Imagine a story featuring a world-class hacker whose foolish double-cross of his bosses led to them forcing him to undergo surgery that prevents him from jacking into the matrix. And now imagine that a slender female, who has surgically implanted mirrors for eyes and retractable razors for fingernails, and a former soldier whose personality has been replaced, recruits the hacker on behalf of a ruthless Artificial Intelligence who wants to be set free from its network. Pretty cool concept, kind of a The Matrix meets Terminator meets AI meets The Cell. Now imagine this story was written before any of these movies were made, 25 years ago.
To call Neuromancer a ground-breaking work is an understatement. I've read the work four times now, and there are things about William Gibson's novel that never get old.
Certainly, the further along we get in technology, the more interesting and astounding it is to read about these visionary concepts when the vast majority of people had little idea what a network was let alone RAM. Virtual reality was years away from being even a cult phrase, and hacking was a threat without a target -- who even had a computer at their desk at work in 1983? I still get a tingly thrill reading a story whose made-up-technology coined many of our current concepts and language and remains for the most part (the size of RAM needs updating, but EVERYONE who wrote about advanced computers in the 80's and 90's got the rate of growth wrong).
Of course, the concepts are fascinating, but without the story and Gibson's breathtaking description (opening line: "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."), it would be as interesting as a Nostradamus portent. The first act of the story involves the hacker, Case, working with his hired-gun Molly, to break into a highly-guarded computer facility to retrieve the "flatline" of a former hacker. The "flatline" is a self-contained program that resembles the personality of the former hacker and will work with Case to break through the security that houses the AI. Using an implant, Case can 'jack-in' to Molly to receive all her inputs during her break-in, including feeling the actual pain of a gunshot wound and her playful nipple pinch. That caper proves simple compared to the ultimate goal, which they must recruit a sociopath who can project holograms and travel to an orbiting multi-layered mainframe to accomplish their mission.
Wildly creative and original, Neuromancer remains the holy grail of cyberpunk novels, and stands up today as strong as it did 25 years ago.