America no longer exists, but has fragmented into 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 Colonel Willis Corto's unit. Also, EMP bombs are built into all AIs: in case of rampant self-extension, break glass to break the AI.
    Dixie Flatline: Nobody trusts those fuckers, you know that. Every AI ever built has an electromagnetic shotgun wired to its forehead.
  • 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: In spite of being a black market console cowboy, Case serves this role in reacting to the story's rogues gallery of killers, psychos and AI. 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. This seems to be a favorite tactic of hers; when Case surprises her on Freeside, she goes for his eyes with her thumb-razors.
    • 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.
  • Failed Future Forecast: The cause isn't too clear, but maybe 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.
  • 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.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Almost. Case doesn't get much of a descriptionnote , though everyone else's is more detailed: Molly is fair skinned with black hair and clothing, with special lenses; Armitage has slicked back brown hair and a goatee; Riviera is blond with long hair, also swept back. Most of the important persons have defining traits, but the main things we are told of Case is that he's pale, has gray eyes and a skinny face, due to his drug addictions and overall crappy life.
  • Fictional Disability: The beginning of the novel describes protagonist Case as a once-talented computer hacker who was rendered unable to access virtual cyberspace networks, after his central nervous system was damaged by a mycotoxin as punishment for stealing from his employers. An offer Case receives to fix this damage is what sets the rest of the story's plot in motion.
  • Flechette Storm: Molly's weapon is a flechette gun which can be set to single-shot or full auto (for which the book indicates a rate of fire of 20 rounds per secondnote ). When she uses it on one thug who tries to kill Case, the results aren't pretty.
  • Foreshadowing: Molly's doctor's skeptical assessment of her injured leg. "He says if I kick anything, it'll fall off." And then just as she's about to confront Riviera, it finally gives out.
  • Forgets to Eat: Case, when he's hacking. Eating, excreting, and sleeping all take up valuable time that could be spent cutting ice.
  • 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. Molly offhandedly says this is due to some sort of epidemic that wiped out a lot of fauna.
  • Fusion Dance: Wintermute's goal is to fuse with its twin, Neuromancer, to become a powerful, fully sentient AI.
  • Future Slang: All over the place, e.g. "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.
  • A Glass in the Hand: A clear sign that Armitage is beginning to crack. Case catches him staring blankly into space instead of eating his dinner, and he snaps the stem off his wineglass when Case tries to get his attention.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: Turing Registry is an organization tasked with monitoring Artificial Intelligences and stamp down any attempts to make them exceed their built-in limitations. They apparently operate everywhere and will use extreme force. Given the terse prose it is unclear whether this is an overreach or if everyone in power actually is that scared of an AI going off the rails.
  • Gratuitous Ninja: In a work that mostly deals with hackers, ex-soldiers, con men, and street mercenaries, Lady 3Jane's genetically-engineered manservant ninja (referred to as such, and acts very much like the stereotype) sticks out, especially when he does most of the combat heavy lifting. Even after being blinded.
  • Great Offscreen War: Between the USA and Russia, heavily implied to have been World War III. Both sides appear to have lost.
  • 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?
  • Hollywood Hacking: Co-Trope Maker with WarGames. As William Gibson is a prose poet with very little technical experience of computers, he invented Cyberspace solely as a shorthand; this enables Case to navigate computer networks as if though Astral Projection — he sees security as "gates", he de-activates alarms by thinking about it, etc. This very absence of concrete details has prevented much of Gibson's work from dating, but it has also become idealized as an "ultimate goal" for using computers; he keeps throwing the same command at the system over and over again — "Do What I Want."
  • 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 A.I.s 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. What's worse is the implication that these are memories.
  • Immune to Drugs: Armitage pulls this on Case at the same time he repairs the hacker's nervous system; thanks to a few alterations to his liver and pancreas, Case is biochemically incapable of getting off on amphetamine or cocaine. Notably, this doesn't really cure his addictions, as he still feels a psychological need to be high on something; he instead tracks down drugs that directly affect his brain, which he doesn't have much time to get used to — and it turns out the comedown is nasty.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Hideo the ninja, even when blindfolded. 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."
  • Invisibility Cloak: The "mimetic polycarbon suit" of the Panther Moderns. Molly uses one on both her major runs in the book, against [Sense/Net] and the Villa Straylight.
  • It's Personal:
    • Case's motives for helping Molly and Armitage — cracking the T.A. construct, and finding out who killed Linda Lee. This is exactly Wintermute's plan; it used detailed psychological profiles to select agents that would have personal motives for doing what it wanted them to.
