Study Guide

Neuromancer Memory and the Past

By William Gibson

Memory and the Past

And now [Case] remembered [Linda] that way, her face bathed in restless laser light, features, reduced to a code. (1.41)

Technology and memory are connected throughout the novel. Here, Case describes his first meeting with Linda Lee and envisions her in terms of computer code. When you consider how nerdy Case can be, it's actually kind of sweet of him.

[Case] sat beside Molly in filtered sunlight on the rim of a dry concrete fountain, letting the endless stream of face recapitulate the states of his life. (3.32)

The connection between Case's memory and place accounts for his great sense of comfort. Can you think of any places in your life like this? Favorite restaurant? Vacation spot? The driver's seat?

The Moderns, he'd decided, were a contemporary version of the Big Scientists of his own late teens. There was a kind of ghostly teenage DNA at work in the Sprawl, something that carried the coded precepts of various short-lived subcults and replicated them at odd intervals. (4.39)

Case uses his memory of something he knows to figure out something he doesn't understand. It's a mnemonic device like "please excuse my dear aunt Sally," only we make personal ones everyday, just like Case is doing here.

It was disturbing to think of the Flatline as a construct, a hardwired ROM cassette replicating a dead man's skills, obsessions, knee-jerk responses. (5.54)

The Dixie Flatline is a ROM, or read only memory. He has all the memories, skills, and thoughts of the Dixie Flatline up to the moment he died. However, he can no longer create new memories, meaning he can't grow and change like a person can. We agree with Case; it's a disturbing idea. The man has become a sort of object, forever in stasis.

Case glanced at the embalmed [horse] and shook his head […] The thing's legs had been worn black and hairless by decades of passing hands. "Saw one in Maryland once," the Finn said, "and that was a good three years after the pandemic. There's Arabs still trying to code 'em up from the DNA, but they always croak." (7.60)

Memories of the past collect in Istanbul in the form of antiques. Here, the Finn mentions how people are trying to return to the past but no dice. Imagine Jurassic Park, only with horses. Yeah, it doesn't work so well.

"Babylon," Aerol said, sadly, handing him the trodes and kicking off down the corridor. (8.67)

We think of devices like the trodes as being something from the future. But for members of Zion, the trodes only serve as a reminder of bad memories and the past. In this case, Babylon is the Rasta name for America and Europe, where their ancestors were enslaved.

The weight of memory came down, an entire body of knowledge driven into his head like a microsoft into a socket. (9.86)

Memories and the past are abstract concepts, but isn't it amazing at how physical and real they can be at times? Especially when the memory is a painful one.

"So the work time started bleeding in, and I could remember it… But it was just bad dreams, and not all bad." (11.142)

The mind is a complex bit of hardware. We talk about technology's ability to manipulate memories and the mind in the "Themes: Manipulation" section. Here, Molly manipulates herself into believing the memories are just bad dreams.

"Minds aren't read… I can access your memory, but that's not the same as your mind." (14.82)

Neuromancer's inability to access the complete human mind suggests an incomplete connection between humans and technology. This means Neuromancer can access Case's memory like Google can access your search history, but he read Case's thought just like Google can't read your mind… or can it?

Wintermute had built Armitage up from scratch, with Corto's memories of Screaming Fist as the foundation. But Armitage's "memories" wouldn't have been Corto's after a certain point. (17.12)

The passage suggests that what separates people is not DNA but rather memories. Armitage and Corto have the same DNA, but different memories, so they're different people. Which makes sense. After all, identical twins aren't the exact same person when we're not speaking genetically.

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