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So, you must have watched The Peripheral TV series that premiered on the screen in October 2022 and beautifully wove time travel with an amazing sci-fi story.
Probably, that’s why you’re here reading the review of The Peripheral by William Gibson.
It’s one of Gibson’s most approachable and engaging novels, which had been unfairly out of sight until The Peripheral series boosted everyone’s interest in the book itself, provoking great turbulence.
Who would refuse a 486-page time travel, investigating some murder mystery, switching from the near- to a post-apocalyptic world, getting involved in conspiracy schemes, drug manufacturing, diplomatic-and-not-so-much relationships, and emptying your clip into an enemy?
Prepare yourself, as this journey will be messy, dirty, and mind-explosive.
The first 15–20 pages are a pure reload of your consciousness until you get sucked in.
Who says that a sci-fi thriller by such an author as William Gibson should be a delicate-silk read?
William Gibson – Groundbreaker in Science Fiction
Did you know that a teenage William Gibson immersed himself in the counterculture?
Later, he became a pioneer in the cyberpunk sci-fi sub-genre and coined the word “cyberspace”.
Since then, he has been referred to as the “noir prophet” or “Godfather of cyberpunk”.
This speculative science fiction writer manages to break reality into puzzling pieces in his books that are selling like hotcakes.
The majority of Gibson’s works are NYT bestsellers, among them: Spook Country, The Peripheral, Pattern Recognition, Neuromancer, and Agency.
Such novels as Mona Lisa Overdrive, Virtual Light, and Neuromancer won the following awards:
- Nebula Award
- Ditmar Award
- Hugo Award
- Seiun Award
- Philip K. Dick Award
- Prix Aurora Award
Currently, the world is anticipating his fresh masterpiece – the grand finale of the same-name series called Jackpot William Gibson is still working on. The Peripheral is its first part.
Synopsis of The Peripheral by William Gibson
If you’re waiting for a brief summary of The Peripheral by William Gibson, nah-ah, don’t even expect a traditional overview.
It’s rather a feeble attempt to explain some bits of the time-travelling quest to The Peripheral worlds.
Gibson’s Peripheral has two linked futures and timelines: the small US town in the 2030s and London over 70 years later, in the early 2100s.
In America’s near future, you meet Flynne, an action girl and brilliant gamer, and her brother, Burton, a veteran who suffers from neurological trauma.
In a VR game simulation, Flynne becomes a crime witness in a very weird version of London. She doubts it’s a virtual reality, and her fears aren’t unreasonable.
In the second time frame, an alcoholic PR person, Wilf Netherton, lives in London after the “jackpot”, an apocalypse, eco-political disaster.
In his post-apocalyptic world, the main fun for oligarchs is to time-travel to the past, creating new versions (forks or stubs) in it and “colonizing” them.
Once Netherton and Flynne establish a connection using the peripheral, a biological, anthropomorphic robot that one can control with one’s mind to maintain a virtual presence in the future.
Can they find the true reason why the woman was murdered, and is there a chance left to guide Flynne’s world away from the jackpot?
Get your copy here to find the answers.
Cyberpunk, Thrill, and Gibsonian Terminology
William Gibson’s The Peripheral is more than just a cyberpunk in a dystopian form.
Its futuristic bearings are mingled with geopolitical issues and a thrilling atmosphere of the hunt to solve a puzzle.
On top of that, the writer throws his own terminology at you without any explanation. For example:
Stub – a version of the past that was derailed by interference from the future.
Polt – a person from the stub, hired to do a task for the future.
Klept – a corrupt oligarchic group who survived the jackpot.
You grasp those mostly by extrapolating and diving deeper contextually.
The Culture of Militarism, Slowly Progressing Decay, and Pain-filled Darkness
As you read your way through the pages, you notice how much the futures suck: both the near future and the post-near one.
Military tech and “militarized” philosophy have leaked into the life of civilians.
They haven’t just subtly altered society. They have distorted it in such a cruel way that humanity and technology are intermingled rather dystopically than progressively.
Stylistically, through illustrative depictions, dialogues, and metaphors, Gibson highlights the nostalgic and melancholic vibes and leftovers in only a couple of people after the apocalypse.
They are traceable in the gothic aesthetics of Ash, an IT specialist, and her tattoos of the lost species, extinct due to the jackpot.
“History had its fascinations but could be burdensome. Too much of it, and you became Ash, obsessed with a catalogue of vanished species, addicted to nostalgia for things you’d never known.”
Then there’s Netherton, who romanticizes Flynne’s pre-jackpot world, as it looks more authentic to him.
But he is wrong.
Capitalism is present in both worlds that are doomed, as Gibson’s noir vision sprouts from the very start. He demonstrates uncontrollable capitalistic appetites that lead to painful class division and even darker political intricacies.
Last Note on The Peripheral by William Gibson
William Gibson takes your mind and keeps it submerged in his fast-paced cyberpunk crime thriller, The Peripheral.
You either think hard and make heads or tails of everything or get drowned in dialogues, tens of characters, Gibsonian terms, and his invented reality.
It’s Literature with the capital “L”. It’s dense and immersive. Dive in and savour every page.
If you would like another brain detonation like this one, grab books like The Peripheral here.
What is The Peripheral book genre?
The novel is a science fiction (cyberpunk) crime thriller.
Is The Peripheral hard to read?
Depending on what you call a hard read. As with any well-written science fiction story, you need to delve into it completely to find the answers and understand what is going on. As you progress, the story fragments come together.
How many books are there in the series?
In total, there are three books in William Gibson’s Jackpot series.
The Peripheral (2014) is the first book in the Jackpot trilogy, followed by Agency (2020). The third book is yet to be published.