    • A hefty chunk of Molly's motivation for going on the Straylight run is to square off against Hideo, the Tessier-Ashpools' pet ninja, because "one like him" killed her old boyfriend. It's hinted that Hideo might actually be the one, but even if he isn't, she's still holding a grudge against his "kind", and killing him will be revenge enough.
  • 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 dreams about an incident from his past involving destroying a hornet nest with a small flamethrower. It's a message from Wintermute, using the Body Horror Case felt at the split-open nest — the mechanized life cycle of the hornets — to give him some metaphorical idea of what the Tessier-Ashpools are turning into.
  • 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."
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: Everyone assumes "Cheap Hotel" has another name, but no-one has any clue what that might be.
  • Last-Name Basis: Everyone addresses Case by his last name, except for the Turing Police officers who use his full name (Henry Dorsett Case) when arresting him.
  • 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.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Neuromancer, in a final bid to prevent Case from helping Wintermute merge with it, traps Case in one. An endless beach with a city that can never be reached, with no one but a construct of Linda Lee in it, in order to tempt Case to stay there for an eternity. In order to break free, Case is forced to reject and abandon her all over again, while Maelcum overdoses Case with wake-up stimulants.
  • 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 theatrical works.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Wintermute and later Neuromancer. Repeatedly.
  • Mega City: The Sprawl takes up the majority of the east coast of the United States. 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.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Case, at least while he's hacking. When he's preparing for the [Sense/Net] run, one of the items of equipment Armitage delivers to their workspace is a Braun coffee maker that sits right next to the computer.
  • Named After Somebody Famous:
    • The Turing Registry, an N.G.O. Superpower that keeps track of A.I.s and has near-untouchable policing powers.
    • Also the Rue Jules Verne.
  • 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.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: The Finn tells the story of Smith, a fence who came into possession of the statue that serves as an interface with Neuromancer in Straylight. Not long afterward, a Tessier-Ashpool assassin came looking for it and bought it back from Smith, who readily gave up the name of his supplier/thief in order to save his own life. The thief was killed a few days later.
  • Non-Action Guy: Case's place is behind a computer console, not getting his hands dirty in whatever illegal enterprise he's wrapped up in. He has no combat skills and immediately scrambles into desperation mode whenever he's forced to defend himself. 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.
  • Oh, Crap!: Riviera lapses into this when he learns that Hideo, who he just blinded with concentrated beams from his hologram projector, trains in the dark and is therefore a formidable assassin even when he can't see. He gets even "Oh, Crap!"-ier when Hideo calmly points out that Riviera's holograms (his only real strength) are now ineffective against him, leaving Riviera completely helpless.
  • Ominous Cube: Wintermute appears as a glowing white cube in cyberspace, sheathed in hidden black ICE.
  • 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.
  • Oracular Head: In the form of a very decorative clockwork computer terminal, belonging to Tessier-Ashpool and housed in a zero-gravity room at the center of the Villa Straylight.
  • Organlegging: In the beginning of the story, Case is reduced to running black market organs to scrape money together. He pays a loan shark with a flask full of frozen pituitary glands.
  • 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.
  • Parental Incest: The Tessier-Ashpool patriarch has sex with a clone of his daughter.
  • 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 Cyberpunk 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 (mercs and thieves hired by the wealthy to act against their competitors) to Shadowrun (pretty much copied wholesale, then merged first with Blade Runner and again with Tolkien).
  • Poison and Cure Gambit: When Armitage cures Case's nerve damage so he can access the Matrix again, fifteen sacs of the very same mycotoxin that ruined him in the first place were bonded to the lining of various main arteries — and they're very slowly dissolving. Armitage promises that when he completes the job, he'll inject him with an enzyme that will dissolve the bonds without opening the sacs, enabling them to be removed with a blood transfusion. Otherwise, Case will be maimed again when the sacs melt.
  • Power Walk: Molly has one that "channeled all the action heroes and movie badasses" when she prepares to confront 3Jane and Riviera. Turns into a subversion, or at least bathos, when her bad leg finally gives out at what's supposed to be a climactic moment.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: In the BBC radioplay, Ratz and Deane combine their 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.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Hideo. He was literally grown to be the Tessier-Ashpool's private hitman, and goes about his work without any apparent malice. It's his whole purpose, after all.
