Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: The Peripheral

The PeripheralThe Peripheral by William Gibson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 instead of 4. I was excited about reading Peripheral after having read the linked NPR review and recently re-watching Gibson’s first guest episode of The X-Files. The story: Flynne Fisher lives in a near-future where the only jobs in her rural American county are the military, drug manufacturing or constructing goods in a 3-D print shop. Wilf Netherton lives in a version of London 70+ years ahead of Flynne’s time, working as a publicist for one of the most notable performance artists of the day. Tech engineers in Netherton’s time have figured out how to tap into Flynne’s time and use the people and resources in the past for their own fantastical uses. Fisher & Netherton come together to figure out a murder that Flynne has witnessed and whose consequences effect Netherton’s livelihood.

I’ll say upfront that this is the first time I’ve read anything by Gibson, so I’m not totally familiar with his style. The first half of this nearly 500 page work will make readers work to figure out exactly how the separate environments that Fisher & Netherton exist in work. I found parsing out those context clues to be part of the fun, although it may frustrate other readers. As the story went on, I thought the story taking place in Flynne’s time was much more interesting because there were more obstacles for the tech-deprived characters to overcome. Netherton began to pale beside the other characters in his time who were much more entangled by various power struggles and conflicting loyalties. There was something poignant about Fisher and Netherton becoming closer but always having the divide of time and alternate futures between them. But any bittersweet stirrings the reader wants to indulge in will be put to rest when the ending chapters resolve by pairing up all characters involved in their respective times.

Peripheral is a good story, but there is a lot of potential for it to be a great, mind-blowing one. There is plenty happening in the background with money, influence and power, but Gibson forgoes illustrating these further, choosing to focus on the main events between Fisher & Netherton. But part of me really wanted the story to go full-on Sacred Games and show the various layers of conflict. However, I think that had that happened, Peripheral probably would have become a door-stopper book & may have turned many away due to the size. Gibson has created a world that keeps me wondering how the characters would continue on & inspiring that curiosity is always a mark of success for me. He also introduced me to the idea of Gulf Futurism, which I have to go research now.

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