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Review: Neuromancer

“The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

William Gibson writes about technology, the future and urban life in a way that is poetic and often quite abstract, enthralled with computers in the same way that others are by nature. He approaches these things from such an alien perspective that it can make his intricate plots hard to follow. (Not that it matters too much to me, though; when reading a book, I’ll always pay more attention to prose than plot.) He doesn’t give you a large amount of context or background information, as you’re expected to read his work from the perspective of somebody who is familiar with all of the technobabble and takes their world for granted. Neuromancer uses familiarity to make the reader feel like an outsider, and it’s all of this that makes it stand out from many of its imitators. The only aspects of it that feel dated are the surface ones, because those are the tropes that have been copied most often. (And Gibson himself copied some of those from detective fiction.) While the hackers, ninjas and fast-paced action scenes have become overused, the deeper aspects tend to be left untouched. Neuromancer might be a thriller, but it is one that is totally immersed in its world, to the point where it becomes disorientating. Like Jeff Noon’s Vurt series, it shows us just how weird the future could be, and how weird our present would be to somebody from the past.

There are characters in this novel such as Molly, Riviera and 3Jane (my favourite), who could easily have been introduced as individuals with unique abilities. Instead, Gibson shows how weird they have become, thanks to the technology that alters them. Molly has computer screen eyes, for instance. Her eyes aren’t balls contained in sockets, but smooth glass. She can’t even cry like a normal person does. Her tears come out through her mouth or something, so whenever she spits it’s a hint that she could be in pain. Case, the protagonist, uses his skills as a hacker to “jack in” and see things from her eyes, and, in a way, share her body. Doing something like that would no doubt be a dizzying experience, and while Gibson only touches on it lightly, he does give us some idea of what such a sensation would be like.

“Into her darkness, a churning synaesthesia, where her pain was the taste of old iron, scent of melon, wings of a moth brushing her cheek. She was unconscious, and he was barred from her dreams. When the optic chip flared, the alphanumerics were haloed, each one ringed with a faint pink aura. “

Neuromancer is like the result of a time paradox. It’s a book that seems influenced by itself, like Gibson from the past read it in the future or something. The descriptions of the arcade, the beach and the cityscapes  read like the creation of someone who has spent all their time reading the novels, watching the films and playing the video games that took influence from this. There’s something lonely about Linda Lee, who reminds so much of the people who love stories like this. As for Lady 3Jane, I read her as an anime character, mostly because she really does seem like one.  3Jane could have easily written the book herself, too, because her fascination with cyberspace leads to her dialogue being some of the most beautiful parts of Gibson’s writing. I could imagine 3Jane reading the whole thing out loud in her calm voice.

While it lacks the maturity of Pattern Recognition, this is still a brilliant work, especially considering that it was Gibson’s debut as a novelist. I usually don’t enjoy action novels, but this one is so well-written that it doesn’t matter, focusing more on the thriller aspects. The biggest flaw is his portrayal of Molly, who does end up being objectified. It’s a shame, because she’s otherwise an interesting character, and those moments leave a bad taste in my mouth. (Luckily, his later works seem to contain far less of that.) Aside from that unfortunate shortcoming, though, Neuromancer is a great book, with enough substance to back up its style.

 “With this comic I am pretending I am making a comic strip for a newspaper in the early 20th century.”

-Ryan Armand

It’s only recently that I’ve started reading webcomics. I used to think that there weren’t many good ones out there, but luckily I’ve been proven wrong. (Beforehand, I just wasn’t looking hard enough.) Hopefully, they’ll be able to fill the gap left by the decline of newspaper strips. Webcomics allow artists a lot more space, something that their newspaper counterparts no longer have. Some strips from the papers have even moved online. Ryan Armand’s minus (no capital letters) didn’t start out that way, but it’s drawn to look as if it could have. minus takes inspiration from classic print comics such as Little Nemo, and is painted on large paper with plenty of colours, like a Sunday strip, but simply told. It’s one of my favourite comics in any medium. minus is done in the same vein as Calvin and Hobbes and Cul de Sac, looking at the strange and whimsical elements of childhood without being too sentimental or twee.

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The titular minus is a young girl who might easily be omnipotent. She’s quiet, and keeps mostly to herself, apart from her one human friend and a few ghosts. While cute, her morality is a dark enough shade of grey, and the comic has enough hints of darkness to keep it from turning saccharine. The strip is otherwise pretty light, though, in tone and style as well as colours, but it’s all blended perfectly naturally, and always with a tint of poignancy. Some of my favourites include numbers 54, 116, 117, 99, 1011 , 36, and the final one (it contains spoilers), 130. Really, though, all of them are worth reading. I went through the whole thing in one afternoon.

Originally posted on The Weirdest Band in the World:

Dancing Deadlips Potworow

In what is clearly a match made in both heaven and hell, two of our favorite weird Polish artists, Dancing Deadlips and Potworow, have collaborated on a new track. It’s called “Buffalo Bill’s Defunct” and like each lady’s solo stuff, it’s dark, creepy, menacing and undeniably sexy all at once.

They’ve also put together a very Blair Witch-like video for the song, which you can see below. If you want to download the track for free, you can do so via Bandcamp.

