Burning Chrome

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Overview

Best-known for his seminal sf novel Neuromancer, William Gibson is actually best when writing short fiction. Tautly-written and suspenseful, Burning Chrome collects 10 of his best short stories with a preface from Bruce Sterling, now available for the first time in trade paperback. These brilliant, high-resolution stories show Gibson's characters and intensely-realized worlds at his absolute best, from the chip-enhanced couriers of "Johnny Mnemonic" to the street-tech melancholy...

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Burning Chrome

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Overview

Best-known for his seminal sf novel Neuromancer, William Gibson is actually best when writing short fiction. Tautly-written and suspenseful, Burning Chrome collects 10 of his best short stories with a preface from Bruce Sterling, now available for the first time in trade paperback. These brilliant, high-resolution stories show Gibson's characters and intensely-realized worlds at his absolute best, from the chip-enhanced couriers of "Johnny Mnemonic" to the street-tech melancholy of "Burning Chrome."

William Gibson's (Count Zero, Neuromancer) dark visions of computer cowboys, bio-enhanced soldiers of fortune, and hi-tech lowlifes have won unprecedented praise. Included here are some of his most famous short fiction and novellas.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060539825
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/29/2003
  • Edition description: First EOS Paperback Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 240,534
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

William Gibson

William Gibson’s first novel, Neuromancer, won the Hugo Award, the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award, and the Nebula Award in 1984. He is credited with having coined the term “cyberspace,” and having envisioned both the Internet and virtual reality before either existed. His other novels include All Tomorrow’s Parties, Idoru, Virtual Light, Mona Lisa Overdrive, and Count Zero. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with his wife and two children.

Biography

Science fiction owes an enormous debt to William Gibson, the cyberpunk pioneer who revolutionized the genre with his startling stories of tough, alienated loners adrift in a world of sinister high technology.

Gibson was born in Conway, South Carolina, and spent much of his youth in Virginia with his widowed mother. He grew up shy and bookish, discovering science fiction and the literature of the beats at a precociously early age. When he was 15, he was sent away to private school in Arizona, but he left without graduating when his mother died suddenly. He fled to Canada to avoid the draft and immersed himself in '60s counterculture. He married, moved to British Columbia, and enrolled in college, graduating in 1977 with a degree in English. Around this time he began to write in earnest, combining his lifelong love of science fiction and his newfound passion for the punk music evolving in New York and London.

In the early 1980s, Gibson met writer and punk musician John Shirley and sci-fi authors Lewis Shiner and Bruce Sterling. All three were blown away by the power and originality of Gibson's stories, and together the four men went on to forge a radical new literary movement called cyberpunk. In 1984, Gibson's groundbreaking first novel, Neuromancer, was published. Daring and revolutionary, it envisioned such techno-marvels as AI, virtual reality, genetic engineering, and multinational capitalism years before they became realities. Although it was not an immediate sensation, Neuromancer struck a chord with hardcore sci-fi fans who turned it into a word-of-mouth hit. Then it won the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Awards (the Triple Crown of Science Fiction), catapulting Gibson into superstardom overnight.

Even if he had never written another word, Gibson's impact would be clearly seen in the works of such cutting-edge contemporary authors as Neal Stephenson, Pat Cadigan, and Paul DiFilippo. But, as it is, Neuromancer was just the beginning -- the first book in an inspired trilogy that has come to be considered a benchmark in the history of the genre; and since then, Gibson has gone on to create even more visionary science fiction, including The Difference Engine, a steampunk classic co-authored with Bruce Sterling, and such imaginative post-9/11 cyber thrillers as Pattern Recognition and Spook Country .

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    1. Also Known As:
      William Ford Gibson (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 17, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      Conway, South Carolina
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of British Columbia, 1977

Read an Excerpt

Burning Chrome


By William Gibson

Harper Collins Publishers

Copyright © 2003 William Gibson All right reserved. ISBN: 0060539828

Chapter One

Johnny Mnemonic

i put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded it out with four pairs of tennis socks, not my style at all, but that was what I was aiming for: If they think you're crude, go technical; if they think you're technical, go crude. I'm a very technical boy. So I decided to get as crude as possible. These days, though, you have to be pretty technical before you can even aspire to crudeness. I'd had to turn both these twelve-gauge shells from brass stock, on a lathe, and then load them myself; I'd had to dig up an old microfiche with instructions for hand-loading cartridges; I'd had to build a lever-action press to seat the primers - all very tricky. But I knew they'd work.

