Neuromancer trilogy

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The Neuromancer Trilogy is a trilogy of novels also known as the Sprawl Series . It was written by the author William Gibson .

The first part, Neuromancer , was released in America in 1984 and in Germany in 1987. The trilogy consists of Neuromancer and the novels Biochips (English title Count Zero ) and Mona Lisa Overdrive . Some of the characters from Neuromancer reappear in these novels. In 2000 the trilogy was newly translated by Reinhard Heinz and Peter Robert. The series is considered to be the spiritual foundation of cyberpunk .

William Gibson's debut work was very successful and received various well-known awards in science fiction literature, including the three US awards Hugo Award , Philip K. Dick Award and Nebula Award as well as the Japanese Seiun Award and the Australian Ditmar Award .



The book is about the immediate events around the main character Case. It all starts in the city of Chiba , where the former console cowboy traveled to to have his nervous system repaired. This was so damaged by his former client with the help of a Russian mycotoxin that he can no longer log into cyberspace . However, Case ends up unsuccessfully in Chiba and earns his living poorly with various dark machinations, u. a. as a contract killer. He is addicted to drugs and has a longing for death. One day he is tracked down by Molly, who hires him for her client Armitage. Armitage, whose real name is Colonel Willis Corto, offers Case as payment to have his nervous system repaired if he accepts the job. Case accepts and the operation on his nervous system is successful.

To keep Case under control and his work ethic, the console cowboy is implanted slowly decomposing poison capsules in the bloodstream during the operation, which would restore his nervous system to its previous state if dissolved. In addition, his new pancreas has been manipulated in such a way that most drugs, such as amphetamines and cocaine , are ineffective. Armitage, who later turns out to be just a puppet of the artificial intelligence (AI) Wintermute , promises the young man that these capsules will be removed from his body after the task has been fulfilled. Wintermute's goal is to unite with its counterpart, the AI Neuromancer . Each part is limited in its way of thinking by given parameters of its creator, and only the merging of the two sub-systems in the form of a super AI can remove the barriers. From this an adventure develops that leads through several cities and ends in the orbital station Freeside .

At the end of the novel, Wintermute manages to unite with Neuromancer and form a digital form of life that merges into the matrix. She contacts Case one last time and reports that she has discovered another AI in the Centauri star system.

main characters

  • Case is a former console cowboy ( hacker ) who, on behalf of others, infiltrated computers via cyberspace . As a punishment, when he cheated on a client, his nervous system was damaged with the help of a Russian mycotoxin , so that he can no longer get into cyberspace. He accepts the assignment from Armitage as he is offered a cure for the damage.
  • Molly , a contract killer and former prostitute , wears various body modifications , such as lenses built into the skin with residual light intensifiers and extendable scalpel blades under the fingernails. She works for Armitage as a mercenary for the gross (referred to in the novel as a street samurai). She quickly developed an affection for Case. She tells of her former love, Johnny, a data courier who was killed by the yaks ( yakuza ). This is obviously Johnny Mnemonic , the main character from Gibson's most famous short story, which was the basis for a movie.
  • Armitage is the former Special Forces Officer Corto who had to be physically restored after a failed mission but is mentally unstable. During his recovery in a hospital, the AI ​​takes Wintermute with subtle means and replaces his personality with Armitage. At first he acts as a direct client, while in the course of the assignment it becomes apparent that he is just a puppet of Wintermute. When he finally remembers his former self, Wintermute sees him as a threat and kills him.
  • Wintermute is an artificial intelligence based in Bern that directs a group of people in order to be able to unite with their twin Neuromancer and to break the limits of their programmed parameters. A kind of digital awareness in the form of a super AI is emerging.
  • Neuromancer is an artificial intelligence based in Rio, the twin of the artificial intelligence Wintermute . Even if the character Neuromancer is rather briefly described in the book, it still represents the main motivation for all actions of the remaining characters who act on behalf of Wintermute.
  • Peter Riviera comes from Bonn, which was destroyed by atomic bombs . He is a mutant, severely drug addicted psychopath and has mastered the ability of hologram projection.
  • The Finn is a fence . His business contacts and talent for sourcing sensitive software are key to his reputation. In the second half of the novel, Wintermute mostly uses his appearance to get in touch with Case.


