This book is visionary. Okay, we don’t have personal watch-phones; we have personal phone-watches instead. Big deal.
The trajectory of this book, the whiff of cynicism, menace, strangeness, and internationalism, and its arguments about power are still relevant and can still explain whole swaths of the world as it looks today.
You can hear Sterling’s prose learning from the techniques of William Gibson, and benefitting from them, but the raw intellectual content of this book outstrips any of Gibson’s novels. Neuromancer is still a better work of literature, but this novel lights up different parts of the brain entirely.
Much of the future shock of this novel is softened, not because it has aged poorly, but because it has aged so well. The rise of terrorism and private warfare around the globe, the rise of green, socially responsible corporations, the feel of old industrial buildings, the backdrop of dizzying multiculturalism in commerce and media, the antiquated feel of 20th century technology, automation in industry and warfare — it’s all in this book, published only a year after the Regan administration ended. And it still feels cutting edge.
And I even love the schlocky, buxom cyber-babe on the cover, even though I can’t figure out which character she’s supposed to be.