Flynne Fisher lives down a country road, in a rural America where jobs are scarce, unless you count illegal drug manufacture, which she's trying to avoid. Read more...
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Flynne Fisher lives down a country road, in a rural America where jobs are scarce, unless you count illegal drug manufacture, which she's trying to avoid. Her brother Burton lives on money from the Veterans Administration, for neurological damage suffered in the Marines' elite Haptic Recon unit. Flynne earns what she can by assembling product at the local 3D printshop. She made more as a combat scout in an online game, playing for a rich man, but she's had to let the shooter games go.
Wilf Netherton lives in London, seventy-some years later, on the far side of decades of slow-motion apocalypse. Things are pretty good now, for the haves, and there aren't many have-nots left. Wilf, a high-powered publicist and celebrity-minder, fancies himself a romantic misfit, in a society where reaching into the past is just another hobby.
Burton's been moonlighting online, secretly working security in some game prototype, a virtual world that looks vaguely like London, but a lot weirder. He's got Flynne taking over shifts, promised her the game's not a shooter. Still, the crime she witnesses there is plenty bad.
Flynne and Wilf are about to meet one another. Her world will be altered utterly, irrevocably, and Wilf's, for all its decadence and power, will learn that some of these third-world types from the past can be badass.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-09-01
- Reviewer: Staff
Seminal cyberpunk author Gibson, who has spent the last several years writing the more-or-less present-day Zero History series of novels, returns to the future with this slow-burning thriller, ambitiously structured on either side of an economic and ecological collapse known afterward as “the jackpot.” In the hardscrabble “pre-jackpot America“ of our near future, gamer Flynne Fisher is covering a beta-testing shift for her ex-Marine brother when she witnesses what she thinks is a gruesome murder—“some kind of nanotech chainsaw fantasy.“ In a depopulated London decades post-jackpot, Wilf Netherton, a disgraced publicist, is caught unawares when his latest client‘s sister disappears. The resulting investigation kicks Gibson’s discursive narrative into high gear as Flynne, allowed across time lines by use of a “peripheral“ (“an anthropomorphic drone... a telepresence avatar“), proves to be exactly the savvy, principled ally that enigmatic Det. Insp. Ainsley Lowbeer has been looking for. If the mechanics of time-travel are sometimes murky, the stakes are crystal clear when Flynne reaches out from Wilf’s past to alter her own future. All of Gibson’s characters are intensely real, and Flynne is a clever, compelling, stereotype-defying, unhesitating protagonist who makes this novel a standout. Agent: Martha Millard, Martha Millard Literary Agency. (Nov.)
Inhabiting dual worlds
Thirty years ago, William Gibson blew our minds with his prescient debut novel, Neuromancer, which imagined a technologically advanced world that now eerily resembles our own.
The Peripheral doubles down on his cyberpunk classic by transporting us to not one but two future worlds, connected by a murder but separated by the “jackpot,” a multi-causal near-apocalypse set in motion by mankind’s greatest threat: human indifference.
In the nearer of these futures, several decades hence, small-town America has been reduced to a sole industry: the manufacture of illegal drugs. To rise above this real-life version of “Breaking Bad,” ex-Marine Burton Fisher and his sister Flynne eke out a living playing online games for wealthy enthusiasts. When Flynne sits in for Burton on what she assumes is just another futuristic game for hire, she witnesses a murder that seems far more real than virtual.
And indeed it is, as the siblings find out when Flynne is contacted by investigator Wilf Netherton—but the crime occurred in a drastically altered London, 70 years in their future. In that distant, dystopian time, predicting the future remains impossible—but manipulating the past is not.
And so Netherton enlists Flynne in an investigation in his world that could never have been possible in hers. Leave it to Gibson to break down our innate resistance to time travel by using our uncertainty about the mechanics of high-speed computing to make the impossible seem plausible.
Fair warning: Gibson throws readers directly into The Peripheral’s dual worlds without undue explanation, preferring to let the details of his futures—whether polts, patchers, sigils, Medicis, thylacines or whatever those shape-shifting Lego blocks are all about—catch our eye and lure us in. But rest assured: By the time this master storyteller starts methodically revealing his cards, you’ll be hooked.