Johnny Mnemonic

Johnny Mnemonic by Terry Bisson

(novelisation of the movie) Based on the Short Story and Screenplay written by William Gibson
Pocket Books, Published 1995.
Science-Fiction/Novelisation, Rating (7/10)

I had not seen the movie Johnny Mnemonic (starring Keanu Reeves and directed by Robert Longo) at the time I read this book - and I still haven't.  The story is a science-fiction thriller set in the cities of the future - and is based on author William Gibson's work.

In the year 2021, the cities of the world have become so dependent on technology that it's everywhere, and in fact it's causing people worldwide to die of a disease called NAS (Nerve Attenuation Syndrome).  Johnny is a mnemonic courier, that is, he smuggles information in his brain - for the right price.  This is accomplished by a chip implanted in his brain, into which data can be uploaded, transported, and later downloaded.  Of course, because of this, he's lost all his childhood memories.

A company called Pharmakom has actually discovered a cure for NAS, but they're not willing to release it to the public.  Some Vietnamese scientists with a troubled conscience therefore abscond with a copy of the research data, and intend to somehow ensure that the cure is created.

Johnny is the courier they hire for this purpose, and at a meeting with the scientists, the whole data is uploaded into his brain.  The unfortunate thing is that Johnny never expected the size of the data to be 320 GIGABYTES!  The chip in his brain is way overloaded, and there's now a real danger that the data from the chip may seep into his brain, which would kill him, and completely corrupt the data.  To top that, Pharmakom has sent a group of elite Japanese mafia - the Yakuza (those it is never wise to notice) after the scientists.  And of course, they realise that Johnny's got the information they want, so they decide to cut off his head and retrieve the chip.

Johnny escapes to Newark, but is unable to get the information out of his brain because the download code is missing (part of it is with the Yakuza).  Johnny happens to meet a gang of cyber criminals called the Loteks, and a woman named Jane, with whose help he must try to stay alive and extract the data in his brain before it is lost forever.

A very imaginative story and unusual characters (the Yakuza assassin Shinji, Street Preacher, and Jones, the drug-addicted dolphin) make this book interesting to read.  It contains strong violence and a lot of profanity.