THEMES / CONCEPTS
Noting every major theme of the Neuromancer trilogy
would basically be like rewriting the entire series --the series
is what defines the genre! But I'll list them anyway. The same
topics will be repeated (at least in part) in every other
cyberpunk novel, guaranteed. So here is the all-inclusive list.
- CORPORATE POWER: government power has
been replaced by giant multi-national corporations. Such
powers already exist today (those with an income that far
out ranks many small nations). The Corps call the shots,
they fight the wars, they run the world
- CRIMINAL ORGANIZATIONS: present and
powerful in most cyberpunk. Usually involves street level
criminals all the way to Yakuza, Mafia, and
pseudo-Corporate. Just about everything is illegal in one
way or another, so if you're an organization, chances are
you're into crime.
- CURRENCY/FINANCE: most cyberpunk likes
to think that the American dollar will decline
drastically in the near future. Obviously it can be seen
as a metaphore for the '80s Russia, and of the fear of a
Japanese takeover. Gibson confronts us with New Yen. Many
other authors do the same.
- CYBERSPACE: what's cyberpunk without the
net? Gibson was basically the first.
- CYBERTECH/POSTHUMANISM: the age of the
cyborg, replacements for the flesh. Dehumanizing perhaps,
but often more efficient and powerful. Man and machine,
science conquering nature. Constructs and a digital
afterlife. The ethics of playing God, genetics and
- DRUGS: they seem to sneak their way into
most cyberpunk novels. Adds to the edginess of it all.
Usually a form of amphetamine, though not always. Gibson
is no exception.
- ORBITAL SOCIETY: Earth is almost always
tainted, but life above the clouds means a better
standard of living. I expect this trope stems primarily
from Phil Dick's well known novel Do Androids Dream
of Electric Sheep? (aka Blade Runner).
- POST-WAR: it is very common for there to
have been a war. The world hasn't been reduced to rubble
precisely, but it has had at least some (ambiguous)
effect on society, and a lot of tech is related to it.
- RELIGION: a broad topic with many
avenues. In Gibson's work, it is a question of the
spirituality of the machine, of the digital god. Are AI's
divine? Is cyberspace a viable afterlife?
- SIMSTIM: virtual reality mixed with
cinema and addiction. Like living in someone elses body.
- THE SPRAWL: the urban setting, the
plague-like growth of industry, crime, smog, a low
standard of living, a tough life style. Essential for
setting the scene (gritty and dangerous).