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Unpacking The Personality Of Neuromancer’s Molly Millions

A lonely woman against a sci-fi landscape - Reviewing Molly Millions from William Gibson's Neuromancer

Molly Millions: mysterious, but still a razor girl’s razor girl

William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy (which begins with Neuromancer) is a genre-defining series, crystallizing cyberpunk as a valid space within science fiction. Within each of the books of the Sprawl trilogy is an enigmatic cyborg woman named Molly Millions, though she doesn’t always go by that name. Frequently, characters refer to Molly as a “razor girl”, an epithet for typically attractive women who have received robotic augmentations which make them effective combatants. Molly is the cyberpunk femme fatale, and she dresses to kill, complete with black leather, reflective shades, and knives beneath her fingernails.

Molly is actually depicted in another Gibson novel within the same universe: Johnny Mnemonic. Molly is core to the plot of each of the stories that she is in, and in Neuromancer is one of the intimate liaisons of the protagonist. Despite this, Molly is difficult for readers to get to know. She’s had a bit of a rough go at things.

Life is Pretty Tough

Molly Millions is unemotional and frequently described as emotionally unreachable by her companions. As her implants are for the purposes of violence, Molly does everything she can to avoid looking weak emotionally and makes it seem effortless. Despite regular killing, betrayal, and changing circumstances, Molly maintains a stoical and adaptive approach that masks her actual thoughts. Her approach toward life is best described as unsentimental, though it’s unclear how much of this is an act that she puts on to avoid seeming weak.

Before becoming a razor girl, Molly was, in her terms, a “meat puppet”–a kind of technological prostitute that is implanted with memory-blanking and personality-swapping devices, allowing implantees to rent out their bodies as prostitutes for periods of time that they will not remember. Molly describes her time as a meat puppet as deceptively enjoyable and claims that she was content to wake up each morning feeling vaguely sore, with more money in her bank account than before and a full day to spend it. It is also that Molly’s time as a meat puppet spawns her fondness for Mona during Mona Lisa Overdrive. As a young and naive robotically augmented prostitute, Mona likely reminds Molly of her former self.

With that being said, we also get a glimpse of Molly’s actual morality from her description of being a meat puppet. Molly’s final straw with being a meat puppet occurred when her memory-blanking implant failed during a session with a client in which another prostitute was killed for the pleasure of the client, who was a powerful public figure. Despite being willing to sell her body, Molly is unable to accept being an unwilling accomplice to murder. Molly ends up confessing this incident to Case, the protagonist of Neuromancer.

Case and Molly

Molly Millions seems to have no confidantes until Case spends enough time with Molly to gain her trust as a result of their shared mission. Trust is a pretty big issue for Molly. Molly is very slow to warm up to outsiders and seems to be still emotionally harmed by the death of her paramour prior to the events of Neuromancer. Case is also mourning a lover at the time of his discussions with Molly, giving them even more common ground. As such, it’s only with an abundance of time spent with Case and mutually suffered manipulation and trauma that the two grow closer.

Molly and Case grow to trust each other, though their relationship is strained by Molly’s role as Case’s bodyguard. What we end up learning is that Molly is accustomed to people trying to exploit her and manipulate her, and her only real loyalty is to the people in her life that are similarly trapped. Case and Molly have a sexual relationship which seems to fulfill each of their needs at least enough for it to continue. It’s difficult to say that the two of them are emotionally bonded or attached, though–for Molly, people are temporary, and it doesn’t pay to hang on too hard. Later, Molly acknowledges that her attraction to Case was purely as a result of his similarity to her previous lover.

Ultimately, Molly dumps Case with a note, leaving without saying goodbye. It’s very likely that she felt as though she was getting too close, and starting to fear the very real danger of losing Case to death.

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Not Exactly What People Think of as “Girl Power”

Molly Millions has a bunch of implants which make her effective at killing people, most of which are not visible to outsiders. The exception is Molly’s mirrored sunglasses, which are actually implanted onto her face for the purposes of enhanced vision. The consequences of this augmentation are a re-routing of her tear ducts to her mouth, resulting in her tears filling her mouth when she cries. From this, we can infer when Molly is crying in occasions prior to the reader learning about this side effect of implantation.

It turns out that Molly cries far more than she lets on to, and that her sunglasses actually allow her to cry at times when she’d otherwise outwardly suppress the expression of emotion. Molly is emotionally damaged but has responded to trauma with layers of scar tissue which are well hidden beneath her cool demeanor and reputation as a razor girl. Molly seems to also have post-traumatic stress disorder, commenting to Case regarding her frequent dreams of her meat puppet and early razor girl days, perhaps as a side effect of her meat puppet implants. None of this is visible from the outside, however. Above all, Molly has trained herself to maintain an impenetrable facade.

Even those who get to know Molly deeply well believe that the facade is real–and in a sense, it is. In Mona Lisa Overdrive, one of Molly’s closest friends is the criminal fence Finn, who it is implied has known Molly for many years. Despite this Finn keeps most of their discussion to matters of shop, or criminal politics, not prying into Molly’s past whatsoever. Molly is deeply hurt by Finn’s death and seems even more disturbed that she can’t stop engaging the artificial-intelligence replica of Finn in long conversations in an attempt to re-experience her dead friend. Tough luck for Molly, again.

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