I’m re-reading Neuromancer, William Gibson’s sci-fi/cyberpunk classic. The book amazes me as much now as it did when I read it back in the ’80s. The writing is lean and sharp as a scalpel, the world is realized in exacting detail, and the pace moves the reader forward while still immersing the reader in different locales.
However, on this re-reading I realized that Case, the hacker protagonist, isn’t the uber-hacker he’s portrayed to be. He’s just a script kiddie; that is, he just uses pre-written programs that he had no involvement in creating.
He doesn’t uncover any weaknesses in the system he’s meant to be attacking. He doesn’t craft any exploits or discover software vulnerabilities. He doesn’t even social-engineer anyone to steal credentials or gain system access. Most of the computing work is either handled by Dixie Flatline, a virtual construct of one of Case’s teachers, or by virus software that was given to Case.
In other words, Case is a bit of a passive protagonist. It seems like his primary role is look over Molly’s shoulder as she does the physical legwork of breaking into places and shooting people.
That said, considering this was Gibson’s first novel, it’s easy to forgive Case’s script kiddie status. The novel still stands as an exemplar of near-future, noir-drenched, sci-fi that’s a pleasure to read.