In William Gibson's Neuromancer, the character Peter Riviera is initially nominally allied with Case and portrayed as possessing the ability to intrude into the minds of bystanders/audiences/adversaries using whimsical [and often malicious] holographic projections/illusions, i.e., clearly he is a being of nontrivial power.

Toward the end of the book, Riviera's status with respect to Case/Molly seems to change from that of an annoyance/gadfly to that of true antagonist, as he sort-of-teams-up-with 3Jane to thwart the "run." Riviera is also shown taking sadistic pleasure in tormenting the protagonists, even to the degree that 3Jane objects.

In the section where Case encounters Neuromancer in the simulated beach region of the matrix, Neuromancer is described as having the eyes of Riviera.

The thing I'm having trouble piecing together is: what is Riviera's objective, and is he an aspect of [the entity] Neuromancer?

2 Answers 2


There are two major reasons for his betrayal, straight from the man's mouth:

"I possess quality unquantifiable by its very nature." ... Riviera beamed. "Perversity. An enjoyment of the gratuitous act. And I have made a decision, Molly, a wholly gratuitous decision." ...

[Riviera] smiled again. "[Jane] has designs on the family empire, and a pair of insane artificial intelligences would only get in our way. So. Comes her Riviera to help her out, you see."

So first, it's in his nature to betray people. It's what he does. Molly describes it in his profile when he's first recruited: he gets off on getting people, women especially, to trust him, shaping them to his needs, and then discarding them. He betrays them because it's more fun, because it's alluring. This way, he gets to inflict more pain and betrayal, especially to Molly, who's loathed him the entire time.

Secondly, he did because 3Jane asked him to. They had a preexisting relationship, which is the main reason Riviera was hired, because he could get past her defenses. (It certainly wasn't for his personality.) The problem is that he rather likes her; he imagines that she's a kindred spirit, although she would only agree to a certain point. Wintermute failed to see that because it doesn't understand his illogic. (Possibly. Despite Riviera's posturing, it does end up working out in Wintermute's favor.)

Riviera doesn't have any particular connection to Neuromancer. The reason he appears in the dreamscape is that it's built out of memories. Neither of the AIs actually comes up with things; they just remix memories that come from the people they interface with. Wintermute actually explains as much; he uses the construct as a tool to help take Case through the plan for the raid on Straylight, but he can't show things that Case doesn't remember. Neuromancer can only speak to Case through memories as well. The whole beachfront and bunker are a memory of Marie-France Tessier; almost everything else is drawn from Case's own.

Incidentally, Riviera doesn't have any "power", just tech:

"'What you see is what you get', yeah." The Finn nodded. "I seen the schematics on the guy's silicon. Very flash. What he imagines, you see."


Peter Riviera is a pure psychopath—and in particular, a sexual sadist. He derives pleasure from double-crossing people. So he needs no particular motivation to switch sides in the later stages of the group's mission. He gets a thrill from betraying his allies, and he sets up a potentially greater thrill in the future, if he seduces a powerful woman like Lady 3Jane Marie-France Tessier-Ashpool so as to betray her in the future.

Case and Molly discuss Riviera's personality in chapter 7.

"What do we want out of that Riviera?" he asked, hoping to change the subject.

She spat into the pond. "God knows. I’d as soon kill him as look at him. I saw his profile. He’s a kind of compulsive Judas. Can’t get off sexually unless he knows he’s betraying the object of desire. That’s what the file says. And they have to love him first. Maybe he loves them, too. That’s why it was easy for Terzi to set him up for us, because he’s been here three years, shopping politicals to the secret police. Probably Terzi let him watch, when the cattle prods came out. He’s done eighteen in three years. All women age twenty to twenty-five. It kept Terzi in dissidents." She thrust her hands into her jacket pockets. "Because if he found one he really wanted, he’d make sure she turned political. He’s got a personality like a Modern’s suit. The profile said it was a very rare type, estimated one in a couple of million. Which anyway says something good about human nature, I guess." She stared at the white flowers and the sluggish fish, her face sour. "I think I'm going to have to buy myself some special insurance on that Peter." Then she turned and smiled, and it was very cold.

Having seen his file, basically nobody in the group trusts him from, especially (as indicated by the above quote) Molly. (When Molly spits—as she does in that passage—she is actually crying, since her tear ducts have been rerouted into her mouth; that shows the strength of her viscerally negative response to Riviera's character.)

Presumably, Wintermute does not trust Riviera either, but he chooses him anyway. The AI knows that something needs to be done to keep Lady 3Jane from thwarting its plans, and it decides that Riviera is the best tool for the job. He has unique skills and a highly atypical personality—both of which may be useful for the task of suborning or distracting 3Jane. Lady 3Jane is by no means psychologically normal herself. The "evolutionary backsliding" of the Tessier-Ashpools family is a recurring theme in the story; they are called "an atavism" at one point, and Ashpool's behavior when he is awakened is practically beastial. Wintermute evidently believes that Riviera's strange personality—with his desire to seduce and destroy—offers the best chance to persuade 3Jane to give up the password. In the end, this seems not to be the case, but his presence does seem to have been part of what convinces her to side with Case and Molly (and maybe this was even what the AI intended to happen all along).

As to why Riviera's eyes appear on Neuromancer's avatar, I think the AI's answer covers most of it.

"You’ve got Riviera’s eyes," Case said.

There was a flash of white teeth, long pink gums. "But not his craziness. Because they are beautiful to me."

One of the things about Neuromancer is how it often does not seem like other AIs (such as Wintermute). It possesses an eerily sense of aesthetics (something elaborated on, in a way, in Mona Lisa Overdrive). Neuromancer also draws on its knowledge of Case's past to show him images of the dead (Linda Lee, in particular); his use of Peter Riviera's eyes may be an ironic allusion to the fact that Molly has already given Riviera a fatal dose of slow-acting poisons, so that he is, metaphorically speaking, already a dead man himself.

  • 1
    Another possible allusion is that Wintermute is putting on an illusory show for Case, much like Riviera does - albeit with much different motives as he says.
    – Cadence
    Dec 4, 2019 at 0:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.