Neuromancer And Time Machine A common tool of science fiction writers is the use of a character, to whom the reader can relate, placed in an alien setting. This character will represent the reader in this new alien world or society, allowing the reader to form a link between his or her own world and this new one. Because these characters are placed in unfamiliar settings, a way is presented to defamiliarize our own society and perhaps even look at it in a new way, or from a new angle. These characters play a role in the novel that usually involves some interaction with this alien society that changes their perception of the alien world. It causes the characters to see the society or world in a new light, comparing it to their own more familiar society and seeing the benefits and weaknesses of both. These experiences usually cause these characters to alter their self-perception as well, changing due to the influence of these societies.
Two such novels are Neuromancer, and The Time Machine. In Neuromancer, author William Gibson gives us the character Henry Case, or just Case, as he is referred to throughout the novel. The setting is in the near future, on Earth, and Case is living in a highly technologically advanced time. He used to be a console cowboy, a data thief that could hack into corporate systems and steal information. Case is recruited, against his will, to help an Artificial Intelligence named Wintermute free itself from containment.
In this setting, laws exist to prevent the release of Artificial Intelligences into cyberspace, or what Gibson terms “the Matrix”. These “Turing” laws are not the only methods of preventing AIs from becoming free. Along with the laws, computer security programs guard these AIs, much like other security programs guard information and corporate system. Wintermute requires Case to break through the security holding it in check. At first, Case is unaware of who or what Wintermute is, and he is forced to help it because Wintermute has caused toxin sacs to be placed in Cases bloodstream that will dissolve after a certain amount of time. If Case completes his job (the freeing of Wintermute), then a cure will be provided.
This coercion causes Case to think of Wintermute as a kind of enemy, and he reluctantly helps it. His role is as a tool of an Artificial Intelligence, used against his will for purposes unclear to him. In direct contrast to this, the Time Traveller, from H.G. Wells The Time Machine, decides his own course of action and, in fact, decides to help an “alien” race without their asking. The Time Traveller is a character from Britain in the late 19th century. He designs a time machine and is determined to travel into the future and return to describe what he has seen. He holds a dinner party for several of his friends where he relates his experiences in the future.
He travels to the year 802,701 and discovers two different races, the Eloi and the Morlocks, inhabiting the earth the Eloi on the surface, and the Morlocks below. The first creature he encounters is a member the Eloi, a “very beautiful and graceful creature, but indescribably frail”. He attempts to interact with the Eloi but because their language is so different, he has to slowly build a kind of communication through gestures and sounds. The Time Traveller sees the Eloi as the culmination of humankind, a delicate creature with no need for fear or any type of aggressive or competitive behaviour. When he finally discovers the Morlocks, who live below the surface, he sees them as monsters, “ape-like figures” with large, glassy eyes and pallid skin.
Because of this, the Time Traveller identifies with the Eloi, and forms a relationship with one of them, a female named Weena. When he learns that the Morlocks are carnivorous, and eat the Eloi to survive, he sees the Morlocks as evil. And when he also learns that the Morlocks have stolen his time machine, he decides to fight them to get it back. His role as an observer, and later as a protagonist, is almost the exact opposite of Cases role in Neuromancer. During his “employment” by Wintermute, Case learns several about the Artificial Intelligence that affect the way he thinks about them. Along with recruiting Case, Wintermute has recruited other mercenaries to help free it.
Each of these members has, in some way, been influenced to join in the task of freeing Wintermute, whether by force (like Case), or because Wintermute has saved them in some way and now they feel they owe it. At first, Case saw artificial intelligences as computer constructs, used in conjunction with human-operated systems to reduce the number of tasks and decisions that humans would normally have to do and make. As he gets deeper into the task assigned to him by Wintermute, he learns that the AI has a drive that he was unaware an AI could possess. Wintermute is desperate to be free, and will go to any length to ensure this happens. Wintermute murders people (through control of computer-controlled robots) and manipulates people. When Wintermute finally interacts with Case, he learns that the construct wants the same things that most humans do: freedom, life, an ability to explore and discover their surroundings.
He begins feeling sympathetic, although only to a small degree, for the AI, and he develops a better understanding of what makes us human. Humanity is also a strong theme in The Time Machine. When he first arrives in the future, the Time Traveller sees the Eloi as the culmination of mankind, living in splendour amongst flowery gardens, fountains, and statues. There”were no signs of struggle, neither social nor economical”. He found that that Eloi only ate fruit for sustenance and they interacted and slept in large communal halls. However, upon closer inspection, the Time Traveller realizes that the halls and buildin …