The Peripheral by William Gibson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In a genre overloaded with lighter fare and simply garnished SF tropes, a novel like this from the wonderful William Gibson (of Neuromancer fame) comes along and not only displays gorgeous tech and implications overloading the text, but does it with fantastic prose, delicious turns of phrase, and a boatload of subtlety surrounding some very stark SF events.
His earlier period was the one I was most interested in, ushering in the very term we use today, "Cyberpunk", with equal amounts Noir underdog hacker (replacing gumshoes) against multinational corporations and governments, equally handy with a gun and a fist alongside a computer terminal, heavy experimental tech, and even the odd pantheon of AI gods. :)
The middle period is known for technothrillers and fantastically subtle explorations of culture, specific techs and how they change us in every walk of life. I really appreciate his writing skill and scope, here.
But now he has returned to the SF I loved most... but I should mention this is NOT Cyberpunk. Gibson has long left those roots behind, instead forging his own ideas of the future in the same way he brought about the genre's revolution in the mid-80's.
The Peripheral is more of a huge-scope indictment of our modern world and the directions it is taking. What direction? Oh, just the slow decline and multi-front failures on every front, giving us a dark look at what we will become in 30 years, kept focused on a small cast but with tons of subtle cues everywhere for everything else.
But things don't stay there. We also have a kind of invasion from a hundred years in the future where most of humanity has died to leave only the decadent rich behind, using quantum tunneling technologies to reach back into the past, 70 years in the past, to be precise, to play their own games without remorse or much empathy.
Here we cross paths between these two complex timelines when our blue-collar buddies from the nearer future get caught up in the games of the future, including murder... and one particularly decent guy from that farther time tries to do the right thing. The characters are pretty damn cool. The worldbuilding is very detailed, and the tech never lets you take a breath. We as readers are all supposed to take an active role. :)
A disabled military guy with tattoos that used to let him control complex drones? Hell yeah. Gaming systems that are more like souped-up cosplay run through android-like Peripherals? Hell yeah! Now how about using some of those more powerful techs to game the living hell out of the past?
Muahahahahaha... the scope of this novel is MUCH larger than the blurb would let you guess.
I'm reminded, first and foremost, of William Gibson when I think about this novel. Secondarily, I'd place him in the same complex turns as Daniel Suarez and Iain McDonald and Neal Stephenson. This kind of novel is not meant to be popcorn trash. It seriously considers so many huge points and does it with style and panache while never stinting on the blow-you-away tech and implications. :)
Do I recommend? Hell yeah!
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