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I probably should have alerted The Weirdest Band in the World to this, but Motion Sickness of Time Travel (real name Rachel Evans) is so good that I had to do a post on her music myself.

MSOTT is one of those things you come across through a lucky accident. Evans describes her music as “musical witchcraft from outer space”, which is so accurate that I wonder why I bother even trying to add any of my my own. (And according to 20JazzFunkGreats, her style is “digital shoegaze”.) Her way with words should be indication enough as to how unearthly the music is. Any writer can tell you that even prose needs a rhythm to it. Words have a musical quality, and a good understanding of one can help with the other. Many of the titles to her pieces sound like whimsical excerpts from a slightly twee stream-of-consciousness poem. Even her name puts strange images into your head.

Motion Sickness of Time Travel is perfect for those who enjoy Tropic of Cancer. Out of the two, I’d have to say that Tropic of Cancer is my favourite, but that’s only because her music has a darker, more urban atmosphere, as well as a Coldwave influence. Both are equally talented at forming proper soundscapes with a deep and witchy mood. One can only hope that some day the two will team up. (Though if that happened, my ears might melt out of ecstasy.)

Subtle Tea

While every so often it’s nice to read something complex and ornate, understatement often has a deeper affect on me.

This post contains spoilers and blood.

Choku! is the most ridiculous manga I have ever read. It’s not the strangest in terms of content, but it is in terms of context. This is the sort of series that’s so weird it doesn’t even seem to realise how bizarre it is. It doesn’t even seem to even have a target audience in mind- it just is. For the most part, this is wonderful. A lack of self-awareness often improves a work of fiction, and the unique premise combined with an inability to fit comfortably into any one genre makes Choku! unpredictable and a lot more fun to read. It’s one of the few series that can run solely on its premise, though that’s probably also because of its brevity. Ever since watching Harold and Maude, I’ve become fond of romantic comedies with a dark sense of humour, and Choku! is (mostly) good at mixing sweet slice-of-life humour with profuse bleeding. Unfortunately, there are also many times when the series doesn’t achieve its desired effect. Near to the end, the premise begins wearing itself a little too thin, and some of the humour is uncomfortably pervy. As for the actual romance, it’s handled nicely in the earlier chapters, but becomes less satisfying later on. I’ll return to that in a while.

I’m envious of people who speak in a monotone. I like the way it sounds, and it comes across as stoic, too. Monotones also seem kind of funny to me, too. One of the reasons why Lilith from Cheers was such a good character was because she seemed to enjoy her robotic way of speaking, and at times treated it like a private little joke. It’s true that everybody else made fun of her for both that and her paleness, but she liked those things about herself. Even though the rigidity of her tone is meant to be callous and clinical, there’s something nice about it, too. Maybe that’s partly why the Emotionless Girl archetype is so popular. (Aside from the fact that Emotionless Girls are just really, really cool anyway.) Serika isn’t emotionless, but the way she expresses her feelings comes across as rather disjointed. She makes no effort to repress her feelings (because she’s completely oblivious to the fact that such a thing is even possible), but her tone of voice and facial expressions rarely change. (If the latter does, it’s only subtly.) This serves to make almost everything she says even more nonsensical than it already is. Out of context, her dialogue resembles little more than a stream of non sequiturs. In context, it’s not much better.

Serika also suffers from gushing nosebleeds that happen so regularly she needs to wear a special mask to contain the flow. These nosebleeds are particularly powerful whenever she’s around the object of her affections, Nao, a shy boy who spends all of his lunchtime hiding in the toilets. (I wish I’d had somewhere to hide during lunch when I was at school.) This is where Serika introduces herself (rather abruptly) to him, and toilets in general become the closest thing this manga has to a theme. Serika attaches herself to Nao, and brings him on a number of plotless adventures. Often, everything gets covered in blood, to the point where it all looks like a scene from a horror film. And Nao ends up having to crossdress a number of times, which is fun. (The spoilers are in the next paragraph, by the way.)

 

By the end, Nao does end up falling in love with Serika, but the problem is that it happens in an extremely forced and awkward way. Nao realises that his life is boring without Serika, but he’s never given enough time to make the transition from being exasperated at her behaviour to enjoying it and then to loving her. And there are some extremely uncomfortable aspects to their relationship, too. Serika means well, but she rarely gives Nao any privacy and often makes him do stuff he’d rather not. As for Nao, he never does explain this to Serika, so he’s basically just staying with her for superficial reasons. It’s true that this would be difficult, but how is their relationship going to be in any way meaningful if he doesn’t? To me, it feels like he’s taking advantage of her. Neither of them understand how the other feels, and neither go through enough character development for their love to work. It’s a shame, because it could have been handled a lot better, and gives an otherwise brilliant story a weak and slightly tasteless ending.

Originally posted on Notes From The Devil Dollhaus:

This is an excerpt of a ninja gig where Astral Knife performed an excerpt of Nick Zedd’s “Extremist Manifesto” at his art show Friday evening. At least as much of it as I was able to get through before BK Fireproof shut us down. (At least they didn’t kick us out completely.)

We weren’t supposed to be doing this, anymore than we were supposed to be improving in  Lowell Cemetery after dark or setting wine doused dollar bills on fire in a crowded 2 foot space. What?

Anyway, thanks everyone who made this a great, charged evening. Now I’m spending the rest of it with my husband.

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