William Gibson’s cyberpunk masterpiece Neuromancer has one of the best opening lines, not only in sf but in literature: “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”
The book’s first few pages, set in an expat bar in near-future Japan called the Chatsubo, are a textbook example of how to yank your reader into an imagined world without boring them with a bunch of leaden exposition. Gibson helps us immediately understand his world — its casual drug use, its cybernetically enhanced populace and street-level con games — not through narrative intrusion but via dialogue, description and action served up in crisp, street-savvy prose.
Check it out: “The bartender’s smile widened. His ugliness was the stuff of legend. In an age of affordable beauty, there was something heraldic about his lack of it. The antique arm whined as he reached for another mug. It was a Russian military prosthesis, a seven-function force-feedback manipulator, cased in grubby pink plastic.”
In one descriptive, action-filled paragraph, Gibson lets us know people in his imagined future can be sculpted into any beautiful shape they want and that advanced cybernetic gear isn’t just commonplace but old enough to be antique. All without slowing us down for a yawn-inducing infodump. That’s a master at work.
It’s writing worth tipping a drink to.
While the only drink I remember being described in the opening chapter of Neuromancer is draft Kirin beer, this week’s cocktail seems like the kind of sophisticated urban refreshment that would be popular in the Chatsubo.
THE CHATSUBO QUENCHER
Shake the liquid ingredients over ice in a shaker and pour into a chilled martini or cocktail glass. Garnish with a long, thin strip of lemon peel.