William Gibson Reads Neuromancer, His Cyberpunk-Defining Novel

With 1984’s Neu­ro­mancer, William Gib­son may not have invent­ed cyber­punk, but he cer­tain­ly crys­tal­lized it. The nov­el exem­pli­fies the tra­di­tion’s man­date to bring togeth­er “high tech and low life,” or, in the words of Gib­son him­self, to explore what “any giv­en sci­ence-fic­tion favorite would look like if we could crank up the res­o­lu­tion.”

It may have its direct pre­de­ces­sors, but Gib­son’s tale of hack­ers, street samu­rai, con­spir­acists, and shad­owy arti­fi­cial intel­li­gences against vir­tu­al real­i­ty, dystopi­an urban Japan, and a vari­ety of oth­er inter­na­tion­al and tech­no­log­i­cal back­drops remains not just arche­typ­al but, unusu­al­ly for old­er tech­nol­o­gy-ori­ent­ed fic­tion, excit­ing.

Now you can not only read Gib­son’s cyber­punk-defin­ing words, but hear them in Gib­son’s voice: a 1994 abridged edi­tion, released only on cas­sette tapes and now long out of print, resides in MP3 form online here .

You can get a taste of this par­tic­u­lar Neu­ro­mancer audio­book and its pro­duc­tion in the clip above. I always appre­ci­ate hear­ing authors read their own work, but peo­ple will sure­ly dis­agree about whether the laid-back tones of a man who often describes him­self as thor­ough­ly un-cut­ting-edge ide­al­ly suit the mate­r­i­al. If you think it does­n’t, or if you don’t like the abridged-ness of this edi­tion, you suf­fer no lack of alter­na­tives: Arthur Addi­son read an unabridged one for Books on Tape in 1997, in 2011 Robert­son Dean read anoth­er one for Pen­guin Audio­books, and in 2012 Jeff Hard­ing did yet anoth­er. (Note: You can down­load the Dean edi­tion for free via Audi­ble if you enroll in their 30 Day Free Tri­al. We have more details on that here.) Those who have found them­selves hooked on the inter­net, in any of its mod­ern forms, will cer­tain­ly hear a lot of pre­science in Gib­son’s con­cep­tion of tech­nol­o­gy as addic­tive drug. But in my expe­ri­ence, cyber­punk sto­ries, too, can prove fierce­ly habit form­ing. Rather than the first cyber­punk nov­el, or the most impor­tant one, or the gen­re’s blue­print, let’s just call Neu­ro­mancer the gate­way.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Cyber­punk: 1990 Doc­u­men­tary Fea­tur­ing William Gib­son & Tim­o­thy Leary Intro­duces the Cyber­punk Cul­ture

Take a Road Trip with Cyber­space Vision­ary William Gib­son, Watch No Maps for These Ter­ri­to­ries (2000)

Tim­o­thy Leary Plans a Neu­ro­mancer Video Game, with Art by Kei­th Har­ing, Music by Devo & Cameos by David Byrne

William Gib­son, Father of Cyber­punk, Reads New Nov­el in Sec­ond Life

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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