The World Above

Greg Halenda '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Spring 2005)

In William Gibson's Neuromancer trilogy, reaching outer space is no longer an obstacle. Massive data banks, financial institutions, and factories reside above the confines of gravity. In Mona Lisa Overdrive, the reader learns how the immense Freeside of the Tessier-Ashpool family arose. The following passage depicts how space is utilized in Gibson's world:

Tessier-Ashpool ascended to high orbit's archipelago to find the ecliptic sparsely marked with military station sand the first automated factories of the cartels. And here they began to build. Their combined wealth, initially, would barely have matched the Ono-Sendai's outlay for a single process-module of that multinational's orbital semiconductor operation, but Marie-France demonstrated an unexpected entrepreneurial flare, establishing a highly profitable data haven serving the needs of less reputable sectors of the international banking community. This in turn generated links with the banks themselves, and with their clients. Ashpool borrowed heavily and the wall of lunar concrete that would be Freeside grew and curved, enclosing its creators.

When the war came, Tessier-Ashpool were behind that wall. They watched Bonn flash and die, and Beograd. The construction of the spindle continued with only minor interruptions, during those three weeks; later, during the stunned and chaotic decade that followed, it would sometimes be more difficult.

The children, Jean and Jane, were with them now, the villa at Biarritz having gone to finance construction of a cryogenic storage facility for their home, the Villa Straylight. The first occupants of the vault were ten pairs of cloned embryos, 2Jean and 2Jane, 3Jean and 3Jane. . . . There were numerous laws forbidding or otherwise governing the artificial replication of an individual's genetic material, but there were also numerous questions of jurisdiction. . . . [pp. 124-25; ellipses in original]


1. Why does Gibson often mention The War, but never describe it in any detail? Is this omission effective for Gibson's artificial world?

2. Does placing something in space effectively give it an air of evil in the Neuromancer world?

3. Has law in the Neuromancer world concern only digital crimes? If so, why does Gibson make this emphasis?"

4. Would one want to travel in space in the Neuromancer world? Is there any positive aspect to being in orbit, or is it just a free-for-all?


Gibson, William Mona Lisa Overdrive. New York: Bantam, 1988.

Cyberspace OV Cyborg  Mona Lisa Overdrive

Last modified 23 February 2005