The meet was set for the Drome at 2300, but I rode the tube three stops past the closest platform and walked back. Immaculate procedure.

I checked myself out in the chrome siding of a coffee kiosk, your basic sharp-faced Caucasoid with a ruff of stiff, dark hair. The girls at Under the Knife were big on Sony Mao, and it was getting harder to keep them from adding the chic suggestion of epicanthic folds. It probably wouldn't fool Ralfi Face, but it might get me next to his table.

The Drome is a single narrow space with a bar down one side and tables along the other,thick with pimps and thin as greyhounds. One was black and the other white, but aside from that they were as nearly identical as cosmetic surgery could make them. They'd been lovers for years and were bad news in a tussle. I was never quite sure which one had originally been male.

Ralfi was sitting at his usual table. Owing me a lot of money. I had hundreds of megabytes stashed in my head on an idiot/savant basis, information I had no conscious access to. Ralfi had left it there. He hadn't, however, come back for it. Only Ralfi could retrieve the data, with a code phrase of his own invention. I'm not cheap to begin with, but my overtime on storage is astronomical. And Ralfi had been very scarce.

Then I'd heard that Ralfi Face wanted to put out a contract on me. So I'd arranged to meet him in the Drome, but I'd arranged it as Edward Bax, clandestine importer, late of Rio and Peking.

The Drome stank of biz, a metallic tang of nervous tension. Muscle-boys scattered through the crowd were flexing stock parts at one another and trying on thin, cold grins, some of them so lost under superstructures of muscle graft that their outlines weren't really human.

Pardon me. Pardon me, friends. Just Eddie Bax here, Fast Eddie the Importer, with his professionally nondescript gym bag, and please ignore this slit, just wide enough to admit his right hand.

Ralfi wasn't alone. Eighty kilos of blond California beef perched alertly in the chair next to his, martial arts written all over him.

Fast Eddie Bax was in the chair opposite them before the beef's hands were off the table. "You black belt?" I asked eagerly.He nodded, blue eyes running an automatic scanning pattern between my eyes and my hands."Me, too," I said." Gothandlers and an arcane array of dealers. The Magnetic Dog Sisters were on the door that night, and I didn't relish trying to get out past them if things didn't work out. They were two meters tall and mine here in the bag." And I shoved my hand through the slit and thumbed the safety off. Click. "Double twelve-gauge with the triggers wired together."

"That's a gun, "Ralfi said, putting a plump, restraining hand on his boy's taut blue nylon chest. "Johnny has an antique firearm in his bag." So much for Edward Bax.

I guess he'd always been Ralfi Something or Other, but he owed his acquired surname to a singular vanity. Built something like an overripe pear, he'd worn the once-famous face of Christian White for twenty years - Christian White of the Aryan Reggae Band, Sony Mao to his generation, and final champion of race rock. I'm a whiz at trivia.

Christian White: classic pop face with a singer's high- definition muscles, chiseled cheekbones. Angelic in one light, handsomely depraved in another. But Ralfi's eyes lived behind that face, and they were small and cold and black.

"Please," he said, "let's work this out like businessmen." His voice was marked by a horrible prehensile sincerity, and the corners of his beautiful Christian White mouth were always wet. "Lewis here," nodding in the beefboy's direction, "is a meatball." Lewis took this impassively, looking like something built from a kit. "You aren't a meatball, Johnny."

"Sure I am, Ralfi, a nice meatball chock-full of implants where you can store your dirty laundry while you go off shopping for people to kill me. From my end of this bag, Ralfi, it looks like you've got some explaining to do."

"It's this last batch of product, Johnny." He sighed deeply. "In my role as broker - "

"Fence, "I corrected.

"As broker, I'm usually very careful as to sources."

"You buy only from those who steal the best. Got it."

He sighed again. "I try," he said wearily, "not to buy from fools. This time, I'm afraid, I've done that." Third sigh was the cue for Lewis to trigger the neural disruptor they'd taped under my side of the table.