Biochips , English title Count Zero , was published in 1986 as the second novel in the Neuromancer trilogy. Its action takes place eight years after the events in the first part. Strange things are happening in the Matrix. Voodoo gods are said to have risen in her. Part of the matrix has developed its own consciousness. But apparently this awareness has been shattered. Different parties are interested in this life in cyberspace for different reasons.

The young hacker Bobby Newmark, alias Count Zero, is saved from death by a failed hack by an angel-like appearance in the Matrix. Subsequently, he becomes involved in the conflict against his will. The biochips that make up the German book title are implants in the brain that enable the wearer to access the matrix without using a computer. In another storyline, boxes play a role based on the art objects by Joseph Cornell .

main characters

  • Turner is a mercenary who is being recovered from a serious injury and is given the task of helping the scientist Mitchell to leave his previous employer and "defected" to another company. However, the scientist only sends his daughter, whom Turner then protects and brings to friends in New York. The action was sabotaged by a third party and Turner finds out who betrayed him and his colleagues. After the traitor is punished, Turner pulls out of the business.
  • Angela Mitchell is the daughter of scientist Mitchell who is saved by Turner. As it turns out later, with the help of an AI, presumably Wintermute, her father developed revolutionary biochips and these u. a. built into her brain that allow her to enter cyberspace without a computer. She is wanted by cyberspace voodoo priests, for whom she is something like the holy virgin.
  • Marly Kruschkowa is a failed art gallery owner who was betrayed by her ex-boyfriend and is hired by a rich industrialist to find the creator of very special works of art. The industrialist hopes that this will cure his illness, since he suspects that the creator of these works of art could also help him. As it turns out, the art is created from a holdover from the AI ​​Wintermute.
  • Bobby Newmark is a would-be hacker who happens to come across particularly hot software and is hunted down for it. He joins the voodoo priests and ends up meeting Angela Mitchell, with whom he stays with.

Mona Lisa overdrive

Mona Lisa Overdrive was released in 1988 and is set eight years after the events of biochips .

In this part, several storylines are pursued alternately, such. For example, the events surrounding Kumiko, who is sent to England for security reasons by her father, a high Yakuza member, and Mona, a young prostitute who seems to be opening up a career as an actress. Angela Mitchell is a celebrated media star but has split up with Bobby Newmark. He stole a construction from one of the main characters from the first volume (Neuromancer) in which a whole world is reproduced with the help of the latest biochips using the matrix; in this world his mind resides while his body vegetates in a coma. The owner of the construction is now blackmailing several people in order to get the construction back and at the same time punishing certain people. In the end, there are several ghosts in the construction after their bodies have already died. As it turns out, the emerging artificial intelligences want to establish contact with their own kind outside of Earth.

The following characters appear from the two earlier novels:

  • Molly (initially under a different name)
  • the Finn, in the form of a replica of his personality
  • Bobby Newmark
  • Angela Mitchell.

Influence of Neuromancer

The Neuromancer trilogy not only created a new sub-genre of science fiction and shaped its vocabulary, but also had a particularly strong influence on some works.

radio play

Directed by Alfred Behrens , Radio Bremen produced a three-part German radio play version of Neuromancer in cooperation with WDR in 2003 , which was released on CD by Der Audio Verlag .

Role play

Cyberpunk 2020 , a cyberpunk role-playing game , is based on the novels by William Gibson. The world on which the game is based is taken almost 1: 1 from the novels. Other cyberpunk authors like Walter Jon Williams later published their own supplementary volumes, which speaks for the acceptance of the game by the authors. Typical is the strong emphasis on technology, the basic paranoid feeling and the lone ranger motif of the novels.

