As with Crash and Naked Lunch – the latter a huge influence on Gibson’s prose style – this is a novel overspilling with imagery ripe for cover designs, so why has it never had a decent cover since it was first published in 1984? This is my own mock-up, using a 2016 drawing. The time for a film version of this novel – not that it needed to be adapted, but try telling Hollywood not to bother – has long since passed, and arguably 1999’s The Matrix came close enough to suffice. I suspect Gibson’s novels can’t easily translate into film, because when you strip away with prose – which collides Burroughs’ jump cuts (and assumptions that the audience is hip to all the unexplained references), with a Mondo 2000 pastiche of the Chandler/Hammet hard-boiled style – you’re left with a collage of scenes of images that might not hold together as a compelling visual narrative. As with any predictive visions, certain aspects have not dated well, but the sense of his characters living in two worlds – “reality” and the digital realm – and evolving ways to transition between the two is prescient. Watch anyone walking down a street, gawping into the radiant abyss of their phone screen, barely aware of anything happening around them, and know that Gibson was right when he wrote: “We have sealed ourselves away… growing inward, generating a seamless universe of self.”

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