"The Peripheral"

William Gibson's latest triumph.

November 2, 2014

The Peripheral by William Gibson.

Published in November of 2014.

When was the last time that a book was good enough to kill your productivity?  What was the last book that you read that was so good that it disrupted your life?    My recommendation is that if you have pressing work or family tasks that you should avoid The Peripheral.  Don’t download the book.  Don’t allow The Peripheral to appear on any of your screens or on any of your digital audio playback devices.  

If you are foolish enough to download The Peripheral you need to clear your mind of all distractions to maximize enjoyment.  Gibson so thoroughly transports us into the future world (or really world’s) of The Peripheral that it takes real concentration to keep track of what is going on.  I’m usually a fast reader, but I took my time with The Peripheral.  Unusually, or at least unusually for me, I found that the first 100 pages or so of the book required more attention than is typically possible with an audiobook.  I listened, and then I re-read the Kindle version, and then sometimes re-listened.   After about 100 pages (3 hours or so), I had the language and the characters down. I had been thoroughly transported into Gibson’s world, and was easily able to switch between the audiobook and the e-book.  (The Peripheral is thankfully Whispersync enabled, as all books should be, which makes going back and forth between ears and eyes seamless).

My bet is that Gibson fans are overrepresented in both higher ed and technology circles.  (I’m sure of the latter, hypothesizing about the former).  If I’m right, higher ed tech people should be doing very little these days but reading this book.  

The Peripheral is about two futures.  One is the relatively near future, where the hollowing out of the middle class is basically complete, public services have been basically privatized, and the only pillars of the economy left standing are drug manufacturing, gaming, the military, and the security forces.  It is in this future that we find Flynne, (a semi professional gamer and ex-barista), and her brother Burton (a USMC veteran of the Haptic Recon Force).  

The further future, the post jackpot future (think every bad prediction about global warming, pandemics, and the end of cheap energy come to fruition), is where the other main characters (including a public relations man and a performance artist / diplomat), end up making trouble for the near future.  

A Peripheral, or Peri, is a nonsentient body that can be inhabited via a neural interface, and is the mechanism that connects the near and further future in the novel. 

William Gibson is my favorite living fiction writer.  His last 3 books,  Pattern Recognition (2003), Spook Country (2007) and Zero History (2010) constitute (I’d argue) the best trilogy of the 21st century.  The Peripheral, while leaving the characters and settings of the previous 3 books behind, makes for an excellent follow-up.   

What other books should Gibson fans be reading?

What are you reading?


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