Replacement for Neuromancer

I’m going to be teaching a science fiction class again this summer at Virginia Commonwealth University, so once again I’m revisiting my syllabus. The course is a chronological dash through sf books and films starting with The Stars My Destination and ending with Blind Lake. The students are intelligent college students, usually juniors and seniors from a variety of disciplines looking to fulfill a lit requirement, with varying degrees of familiarity with sf. I’ve always used Neuromancer as the “80’s book” because I love it, and it’s the 900-pound gorilla of the decade, but students consistently rate it dead last on the reading list, and I’ve vowed to replace it. My personal favorite of the Neuromancer trilogy is Count Zero, but I doubt they would like it any better. I’m considering Tanith Lee’s Silver Metal Lover or Greg Bear’s Blood Music. Any suggestions out there?

6 thoughts on “Replacement for Neuromancer

  1. Are you teaching only novels? If not, I’d suggest Burning Chrome; smaller bites might be easier for newbies to swallow.

    But, to the bigger issue: What’s with these kids? They hate Neuromancer, they hate Perdido Street Station…It seems all the celebrated, award-winners are passing them by!

  2. It has to be an 80’s book since I’m doing a chronological course, at least for now. I’d prefer using novels, and Gibson is at his best as a novelist. As to why they don’t like Neuromancer, I don’t know. They find it confusing, and its most innovative moves are old hat to them through endless imitations. An overly long shaggy book like Perdido Street Station is a particularly tough sell in a summer class, and plot profluence isn’t exactly the book’s long suit. But that’s a different course, a different problem. Back to sf in the 80’s: it doesn’t really matter to me why they don’t like it, only that it’s harder to teach something they don’t like, and I’m ready not to repeat that experience if I can avoid it. These guys aren’t dummies. They do fine with Phil Dick, Ursula Le Guin, Alfred Bester. They don’t need to be spoonfed. They just need a dish they like.

  3. While off the beaten track of SF, not exactly out of range: John Crowley’s masterpiece “Little, Big” and Mark Helprin’s even better “Winter’s Tale” both happen to fall into the ’80s…

    I own all of your books (just re-read “The Watch”–bravo!), and am also a big fan of Gibson.

    Stymied as to why anything by Gibson would not appeal, although I must admit I slogged through “Perdido Station”.

    Anything by Thomas Disch going back to the ’80s? Or Ken MacLeod?

    Holding breath awaiting your next novel. Stop writing short stories. I hate them, unless they are attached by the same characters. When I delve into a good book, I want it to last at least as long as a day, and hopefully as long as it took the writer to create it (although must admit “Ulysses” took me a semester and I barely scratched the surface).

    Best wishes for the holidays,

    Gary Barnett

  4. Gary, I’m holding my breath awaiting my next novel too! I’ve finished one since “The Bright Spot” entitled “The Donut Man” that is parked at several publishers at the moment. I’ve just finished a draft of another (that Sarah is reading at the moment). Soon they’ll be stacked up like aircraft waiting to land. In the meantime, however, I’m writing short stories. If you like continuing characters, you can’t get more continuing than God. You might want to have a look at the “godstories” providentially available on this site for free.

    Both Crowley and Helprin would probably be a better fit in the Urban Fantasy class I teach right after the sf class. I’m not quite ready to give up on Gibson myself. I’ve talked to quite a few folks who like “Mona Lisa Overdrive” best and a couple who loved it even though it was their introduction to Gibson. So it’s in my stack of to-be-read (or re-read in this case). It’s the only one of the Neuromancer trilogy I haven’t revisited since it was first published.

    I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Ours was delightful.

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