"the quest": common theme among WG books

It seems to me that WG's novels all appear to have a common theme of some individual/organization/entity seeking to be "complete" by becoming united with "something" be it its mirror image or an object/individual.

Wintermute - Neuromancer
Marly - "the box artist"
Bobby Newmark and Angie

Rydell and the "sunglasses"
Rez and the idoru
(ok, I admit I haven't finish All Tomorrow's Parties, but I'm reading it now)

and so on.

Shit, I wish I had time for another master's degree.

Any comments?
Original Post
Change. Evolution. Growth. That's what I feel is the main theme, the "quest" all GW's constructs must endure.
Some make it... some don't. Some grasp it after a struggle. Some stumble onto it. Some like Case get saved (btw, sorry if this sounds farfetched, but I feel something like a big identification of GW with Case's persona... as if his "salvation" at the end and his turning into a family man is analogue to what he (GW) must have experienced in real life. End of wild speculation). Some like Lise and Count Zero end up crossing to transhumanity. Some just get splatted on the windshield.
This thread reminds me of Vladimar Propp's ground-breaking book, "Morphology of the Folktale".

The themes mentioned are universal and standard in the building of a classic oral folk tale.

Chapter III - "The Functions of Dramatis Personae" describes the different stages that a protaganist goes through. If you build a story up around these themes it works.

Here's a summary of Propp's structure:

Propp's Structure of the Magic Tale

I. Introductory sequence

1. Family member leaves family--the hero is introduced.
2. Interdiction--don't do X
3. Interdiction is violated--hero does X anyway
4. Villian--reconnaisance of hero
5. Villian gets information about hero
6. Villian attempts to deceive hero with trickery
7. Hero submits to trickery -- complicity.

II. Body of the story

8. Villian causes harm or injury through villany; villian carries off a victim, the hero or the desired magical object, which must be retrieved.
8a. A member of the hero's family lacks something, or wants something.
9. Lack is made known to the hero.
10. Hero agrees to counteraction
11. Hero leaves home

III. Donor sequence (magic agent obtained)

12. Hero is tested/questioned.
13. Hero reacts.
14. Hero receives a magical agent/object which helps in quest.
15. Transfer to place where the lack is to be found
16. Combat with villian
17. Hero is branded
18. Villian is defeated
19. Lack is liquidated--object of the quest is obtained by the hero (the tale often ends here, but may continue to the fourth sphere of action)

IV. Hero's return

20. Hero sets off for home
21. Hero is pursued
22. Rescued from pursuit (tale often ends here, but can continue)
23. Hero arrives home and is not recognized
24. False hero presents claims of true hero
25. Difficult task is set
26. Task is resolved
27. True hero is recognized
28. False hero is unmasked
29. Epiphany of true hero--new appearance/transfiguration
30. Villian is punished
31. Marriage and rule of true hero


Dramatis Personae

1. Hero (also the Seeker or Victim)
2. Villian
3. Donor (from whom the hero gets some magical object)
4. Magical Helper (the character that helps the hero in the quest)
5. Dispatcher (the character that makes the lack known)
6. False Hero (the character who takes credit for hero's actions)
7. Prince/princess (person the hero marries)
8. Victim (person harmed by the villian if not the hero)

Read more here:

[This message was edited by Fashionpolice on April 05, 2003 at 02:33 AM.]
I guess that's why WG books are so interesting ... you're often not sure who the villian and the heroes are, and often the hero is working for the villian. In addition, completion of the quest is often not the climax, or the quest becomes irrelevant (e.g., nobody "got to" Rez, the marriage of Rez and Rei supersedes the original quest).
I find that all of Gibson's books have strong Jungian themes. Jung was very big on the process of indiviuation and more obviously the reconcilliation with your shadow side. The ending of Neuromancer, where Case feels the hate flow into his hands etc etc is extremely Jungian, and the recurring theme of a creative subconscious which only poets and writers can dip into is another disticntly Jungian concept. I doubt that Gibson is using an undergradutate psychology textbook to plan his novels, I think he's just wired that way,


My frog has piles
The concept of sudden and searched-for evolution, that WG seems to illustrate in most of his novels, are very similar to the overcoming of Nietzsche, where humanity most not perdure but evolve toward a greater, more complex being. It's also similar to the path of enlightenment in various religions. The initial quest often seems futile at the end when the true goals are set.
However, the interesting thing is that in WG's stories, it's often the technology itself that evolve, that overcome itself and reach new horizons, as humanity, the creator, are presented as conservative, stagnative(?) beings afraid of change. The IAs go and explore the space as we are trapped in our daily reality, unaware of the vast universe.

