Snow Crash is amazing. There are a couple of chapters that are mostly lectures on Sumerian mythology, but for the most part it’s like a Hollywood movie but a bit more cynical. The hero’s name is Hiro Protagonist. He is the world’s best hacker and swordsman. His sidekick in the thing is a courier like a bike messenger, but she uses a magnetic grappling hook to drag behind cars on a skateboard. If you don’t want to read that book there’s something wrong with you. It’s a miracle it hasn’t been ruined by Hollywood by now. A ninja hacker on a motorcycle begs to be ruined by Hollywood. The fact that the bike is on autopilot while he learns about the Sumerian god Enki on his way to Alaska is the way it’s been saved from such a fate.
After the Run Last Click guys did their talk about cyberpunk books (a few years ago perhaps), I recommended them some cool non-western cyberpunk/conjectural-sci-fi stuff. That recommendation is as follows:
“To make a recommendation, I love cyberpunk that isn’t as Western-centric. It might not be really cyberpunk, but I read a book called The Dervish House by Ian McDonald a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. Nanotech and NBN-speed finance in a vaguely realistically futuristic Turkey. I also very recently read a short story by Bruce Sterling called “Green Days in Brunei”. I had first read it at a book store in high school in my first reading Neuromancer days. It was a random selection from a collection that seemed promising and it was excellent. Pro-hacker in a society made equally strange by technology and culture. Because it’s so short it is dense in setting-storytelling and action packed.”
In terms of Gibson, I think ovamod is on the money, but I think I can put it better. He’s a guy who can lay down a setting that is so immersive it requires its own vocabulary. He makes that world deep and real. He can make a cyberpunk world that is worthy of defining the term cyberpunk. That doesn’t mean he tells a good story. At least from a point. (OK, maybe not better than ovamod).
I think he got better at storytelling after Neuromancer though. It’s hard to analyze the guy looking at Neuromancer with its innovative setting and bizarre narrative. His other stuff really cements him as the author of the cyberpunk genre. He could make it. Then he could make it again in different ways that worked well. A cyberpunk with a bike messenger, with however you describe Idoru, with voodoo, with such interesting and exotic things, that’s what Netrunner is digging from. Gibson made cyberpunk and he also made it universal. Cyberpunk has never been western-centric because of Gibson. Cyberpunk has never been tied to any specifics in time and space because of Gibson. A virtually homeless messenger is as cyberpunk as a rasta on an orbital in Gibson’s vision of the future.
If you like cyberpunk, you read Gibson. That’s just the thing. Like one or another, dislike one or another, if you like the cyberpunk setting, you’re going to have to read Gibson.