William Gibson’s Seminal Cyberpunk Novel, Neuromancer, Dramatized for Radio (2002)

Who can call them­selves fans of cyber­punk, or even mod­ern sci­ence fic­tion, with­out hav­ing expe­ri­enced William Gib­son’s Neu­ro­mancer? That 1984 nov­el, which many see as the defin­ing work of the sci-fi sub­genre where, as Gib­son him­self put it, “high tech meets low life,” has gone through many print runs in many lan­guages. But you don’t need to read it to get to know its dis­tinc­tive real­i­ty — its Japan­ese mega­lopo­lis set­ting of Chi­ba City, its char­ac­ters like “con­sole cow­boy” Case and “street samu­rai” Mol­ly Mil­lions, its tech­nolo­gies like advanced arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, elec­tro­mag­net­ic pulse weapons, a vir­tu­al real­i­ty space called, yes, the Matrix. You can also hear it.

Last year, we fea­tured the out-of-cir­cu­la­tion audio­book ver­sion of Neu­ro­mancer read by Gib­son him­self, and though it faith­ful­ly trans­mits his char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly sawed-off writ­ing style, some may find that form a bit lack­ing in dra­ma. But as luck would have it, the BBC, home to some of the last remain­ing mas­ters of the radio dra­ma form, adapt­ed the nov­el in 2002, and you can hear the result­ing two-hour pro­duc­tion on the Youtube playlist above or stream it from SFFau­dio. Even Gib­son purists may well come away sat­is­fied, since its respect for the orig­i­nal text begins right with the clas­sic open­ing line: “The sky above the port was the col­or of tele­vi­sion, tuned to a dead chan­nel.”

In any form, Neu­ro­mancer has endured for many rea­sons, not least that it still gets us think­ing every time about the inter­sec­tion between tech­nol­o­gy and human­i­ty. It cer­tain­ly gets crit­i­cal the­o­rist Fredric Jame­son think­ing, and you can read his thoughts in his new essay “A Glob­al Neu­ro­mancer.” He con­tends that, among oth­er things, cyber­space still does­n’t exist: “It is a lit­er­ary con­struc­tion we tend to believe in; and, like the con­cept of imma­te­r­i­al labor, there are cer­tain­ly his­tor­i­cal rea­sons for its appear­ance at the dawn of post­moder­ni­ty which great­ly tran­scend the tech­no­log­i­cal fact of com­put­er devel­op­ment or the inven­tion of the Inter­net.” Jame­son does­n’t write prose quite as eas­i­ly fol­lowed as Gib­son’s, but like any true clas­sic, Neu­ro­mancer keeps inspir­ing not just works sim­i­lar to it, but works wild­ly dif­fer­ent from it as well.

Note: You can down­load for free a pro­fes­sion­al­ly-read ver­sion of Neu­ro­mancer (the com­plete book) if you take part in one of the free tri­als offered by our part­ners Audible.com and/or Audiobooks.com. Click on the respec­tive links to get more infor­ma­tion.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

William Gib­son Reads Neu­ro­mancer, His Cyber­punk-Defin­ing Nov­el (1994)

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 writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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