Shadowrun , a fantasy / cyberpunk role-playing game, is heavily influenced by the Neuromancer trilogy. In addition to terms and concepts such as the street samurai , the dominance of megacorporations and the matrix , places such as B. the sprawl, which is a term for the super-urban metropolitan region between Boston and Atlanta, has been adopted almost unchanged. The tasks in Shadowrun, so-called runs , are mostly based on the structure of the task in which Case in Neuromancer is involved. However, Shadowrun expands the concepts taken over from Neuromancer with fantasy elements such as elves, dwarves, trolls, orcs and magic. This collides with the cyberpunk approach of thinking our worldaheadas a dystopia .

Other influenced works

Computer games

Neuromancer is the literary template for a computer game of the same name that was published for various platforms between 1988 and 1990 and which received numerous awards when it was released.


Neuromancer is also the title of a song by Billy Idol on his concept album, Cyberpunk, which was heavily influenced by the works of Gibson . Mona Lisa Overdrive is the name of a track on the Matrix Reloaded soundtrack by Juno Reactor and Don Davis . The band The Cassandra Complex released the album Cyberpunx in 1990 .


“It is frightening how close the portrayed world is to ours, despite all the exaggeration. But it is also in a way that does not exactly work to the advantage of the book, namely with regard to the fashionable calculation of its creation: this is how a novel has to look, and no other, that wants to be successful in the SF community today ... For all its undeniable fascination, this book remains superficial, fashionable entertainment that - although it does take advantage of it - does not penetrate a step far into the reader's real life. "" As a novel in the traditional sense disappointing, as a phenomenon it is fascinating and - so is to be feared, groundbreaking. "

- Michael Nagula on Neuromancer

“Gibson succeeds, which has seldom worked in the film world, in building up a literary dense atmosphere that does not try to create a feeling for“ cyberspace ”or for virtual spaces through the senseless enumeration of technical terms. It is a fabric of language, a word field, a network and mesh of words and intended concepts, of invented terminology, which depicts exactly what the reader then perceives as the imagined virtual world on a very emotional and instinctive level the new console cowboys experience their adventures. [...] William Gibson may have transcended the vision of our digital reality and our near virtual future in literature - actually a reason to make Gibson's “Neuromancer” trilogy compulsory reading and to include it in the binding canon of works that are indispensable for understanding the present. "

- Back to the future? by Thomas Neumann in


  • William Gibson: Neuromancer. Translated by Reinhard Heinz. Heyne, Munich 1987, ISBN 3-453-31389-5
  • William Gibson: Biochips. Translated by Reinhard Heinz. ibid. 1988, ISBN 3-453-02777-9
  • William Gibson: Mona Lisa Overdrive. Translated by Reinhard Heinz, epilogue Michael Nagula . ibid. 1989, ISBN 3-453-10832-9
  • William Gibson: The Neuromancer Trilogy. Neuromancer, Biochips, Mona Lisa Overdrive. Translated by Reinhard Heinz and Peter Robert. Rogner & Bernhard at Zweiausendeins, Hamburg 1996, ISBN 3-8077-0309-8
  • William Gibson: The Neuromancer Trilogy. Edited new edition. Translated by Reinhard Heinz and Peter Robert, preface by Jack Womack . Heyne, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-453-16410-5
  • William Gibson: The Neuromancer Trilogy. Translated by Reinhard Heinz and Peter Robert, epilogue Sascha Mamczak . Heyne, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-453-52615-0


  • Franz Wegener: William Gibson's "Neuromancer" and the relation between mind and body. GRIN, Munich / Ravensburg 2002, ISBN 978-3-638-88637-6


  1. In: Wolfgang Jeschke (Ed.): Das Science Fiction Jahr 1988 , Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich, ISBN 3-453-00983-5 , pp. 606, 608.
  2. Back to the future? - Review of the new edition , published April 27, 2010, accessed on January 13, 2020
  3. Scholarly Paper 2002, Department of English Studies, Literature, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg , Institute for Foreign Language Philologies. The cyberpunk debate created a more suspicious image of new technologies and their effect on the role of the human being as well as the social life and the society. An overview is given of possible technologies he describes and how they trigger the breakdown between man and machine as well as between individuals. The paper also sketches the effects of those technologies on social interaction, moral values ​​and the structure of the society.