First off I have to note how incredibly much the heavy hacker card game Android: Netrunner draws on Neuromancer. Terms like ICE, icebreaker, flatline, tracer all appear to have their roots here, as well as shout-outs like the name Armitage. It's a treat.
There's a ton of world-building terminology and Gibson doesn't slow down to explain. It's sink or swim, a lot of work. But really really good.
The climax was almost too immersive...I kept thinking of that part of 2001: A Space Odyssey where the camera flies between two endless planes of colorful light (wtf...?) If not for the brief here's-what-happened-to-the-characters coda, I'd have been lost.
Having just finished Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, I found myself comparing them frequently. Gibson is the better writer, I think, but he also made it much harder to maintain momentum. I periodically found myself about to read the same sentence for the fourth time in a row, just kind of spacing out. As dense as it was, Snow Crash felt like a lighter read.
Plot points: John is action-packed with issues and starts seeing an abrasive, straight-talking shrink. Suzie's library is destroyed by the Sex Police. John and Suzie let Rachel and Robert Rainbow (yes really) in on their secret.
v2 lacks the gobsmacking coming-of-age wonder that set the first volume apart, but the writing continues to be wickedly sharp and funny. The fourth-wall-breaking and meta-commentary are deft and strike exactly the right tone. The illustration is phenomenal (and starts to border on the pornographic in v2). Almost photoreal at times.
In v1 he tackles
--a sex-predator body-modding cult leader
--the corrupt president of the United States
--and a string of predacious religious leaders.
(For the latter he dresses up as Jesus and trashes the booths at a wacked out religion conference while ranting about their abuse of people who don't know any better. Just like Christ cleansing the Temple of money changers. It's glorious.)
Much of the action takes place within the Metaverse, a sort of 3D virtual reality cyberworld--basically the internet as depicted in Futurama.
Disrupting this glorious Eden of individual sovereignty is a drug (snow crash) that turns functional human beings into placid gibbering idiots, and a computer virus (also called snow crash) that turns hackers into mind-wiped gibbering idiots. A pizza delivery boy and a skateboard courier undertake to find the source of the poisons and save the world.
Snow Crash isn't without problems.
--Whinge #1) The pizza boy hero protagonist (awesomely named Hiro Protagonist because "you'll never forget it") is conveniently the world's greatest hacker AND the world's greatest swordsman. His courier partner YT, a 15 year old girl with a badass skateboard and a uniform full of badass gadgets, is basically Batman. Because of course she is.
--Whinge #2) Snow Crash starts fast and fascinating but then a third of the way in collapses under the weight of its own exposition. A digital librarian lectures Hiro (and us) ad nauseum on Sumerian history, biopsychology, linguistics, glossolalia, archaeology, and ancient Middle Eastern mythology. It's not uninteresting but the plot screeches to a halt for a good hundred pages.
--Whinge #3) The most abrupt ending of any book in the history of ever. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT STEPHENSON YOU COLOSSAL DICK??
BUT. Totally worth it. Now that I've read it I see Snow Crash's influence everywhere, movies and board games and books and video games, everywhere. Except for the lecture portion it was extremely hard to put down. Plus it has awesome nuclear-powered cyborg doggies. I just wanted to hug 'em.
There's a recurring harpoon theme that I don't know how to interpret. Main Bad Guy Raven is a harpoon-throwing Aleut. YT uses a magnetic harpoon to tag rides on her skateboard in traffic. Moby Dick is referenced. Raven gets (ow) harpooned in the (ow) manhood while (ow) having sex with his girlfriend. I'm sure someone smarter than me has extracted some literary significance from this motif. It's everywhere.