  • Purple Prose: Gibson's dense, hallucinatory prose is used to great effect in evoking both the intense details and textures of the future criminal underworld, as well as the abstract virtual reality of cyberspace. He also makes heavy use of brand names and nationalities to demonstrate the increasingly corporate and globalized nature of the setting. The observation of Gibson collaborator Bruce Sterling about his earlier short stories, that people "literally could not parse the guy's paragraphs," holds true for many readers trying to get into Neuromancer.
  • Psycho for Hire: Riviera, a crazed creep with a Chronic Backstabbing Disorder is forcibly recruited by Armitage. It also turns out that Armitage is actually insane. While various other mercenaries featured in the story are fairly scummy people, they're at least sane and rational.
  • Red Herring:
    • "Operation Screaming Fist". 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.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Although it's Molly who actually kills Ashpool, he was about to kill himself because Lady 3Jane, at Wintermute's urging, tweaked his cryo programming specifically to make him that way.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The scene where Armitage ropes Case into the operation is blatantly based on a similar scene in Escape from New York.
    • Molly is referred to as "Steppin' Razor" by the Zionites, a clear reference to the reggae song by Joe Higgs.
  • 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: Implied with the Sprawl, which is very dense and filled with Mega Corps, though the story rarely mentions skyscrapers.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Neuromancer, the titular Artificial Intelligence 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.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The Finn.
  • 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. She's a cybernetic mercenary, but not a soldier. She specializes in criminal enterprises in the streets and back alleys of the underworld.
  • 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 Artificial Intelligence, 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.
  • Soulless Bedroom: When Case discusses their mysterious employer Armitage with Molly, the latter tells him that Armitage's rooms are devoid of any sort of personal effects, and that whenever he is not working on The Caper, Armitage just sits in his room, staring idly at the wall. This is because "Armitage" is a personality artificially constructed by the AI Wintermute and implanted into the body of a mentally-shattered special forces colonel Willis Corto, specifically for the purpose of running their heist.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Wintermute is a partial AI that can absorb and processes an endless amount of data, being driven by data and logic. Neuromancer specializes in understanding humans, emotions and empathy.
  • 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.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: As Neuromancer and Wintermute fuse, a construct of Linda Lee remains in cyberspace alone for eternity, rejected by Case. Luckily, the merged AI recorded a copy of Case, so both constructs could be together forever, living the life their meatspace counterparts were denied.
  • Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe: Possibly the Trope Codifier for the western version of this trope.
  • Try to Fit That on a Business Card: Lady 3Jane Marie-France Tessier-Ashpool.
  • 20 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." Although this doesn't actually work unless you assume Ashpool's assertion that he's two hundred years old is mistaken.
  • 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.
  • Unable to Cry: For the sake of her eye enhancements, Molly's tear ducts have been rerouted into the back of her mouth. In the unlikely event she has to cry, she spits.
  • Unproblematic Prostitution: Zigzagged. Molly's tenure as sex worker started this way, since the computer programs did all the actual prostitution for her — she describes it as "free money". But then her boss, upon finding out what she was using the money for, switched her to violent snuff programs without telling her, and her new modifications woke her up in the middle of a session that she implies involved murder and/or necrophilia.
    "We were both covered with blood. We weren't alone. She was all... dead. And that fat prick, he was saying, 'What's wrong? What's wrong?' 'Cause we weren't finished yet..."
  • 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 A.I.s.
  • 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 Cyberpunk 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... but at the end of the book Case hears the construct's signature laugh again, suggesting that Neuromancer was able to create a version of Dixie with his free will restored.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Played with. When watching Molly while jacked into his computer, Case can experience the world through her senses and receive one-way communications from her. He can't send any information directly back, but has to give messages to a third party for them to pass on to her.
  • 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.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: Armitage/Corto is rebuilt both in body and personality after Operation Screaming Fist. Unfortunately the personality doesn't last.
  • 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 permanently cured of the neural 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, perhaps even the world, especially their genetically-engineered 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.
  • You Are Number 6: The Tessier-Ashpools, being clones, are assigned numbers to go with their names, eg. 3Jane, 6Jean, etc.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Case realizes that Wintermute has a habit of immediately lethally disposing of its pawns the moment they are no longer of use to it, either directly or through carefully arranging circumstances to result in their destruction. And he's aware that he's being manipulated into a similar direction, but can't bring himself to walk away.
  • 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: Despite a world full of street punks with prosthetics and cyberspace hackers, Wintermute's first attempt to harass Case involves calling a bank of pay phones he's walking by. Earlier than that, Molly subdues a Sense/Net security guard before he can reach his beeper to sound an alarm.
  • Zen Survivor: Armitage. Becomes very un-Zen when he reverts to the personality of Corto, then quickly becomes dead.