The Peripheral by William Gibson
Here’s the thing for the average reader to remember when starting a novel by William Gibson – it’s often confusing for the first quarter or third of the book. Once he starts bringing the threads together, it turns into a fascinating story that challenges the brain.
Flynne lives in a deteriorating future United States. Homeland Security is the major law enforcement in the country. The best way to escape a hand to mouth existance is to join the military, work for Hefty Corporation, or get involved in the drug trade. Her brother Burton chose the military. He’s back now, changed but able to live a normal life with only minor PTSD. He has a part time job with a video game company doing beta testing. Occasionally Flynne takes a shift for him when he has other obligations.
Netherton lives in London. He’s in public relations. In his current job he works with a performance artist who sells her actions and her body art for her fame. Now she is getting ready to make a diplomatic sky dive into a floating isolationist country. Netherton is to keep her on track and not screw up the diplomatic job.
Flynne witnesses something in the new video game that brings in some of Netherton’s associates. His public relations experience makes him the best person to work with her to solve their problem. Unfortunately, their competition sees Flynne as a problem and now her life is in danger. Nertherton’s people have the technology to transfer her consciousness to an organic empty “person” (a peripheral) who becomes her while she occupies it so she can help them.
Gibson’s grasp and vision of cyberpunk science fiction is alive and well. In The Peripherals Gibson looks at where we are and where we could easily be going. His dismal future vision of Flynne’s rural world is believable and unnerving. Yet Flynne and Burton, along with other friends, show the goodness and hope that keeps Gibson’s tale from being too dark.
Netherton’s world is different yet. He lives in the rich society. London has become an empty city that uses its history to survive on tourism. The very rich can change economy of Flynne’s region with some well placed phone calls and people. When Netherton and Flynne start working together they both get insights a society they can barely imagine.
Be prepared to imagine a scary future and a basic tenant of science fiction of alternate realities. I can’t explain The Peripherals – and I can recommend it.
Notice: Non-graphic violence, Strong language