Molly Millions was young – The Chronicle
“Cyberspace was born where laurel grows lush and verdant; where the dogwoods bloom and the nightjars cry in the windswept branches of the tulip trees.
Jack Womack, who is also a science fiction writer, wrote this in an afterword to his friend William Gibson’s book “Neuromancer”, pointing to Gibson’s childhood playground as an inspiration to the world. in which “Neuromancer” takes place. Ironically, as beautiful as Womack’s description was, there’s nothing to like about Gibson’s postmodern cyber world where “high tech, low life” seeps into every corner. Except Molly Millions.
Molly was the original Shaverthe prototype that Trinity in “Matrix” and Motoko Kusanagi in “Ghost in the Shell” were loosely based on. Sometimes referred to as a mercenary, sometimes a street samurai, by the time Molly appeared in “Neuromancer”, she had already received several body augmentations. Her most recognizable enhancements were surgically encrusted mirror shades that hid her eye sockets. Gibson offered minimal information about Molly to begin with, and those lenses further added to her enigmatic persona. Case, the book’s anti-hero, after breaking up with Molly, said, “I never even found out what color her eyes were. She never showed me. Personally, this open character painting makes it easier to relate to her.
On the one hand, it was full of contradictions. It contains both the stoicism of a professional killer and the sentimentality of a romantic.
There’s something so lovely about the characters who have been through hell and back while retaining a core part of who they came from – a softness in their hearts and vulnerability. Molly is exactly that, despite her physical strength. She had loved a data smuggler named Johnny and lost him in an act of revenge by the Yakuza – gangsters from the cyberpunk world. After that she worked as meat puppet – a prostitute who rents out her body while she’s unconscious – to pay for her cybernetic raises. She shrugged off that painful past with a carefree sense of humor. When Case asked her who she worked for before meeting her, she replied, “For someone else. Working girl, you know?
Sometimes she processed the scar of her past with reminiscence and introspection. Towards the end of the book, she confessed her story to Case a lot and even revealed that Case reminded her of Johnny. She said the Yakuza could wait years and years to give you more to lose before seeking revenge. She said, “I didn’t know it then. Or if I did, I thought it didn’t apply to use. Like when you’re young, you think you’re unique. I was young.”
Who hasn’t been young? Who didn’t once think he was unique and free from the inevitable events of growing old, experiencing pain and loss, and submitting to mediocrity? Most of us have at some point thought something similar to “Nothing was like what I thought it would be”.
The typical coming-of-age model tells us that there are only two ways for the young idealist to end up – either remain non-conforming, eventually facing mental destruction and social rejection, such as the protagonist of “Fight Club”or conform and become the kind of person they so despise, like Renton in “Trainspotting”.
However, Molly offers an alternative to this model. She embodies a bitter compromise between blind, youthful optimism and the inevitable pragmatic survivalism of adulthood in the cyberpunk world. She once thought “no one could ever touch her” her and Johnny. The hard way, she learned to bury such naivety and not count or get too attached to others. Example: “It takes an edge on my game” was the reason she gave Case for leaving him.
When I was younger, growing up meant an abundance of choice, opportunity, and self-determination. This meant, concretely, decorated department store windows, IKEA-style homes and exciting travels. But real adult life, while colorful and seductive like Gibson’s cyberspace, is cold and so brutal. Control is most often an illusion. Sooner or later we will all receive untimely reminders that it is time to prepare for the irreversible change that is coming. We feel it when we watch our dwindling bank accounts (or our food point accounts, for that matter). When our middle-aged parents talk more and more often about health problems. When we get that phone call that suddenly throws our plans down the drain.
Molly offers a cold solace that, for what it’s worth, there’s still a shimmer of shared humanity, even in a world gone wrong. Molly Millions was young. So were millions. I don’t mean I wish to become her, but whenever I feel like the weight of growing up is almost too much to bear, I know I can always open “Neuromancer” and find this razorgirl spitting her tears instead of shedding them.
–Katherine Zhong, local arts writer
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