Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Peripheral

The PeripheralThe Peripheral by William Gibson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

William Gibson's ability to visualize the near future never ceases to amaze me. He takes politics, science and sociology of today and nudges it a few years or decades ahead, resulting in a world that seems absolutely real and plausible. And he does that superbly in this new book.

The main character in the book is Flynne, a 20-something woman who lives in a small town in the US. Her brother, Burton, is a veteran (of an unspecified war) with PTSD. Flynne and Burton both supplement their income by playing online games for money. The plot begins with Flynne subbing for Burton in a new game, as a beta tester. In the game she sees what looks like a murder. Then the game owners, a Colombian company, contact her, and things get very interesting very fast.

Gibson's near future world is full of recognizable things such as online gaming, 3-D fabrication, religious protesters (a thinly veiled reference to the Westboro Baptist group), skyrocketing drug prices, and Veterans Administration that cannot cope with the wounded soldiers coming back from the war. All of these are extrapolated just enough to be believable, and to create a richly textured future world.

My only complaint is that Gibson throws us into this world with no explanations, and throws characters and plot developments at us, thick and fast, so that for the first 90 pages I was trying to figure out what the heck was going on. Part of this is because Flynne and Burton are also trying to figure out what's going on, and we take that journey with them, but part of it is what I see as a 'trendy' style of writing, where the author just throws the reader into the ocean, in a 'sink or swim' kind of deal. I'm afraid new readers would give up on the book, because of the confusion. However, having read all of Gibson's fiction, I knew that by sticking it out, I would be rewarded, and I was. But I do think he has the potential to lose readers on this one. So, my advice: Don't give up on the book! It's worth the initial struggle.

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