"A the great sage Zarathustra once said, what does it matter?" -Nietzsche
Originally posted by dbridger:
This is the first I have heard of Propp, but the synopsis given has a lot of similarities towards Campbell's work. It's been a while, but I think it's called the Hero's Journey?

Propp is like the grand-daddy of this kind of structural analysis. The campbell book you're refering to is probably "The Hero With A Thousand Faces" which was a corking good read... Interesting as a method of analysis but I'm not sure if artists actually use that style of thinking to create the structures of their stories. that the structure is so universal seems to indicate that we're wired up to best recieve stories in that form, maybe because we automatically recognize it as a condensced form of how we experience trials and journeys in our own lives. Still I'm a huge fan of Campbell who seemed ike a right good fellow.
well, yes, stories have to be about something, but quests are a more structured kind of story ...

I haven't read so much Campbell, never heard of this Propp person, but I think the theme of the quest is pretty strong in WG's novels. One person employs another person or a group of people to A) solve a mystery, B) locate "the mcguffin" or C) both ... our hero has some emotionally compelling reason to take on the task, something other than money. Ordeals, epiphany, homecoming ... Not all stories have those elements, some stories are just about shit happening. And some of those stories are pretty good, like Carson McCullers' THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER -- that's a good story, but there's no quest in it -- it's basically just a story where things happen without a pre-set pattern.

So yes, I think many of WG's novels are specifically about quests.
I don't think that stories are "about" quests, so much as a quest is a framework for advancing the plot that we all recognize at some level. Since the stories are much more than just the plot, the stories are much more than just the quest.

So I guess one of the underlying questions here is "Why use the framework of a quest as opposed to something else?"

Someone else could probably drum up some other plot patterns (maybe a writer out there?), but I suppose something where the progression of the plot is controlled externally to the hero. The quest seems to be very hero-centric, since the hero can affect the plot progression with how hard he tries, for example.
I think Gibson's work is relatively predictable, at least from a structural standpoint.

1. Character is introduced and shortly begins a 'job' for someone rich and/or mysterious.
2. Character interacts with other seemingly coordinated characters to complete his or her job.
3. Character discovers hidden value of job's object at some point.
4. Character has a hunch or discovers his employer has competition, which in turn puts him/her at grave risk. Shortly afterward these opposing agents make themselves known.
5. Other characters get in deep shit or get killed helping the main character.
6. Job seems to be complete but other subtexts wind down while main character finishes up.
7. Mysterious money man is revealed and it's surprising. Motive is also fully revealed, finally.
8. Some crazy action that throws you for a curve happens at the very end. Who thought Rei Toei was gonna step out of thousands of those machines?
9. Crazy shit makes you wonder what's gonna happen next, but since the book is already over, you wait for the next book.
10. Gibson never follows up on crazy shit that happened of the end of the last book. It just happened and has no bearing on the future, even if it has the potential to render the world as we know it completely different.

Sound pretty close?
Actually it sounds like the plot of pretty much every detective, crime or action movie of the last fifty years.

Thereby proving that while we like plots to be relentlessly forward moving, efficient and not hokey or artificially goosed to make the story work, it's CHARACTERS and atmosphere and subtext that make us care.
And that's the stuff which isn't mechanical or fakeable. And that's why we're all here posting on this board.
True - but with all that wonderful technology making the world confusing but beautiful...

Contrast this with Chevette Washington, who is
like people I've met, and very much an outsider;
from both the real and virtual worlds that offer
so much, but are not much of a help when life gets