Book Report: Johnny Mnemonic by Terry Bisson (1995)

I bought this book from a garage sale in my eBay days for a quarter. As you know, gentle reader, I don’t shy away from novelizations of movies (see also The Enforcer and Desperately Seeking Susan). So I read this book even though I haven’t yet seen the movie.

As you might know, it’s based on a screenplay by William Gibson based on a short story by William Gibson. Instapundit once repeated a question from Stuart Buck:

STUART BUCK on the novelization of the Narnia movie: “If you make a movie out of a classic and beloved children’s book that has sold millions of copies, why on earth would you want to have someone write a book based on the movie?”

Duh! Because if the original novel sold more copies, the movie studios wouldn’t get a cut. But with the synergy of rewriting the source material and releasing it as new, preferably by one of the parent company’s subsidiaries, you get an alternate source of revenue for the property. Heck’s pecs, I haven’t even been to Hollywood and I grok that.

But I digress. This book details the story of a courier with a flash drive (or the 1995 predicted equivalent) wired into his head. A pair of scientists hire the courier to carry a large secret to Newark, but as the upload completes, organized criminals burst in and put the courier on the run. Also, the courier has overextended himself; the scientists uploaded 320 gigabytes (not megabytes), so the overload is beginning to to impair him. He races to Newark looking for his contact, but the organized crime figures are on his tail, driving the courier underground with the Lotek gang and an enhanced but attractive young woman.

It’s a quick little cyberpunk book which preceded the mainstreamization of the cyberpunk genre. It’s also interesting to read about Johnny Mnemonic, portrayed by Keanu Reeves in the movie, as jacking into the matrix–several years before Reeves jacked into the film that revitalized his career. Many people see this story as a precursor for The Matrix, but that stretches reality a little bit–there’s no paranoia fiction aspect to it at all.

A quick read, worth the quarter.

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