The Peripheral
January 16, 2017 6:15 AM - by William Gibson - Subscribe

William Gibson's 2014 novel is a noirish scifi thriller that, as usual for Gibson, raises many more questions than it answers. Set in two different-but-related post-apocalyptic worlds, it's something of a return to his early work, but by no means a rehash.

I liked this book so much that I immediately re-read it (unheard of for me). I think it's Gibson's best work since Neuromancer.

It seems clear to me that this book is the beginning of another Gibson series. What I am dying to find out is, is Flynne's world an alternate in a many-worlds universe, or is it a simulation?
posted by ubiquity (15 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I had been meaning to start this but got distracted. Entering cyberspace now.
posted by sammyo at 11:17 AM on January 16, 2017


I really enjoyed this! I thought it sagged a bit in the middle, but had so many treats sprinkled throughout for the reader I didn't care. My first Gibson novel - I got into him via his essay collection.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 12:23 PM on January 16, 2017


I've always been a fan of Gibson, the really enjoyed The Peripheral. The 'deep premise' is interesting and is open for further exploration.

It's a complicated story that can be enjoyable to unravel and try to figure out what, exactly, is going on. On the other hand, it's written well enough to be enjoyable on the surface.

Some interesting allegory/warning on end-stage capitalism.
posted by porpoise at 1:40 PM on January 16, 2017


I wouldn't hold out too much hope for any sequels or for the question of many-worlds versus simulation being answered; from an interview with the author:
Is this the first part of a trilogy?

I don't think so. This is a standalone piece. I think this multiverse material has such inherently appalling genre cheese potential that writing sequels would inevitably involve explaining where and what the server is and who is doing what to whom. That would retroactively cheese out the original volume. We've seen this before with other books – no need to name names. The only reason for those sequels is economic. It's OK – I can afford not to write this sequel. I've already got an idea for something else that's considerably different.
In light of geopolitics since the book's release, I've been thinking that the Jackpot might be too optimistic a take, not that the setting should be taken as predictive.
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 8:00 PM on January 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


Sigh.
posted by ubiquity at 7:08 AM on January 17, 2017


oh I quite enjoyed this book as well! I think it was the first... no the second one I made a book map for, and I'm quite glad I did, because it really helped me enjoy it to remember who the characters are (which is something I struggle with)
posted by rebent at 6:32 PM on January 18, 2017


Like too many of Gibson's last few books, the climax after an engrossing, fascinating build, comes too quickly and is over. Unlike most of his books, the reveal of the villain really felt arbitrary and not well motivated. He got a little Stephenson-ish on this one, but did redeem it a bit with his epilogue.

None of this is to say I disliked the book at all (though the inhabitants of the Pacific Gyre seemed oddly only there for shock value) -- I really enjoyed it, and it's a great return-to-SF from his last trilogy, of which only the third felt like it was really firing on all cylinders.

One detail that I honestly think only Bill Gibson could fully sell as deeply weird and totally feasible future details was The Parliament of Birds. Other authors (maybe Mieville, maybe Sterling) would have come up with it but only Mieville would have a chance at really making it work aside from Gibson. As soon as it got to that part, I went all swoony again with the old magic he's so good at digging up.
posted by tclark at 7:51 AM on January 19, 2017 [6 favorites]


Re-reading in preparation for the sequel and came across this exchange between Lev and Netherton, regarding Lowbeer:

“I sometimes find my family oppressive,” Lev said. “It’s interesting, to meet someone with a countervailing degree of agency.”

“Isn’t she basically doing the City’s will, though? And aren’t your family and the Guilds quite deeply in one another’s pockets?”

“We all do the City’s will, Wilf. Don’t imagine otherwise.”
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:42 PM on January 12, 2020 [4 favorites]


Does anyone else get a nice "Jackpot" vibe from the last few weeks?
posted by lalochezia at 4:53 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]


Just finished it, and enjoyed it, but on reflection, I find the animating plot point—that future-Lev would hire past-Burton to pilot a quadcopter for routine security—doesn't quite hold up. Initially I thought Gibson was going to write about economic colonialism of the past by the future, which would have been interesting, but no, Lev (or his AIs) just regarded Burton as a reasonable resource to hire for what must have been a very routine job. NBD, just using my time machine to find a gig worker.

It would have made more sense if Lowbeer had an inkling that Something Would Be Up (which she probably would have), and pulled Lev's strings to hire someone from the past to witness that Something, on the assumption they'd be more secure against assassination, but there's no suggestion that's the case, unless I missed it. Which I might have.
posted by adamrice at 5:23 PM on June 15, 2021


I find the animating plot point—that future-Lev would hire past-Burton to pilot a quadcopter for routine security—doesn't quite hold up. Initially I thought Gibson was going to write about economic colonialism of the past by the future, which would have been interesting, but no, Lev (or his AIs) just regarded Burton as a reasonable resource to hire for what must have been a very routine job. NBD, just using my time machine to find a gig worker.

My take was that it wasn't intended to be a serious level of security, just a novelty for the wealthy like a living Tamagotchi that happens to do lightweight security. The point, IMO, was that these wealthy future dilatants were creating duplicate worlds with billions of real people in them but treating them as a hobby to toy with. And that's why everything goes off the rails when it turns out that the novelty witnesses something important.

Also, it wasn't Lev who hired Burton; the connection was that Wilf gave the connection to Daedra to try to impress her and she wasn't interested and passed it onto Aelita.
posted by Candleman at 10:39 PM on October 23


Finally got around to reading this because of the series and while I normally love Gibson, I'm not a fan of this one. The setup is interesting but I've found the writing style to be so frustratingly dense while at the same time, the plot is just painfully slow. This could have been a 150 page book without all the extra verbiage.
posted by octothorpe at 6:37 PM on November 7


I liked The Peripheral. And I liked Agency as well. Certainly better than Spook Country and Zero History. Just started watching the prime show. His name is "Wilf" not "Wolf", closed captioning dudes.
posted by Windopaene at 12:14 PM on November 10


This is the first of Gibson’s I’ve read since Virtual Light; when did his writing style shift? He seems to have taken a dislike to sentence subjects. Once he would have written, "Flynne/She walked over to the computer, and turned it on." This novel rendered it, "Walked over to the computer. Turned it on." It took a minute to get used to, as I sometimes has to reread paragraphs to figure out who was doing what.
posted by kaisemic at 4:51 PM on November 15


My library copy came due after two extensions and I had to give it back after not finishing it. I had the same issue with it that kaisemic had, it's so hard to figure out who's doing what and where that I gave up. The series is much easier to follow.
posted by octothorpe at 2:38 PM on November 17


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