I put everything I had into curling the index finger of my right hand, but I no longer seemed to be connected to it. I could feel the metal of the gun and the foam-pad tape I'd wrapped around the stubby grip ...

(Continues...)


Excerpted from Burning Chrome by William Gibson
Copyright © 2003 by William Gibson
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Source Code: An Introduction
Johnny Mnemonic 1
The Gernsback Continuum 24
Fragments of a Hologram Rose 37
The Belonging Kind 45
Hinterlands 61
Red Star, Winter Orbit 84
New Rose Hotel 109
The Winter Market 124
Dogfight 151
Burning Chrome 179
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First Chapter

Chapter One

Johnny Mnemonic

i put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded it out with four pairs of tennis socks, not my style at all, but that was what I was aiming for: If they think you're crude, go technical; if they think you're technical, go crude. I'm a very technical boy. So I decided to get as crude as possible. These days, though, you have to be pretty technical before you can even aspire to crudeness. I'd had to turn both these twelve-gauge shells from brass stock, on a lathe, and then load them myself; I'd had to dig up an old microfiche with instructions for hand-loading cartridges; I'd had to build a lever-action press to seat the primers -- all very tricky. But I knew they'd work.

The meet was set for the Drome at 2300, but I rode the tube three stops past the closest platform and walked back. Immaculate procedure.

I checked myself out in the chrome siding of a coffee kiosk, your basic sharp-faced Caucasoid with a ruff of stiff, dark hair. The girls at Under the Knife were big on Sony Mao, and it was getting harder to keep them from adding the chic suggestion of epicanthic folds. It probably wouldn't fool Ralfi Face, but it might get me next to his table.

The Drome is a single narrow space with a bar down one side and tables along the other, thick with pimps and thin as greyhounds. One was black and the other white, but aside from that they were as nearly identical as cosmetic surgery could make them. They'd been lovers for years and were bad news in a tussle. I was never quite sure which one had originally been male.

Ralfi was sitting at his usual table. Owing me a lot of money. I had hundreds of megabytes stashed in my head on an idiot/savant basis, information I had no conscious access to. Ralfi had left it there. He hadn't, however, come back for it. Only Ralfi could retrieve the data, with a code phrase of his own invention. I'm not cheap to begin with, but my overtime on storage is astronomical. And Ralfi had been very scarce.

Then I'd heard that Ralfi Face wanted to put out a contract on me. So I'd arranged to meet him in the Drome, but I'd arranged it as Edward Bax, clandestine importer, late of Rio and Peking.

The Drome stank of biz, a metallic tang of nervous tension. Muscle-boys scattered through the crowd were flexing stock parts at one another and trying on thin, cold grins, some of them so lost under superstructures of muscle graft that their outlines weren't really human.

Pardon me. Pardon me, friends. Just Eddie Bax here, Fast Eddie the Importer, with his professionally nondescript gym bag, and please ignore this slit, just wide enough to admit his right hand.

Ralfi wasn't alone. Eighty kilos of blond California beef perched alertly in the chair next to his, martial arts written all over him.

Fast Eddie Bax was in the chair opposite them before the beef's hands were off the table. "You black belt?" I asked eagerly.He nodded, blue eyes running an automatic scanning pattern between my eyes and my hands."Me, too," I said." Gothandlers and an arcane array of dealers. The Magnetic Dog Sisters were on the door that night, and I didn't relish trying to get out past them if things didn't work out. They were two meters tall and mine here in the bag." And I shoved my hand through the slit and thumbed the safety off. Click. "Double twelve-gauge with the triggers wired together."

"That's a gun, "Ralfi said, putting a plump, restraining hand on his boy's taut blue nylon chest. "Johnny has an antique firearm in his bag." So much for Edward Bax.

I guess he'd always been Ralfi Something or Other, but he owed his acquired surname to a singular vanity. Built something like an overripe pear, he'd worn the once-famous face of Christian White for twenty years -- Christian White of the Aryan Reggae Band, Sony Mao to his generation, and final champion of race rock. I'm a whiz at trivia.

Christian White: classic pop face with a singer's high- definition muscles, chiseled cheekbones. Angelic in one light, handsomely depraved in another. But Ralfi's eyes lived behind that face, and they were small and cold and black.

