William Gibson, The Peripheral

A review

I can’t be certain of his intent, but I would like to believe that, in The Peripheral, William Gibson is sending us a message from our future. Or rather, not our future, but something resembling our future. Without ruining the book, suffice to say that Gibson paints not one, but two compelling, visions for what humanity may become, potentially in our lifetimes. And it should be a call to action.

In Gibson’s portrayal, we are at the tail end of the “oddly optimistic age,” or perhaps at the very beginning of a darker era known as the “deeper jackpot.” It’s a time where climate change has radically altered the social fabric of humanity: vaccines become useless, governments crumble, etc. And yet, through it all, we remain “[a]ll too human.”

Despite the bleakness of the futures, there is much to enjoy and marvel at in the present in the Peripheral. The characters have depth and humanity. The plot has plenty of action (even though the book dragged at a few points). The fiction parts of science fiction are plausible enough and, at times, remarkably insightful. (There’s a part near the end where I was marveled at Gibson’s subtle anticipation of GPT-2]). And, as you near the end of the book, you start to find hope for a better future, if we simply don’t screw it up. As one of the main characters explains:

Opportunities to do very badly were manifold. You avoided them. The major part in any success.

This was my first introduction to Gibson’s writing, and I’m eager to read his earlier works. In the meantime, thank you to the future William Gibson who gave us the Peripheral, and to my friend who recommended I read it!