Owen Strain '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Spring 2005)

As with many things in the world of Count Zero, surgery has evolved into something darker than it is in our world. Gibson's use of metaphor and powerful imagery heightens the drama when Bobby gets stitched up, and makes it more disgusting. We are able to put ourselves in Bobby's place of someone who has just woken up from being unconscious to a veterinarian performing surgery on our ribcage.

"Woah," said the black man, "lost you for a second. Not for long, you understand, just maybe a New York minute . . ." His hand, in the mirrors overhead, took a flat spool of blue transparent plastic from the bloody cloth beside Bobby's ribs. Delicately, with thumb and forefinger, he drew out a length of some sort of brown, beaded plastic. Minute points of light flashed along its edges and seemed to quiver and shift. "Claw," he said, and with his other hand thumbed some sort of integral cutter in the sealed blue spool. Now a length of beaded stuff swung free and began to writhe. "Good shit," he said, bringing the thing into Bobby's line of sight. "New. What they use in Chiba now." It was brown, headless, each bead a body segment, each segment edged with pale shining legs. Then, with a conjurer's flick of his green-gloved wrists, he lay the centipede down the length of the open wound and pinched delicately at the final segment, the one nearest Bobby's face. As the segment came away, it withdrew a glittering black thread that had served as the things nervous system, and as that went each set of claws locked shut in turn, zipping the slash tight as a new leather jacket. [pp. 54-55, ellipsis in original]

Discussion Questions

  1. Gibson calls the futuristic stitching the "claw," and later compares it to a centipede and a zipper. What effect does Gibson's word choice have on our perception of the device? What other ways could he have described the thing?
  2. "Then, with a conjurer's flick of his green-gloved wrists . . ." Do we actually think of Pye (the veterinarian) as a conjurer? What purpose does the comparison serve?
  3. When Bobby woke up on the operating table, he was disoriented by the view of the mirrors on the ceiling, thinking his own body to be the body of a doll. The mirrors are an effective device for the narrative, but are they believable? Why would the ceiling be covered in mirrors, particularly in an operating room?
  4. In this passage, Pye is barely described aside from being "the black man." Why does Gibson define the character of Pye by his race and nothing more? What is the desired effect? Is it achieved?


Gibson, William. Count Zero . New York: Ace Books, 1986.

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Last modified 1 March 2005