by William Gibson
Analysis: What's Up With the Ending?
What's up with the ending? You tell us. With an ending like this one, your guess is as good as ours.
See, Neuromancer has what we'd call an open-ended conclusion. We can only say some things definitely happened: Case's body is free of the toxic sacs, and he continues to work as a console cowboy. Molly has left case, but he seems to be okay with it, which is good because he never sees her again. Also Wintermute gets what he wanted.
But the facts of the ending only wrap up the plot of the story. The questions raised by Neuromancer remain unanswered:
- Did Molly leave Case because she was losing her edge (24.3) or because she was afraid he'd end up like Johnny?
- What does Wintermute/Neuromancer mean when he says he is the entire matrix (24.25)? For that matter, what exactly did Wintermute become?
- What did he contact in the Centauri system? Another AI or something else entirely? And what in the world are we supposed to make of that info?
- What about those figures Case spotted in cyberspace that looked like Neuromancer, Linda Lee, and Case himself? What do they represent? What's there purpose?
- What about the ominous laughter that wasn't laughter (24.48)? Sure, it was creepy, but the Dixie Flatline has been deleted, so where did it come from and why?
Some possible interpretations have Wintermute as a sentient, free-willed being that's like a pantheistic, all-encompassing God of cyberspace. Linda Lee continues to live after death in the matrix, suggesting that Case never got free of the matrix, or another Case was created to take his place. Some folks also take this to mean that the "consensual hallucination" (3.94) of cyberspace will become a reality, almost like another dimension (where your doppelgangers can exist without bothering you with pesky #cloneproblems). What was once thought of as just data will be considered actual intelligence.
But maybe these questions are only supposed to hint at their answers. Maybe the questions are the point of the ending. The novel has never shied away from ambiguity in the way it addresses its themes (check out the "Themes" section if you don't believe us). Perhaps the ending is meant to echo Case's words to 3Jane: "I got no idea at all what'll happen if Wintermute wins, but it'll change something!" (23.75). Well, Wintermute won, and things did change, but who knows how or why.
Perhaps what is important for the story's ending isn't figuring out what changes these technologies will bring to the world or how they'll affect the people living there, but only to point out that with technology change is inevitable. It's going to happen, so it's best to roll with it, even if you wind up with a wonky pancreas.
Of course, Neuromancer is the first novel of the Sprawl trilogy. Maybe they'll be some more answers—not to mention more questions—in the next book. But that's not for Shmoop to say. You'll just have to keep on reading.