"Please," he said, "let's work this out like businessmen." His voice was marked by a horrible prehensile sincerity, and the corners of his beautiful Christian White mouth were always wet. "Lewis here," nodding in the beefboy's direction, "is a meatball." Lewis took this impassively, looking like something built from a kit. "You aren't a meatball, Johnny."

"Sure I am, Ralfi, a nice meatball chock-full of implants where you can store your dirty laundry while you go off shopping for people to kill me. From my end of this bag, Ralfi, it looks like you've got some explaining to do."

"It's this last batch of product, Johnny." He sighed deeply. "In my role as broker -- "

"Fence, "I corrected.

"As broker, I'm usually very careful as to sources."

"You buy only from those who steal the best. Got it."

He sighed again. "I try," he said wearily, "not to buy from fools. This time, I'm afraid, I've done that." Third sigh was the cue for Lewis to trigger the neural disruptor they'd taped under my side of the table.

I put everything I had into curling the index finger of my right hand, but I no longer seemed to be connected to it. I could feel the metal of the gun and the foam-pad tape I'd wrapped around the stubby grip ...

Burning Chrome. Copyright © by William Gibson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2004

    Classic SF Short Stories

    Burning Chrome is a collection of ten short stories by William Gibson, three of which are collaborations with other authors. It's an eclectic ride as a whole. There is no overriding theme that ties all of the stories together - they range from cyberpunk to surreal. Gibson's prose can be very poetic and he does an excellent job of setting the mood in each story. Even when his characters aren't very likeable, you can still identify with their emotions. 'Johnny Mnemonic', 'New Rose Hotel' and 'Burning Chrome' are written in the same 'Sprawl' setting as many of Gibson's novels. They are sharp and explosive cyberpunk stories that grab your attention and run. 'The Gernsback Continuum' and 'The Belonging Kind' are trips through what could be present day America with surreal twists. 'Red Star, Winter Orbit', written with Bruce Sterling, is the poignant tale of an aging Russian cosmonaut on an equally aging space station. 'Hinterlands' is an eerie view of how far humans will go to satisfy the need for progress and exploration. 'Fragments of a Hologram Rose', 'The Winter Market' and 'Dogfight' are powerful studies of emotion, need, and what it means to be human. Overall, I enjoyed Burning Chrome. Gibson's writing style is fun to read - he can establish mood and atmosphere in a few short sentences. I also like that he uses technology as a means not an end - the focus in the stories is how people interact with each other and technology instead of showcasing what a cool idea a particular future technology would be. His stories tend to deal with the grittier side of human nature, and are not always comfortable to read, but they make you think.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2004

    Cyberpunk Primer

    This collection of short stories is a fascinating look at the early work of William Gibson, the father of the sub-genre 'cyberpunk.' Many of the stories, such as 'Johnny Mnemonic' and 'Burning Chrome' lay the foundation for, and introduce characters from, Gibson's seminal Sprawl Trilogy (Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdirve), which remains his greatest work. Other stories echo more traditional science fiction such as the Twilight Zone or Arthur C. Clarke, with typical Gibson twist. Gibson typically takes an interesting idea, creates an edgy near-future setting and populates it with hip, noirish techno-criminals, tying it all together with poetic prose. Plot and pacing remain his weakness, but the short story format allows him to express himself without having to fill a full-length novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2003

    vintage gibson

    If you're a fan of hard boiled fiction or hard sci-fi, this collection of Gibson's early short stories is for you. When reading the stories consider when they were written. Then you may understand how visionary the author is.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2000

    A good Gibson primer...

    This book is an excellent introduction to the work of William Gibson. These are the stories that will help determine whether one loves or loathes Gibson's style, vision, and characters. The title story contains what someone described as 'high tech and hopeless romance' as the narrator describes a caper to electronically rob a Mafia crimelord. 'New Rose Hotel' is another narrative portraying a bleak future where corporate kidnappings play a part in career moves. The stories with a lighter touch, though, (such as 'The Gernsback Continuum', where a photographer gets exposed to visions of a creepily perfect alternate present) help keep more sensitive readers from reaching for the Prozac. Consider this book a good test sample. Either you will loathe it, in which case you aren't out a whole lot, or else you will enjoy it. In the latter case, Gibson's other books await you!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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