When I first read Neuromancer, I found the plot difficult to follow because of its dissimilarity with our contemporary world. Reading the book made me feel like I was forced to live in a foreign land where I didn’t know anything about its culture, history, and people. However, as I continued keep up with the reading, I realized that Gibson created a world based upon real events and locations in order to reflect our society. One of the allusions that I found very interesting in Neuromancer is the Rastafari and their promised land called Zion.
Based upon the Rastafari movement in the early 1930s, Gibson’s portrayal of Zion embodies a sense of freedom that is lacking throughout the entire novel. The Elders of Zion are “five workers who’d refused to return” to Freeside, or Babylon as they called it (Gibson 101). They decide to create a society that is free of oppression and materialism, which dominate the lives of other characters. Until this point in the novel, everyone’s lives are driven by some sort of drugs, violence, or power. Case was a hustler in Chiba City, struggling to make some New Yen for drugs and his brain’s cure. Molly was oppressed and tricked as a meat puppet. Armitage was stripped off of his Corto identity. The Elders of Zion, therefore, gave the readers a fresh air of freedom. However, freedom comes with a price as the elders “[had] suffered calcium loss and heart shrinkage before rotational gravity was established in the colony’s central torus.” Yet, they never think about coming back to or even associated with the dreaded Babylon, not until they hear a voice called “Winter Mute” (Gibson 108). In spite of what Case warn them about the AI, they disregard him and said they will help Wintermute because they “are told to help” those that “might serve as a tool of Final Days” (Gibson 109). Wintermute, the figure power of Western society, can easily tell the Elders what to do. This irony suggests that technology sacrifices spirituality for materialism.
Gibson continues to emphasize this defeat of the Rastafari movement by sending Marcus Garvey (a tug) back to Babylon. Initiating the Back-to-Africa movement, the historical Marcus Garvey is believed as a Rastafari prophet. However, it is clear that he is sent away from his promised land of Zion by his own followers.
Leaving the fragile, peripheral site of Zion, Case and his team head toward the industrial, well-established tourist site of Freeside. On the surface, the name of Freeside exactly describes its purpose: a heaven for tourists where they can find any types of entertainment imagined. However, is a place fully supported and operated by cloned humans and technology actually free? Even though the characters in Neuromancer live independent lives in which they live for their own interests and obsession, are they actually free?
For me, the defeat of Rastafari movement depicted in Neuromancer, is a really powerful message about our modern world. We are living in an individualistic and materialistic world where our properties often define who we are, and even more frightening, we often believe that it’s true. Although the future that William Gibson depicts in Neuromancer can be just as imaginary as the future in George Orwell’s 1984, it is clear to me that some of its description has become relevant to our daily life, most illustratively is the obsession with iPhones and other Apple’s products.
And yes, I do say this because I’m jealous of those who are going to buy iPhone 6 next week!
Gibson, William. “Eight.” Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. 99-109. Print.