Is Gibson incompetent, or am I?

The title of this post was inspired by a Reddit post entitled “Is Neuromancer confusing and poorly written, or am I stupid?” that accurately summed up the feelings I had while reading the novel. The question led me to two possible answers; a mathematical one, and one from the author himself.

The Voyant software includes a text analysis called “vocabulary density,” which is found by dividing the number of unique words in a text by the total number of words. For Neuromancer, this value is .112. This means that about 11% of the words in the book are unique. According to Voyant, the average sentence length in the novel is 10.6 words, meaning that a unique word is introduced in about every sentence. This mathematically explains why Neuromancer is so hard to understand, especially on the first read.

The second resource I found was an article written by William Gibson himself, titled “how I wrote Neuromancer.” In it, he admits he “had so very little idea of how to write a novel,” and that he “would write, then, to the audience I imagined in the future of my discovery by friendly if unimaginable forces, and to them alone. A message in a bottle. It only mattered that I get it as right as I possibly could for them.” For Gibson, it seems that the point of the novel was not to create a friendly read for the Sci-fi readers of the 80’s, but to create a prediction of the future.

In this video clip, Gibson talks about how one of his goals when writing was to challenge the science fiction genre, and how this can cause readers with preconceived expectations of the genre to think of his writing as a “failure.”

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