The Peripheral - William Gibson


The first pages will test you. William Gibson drops word after word of future slang, explaining none of it. I didn’t form a clear picture of what was happening in the story until I’d read two thirds of it. That can be frustrating for some readers, intriguing for others.


Some science fiction writers do their world building with info dumps disguised as prologues, or with long-winded explanations stuffed into dialogues. Some writers simply abandon their plots while pausing to provide back story. Gibson uses none of these devices. His world building occurs gradually and in context. By the time a character explains an element of his world, the reader has already assembled most of the information, and the explanation confirms the accuracy of his suspicions.


Gibson abandoned cyberpunk when the cyberspace of the web developed in a manner unlike the cyberspace of his imagination. The present-time based novels preceding The Peripheral aren’t cyberpunk. Yet even without the cyberpunk milieu, Gibson manages to put current technology to unique and futuristic uses. In The Peripheral, he returns to cyberpunk in futures that are both fresh and firmly rooted in present trends.

The two futures he presents diverged from one another, yet information can pass between the two via a server in an undisclosed location. That may sound farfetched, but Gibson makes it work, teasing the reader with hints, as he gradually unfolds his story. His style of story construction may tax some readers’ patience. They should stick with other authors. But if you’re a fan of the slow reveal, you’ll like this book.