William Gibson’s Dual Dystopias

The PeripheralThe Peripheral by William Gibson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

William Gibson is one of my very favorite authors. My major beef with him is that he should write more books. I’ve waited for six years for the follow up to this book (Agency)!

That’s forgivable, because he writes such great books. However, another beef I have with him is that he’s developed, especially with this book and its followup, an annoying tendency to drop portions of sentences, most notably the subject in dialogs. Often you find yourself wondering what is going on. He also begins chapters with personal pronouns, like “she,” leaving the reader to have to read further to figure out which of the many female characters he’s talking about. This is made more complicated by the two timelines in the book. You are often momentarily confused as to whether the chapter is set in the future or the past.

I originally read this book when it was released in 2014. I just finished re-reading it not because I loved it so much–I do love it–but because the followup book relies a lot on what happens in this book. The annoying tendency to drop portions of sentences is even more annoying in the second book, BTW. By the time I was a third through Agency, I was so confused I decided I needed to re-read The Peripheral. I’m now starting Agency over again.

The story of The Peripheral is intriguing. An advanced society has found a way to intervene in the past, creating what is called a stub–a fork in time that diverges from the timeline of the future society. People in the future can communicate with people in the stub, and vice versa, which creates conflict that places lives in each era at risk.

Gibson is a master at creating worlds, and every bit of the two worlds in this book is plausible and intriguing. The fact that both worlds are dystopian enables Gibson to take current trends to their logical limits to the point that identity and humanity become fungible.

I strongly recommend this book even though you might find yourself re-reading passages on a regular basis. Gibson’s vision of the possible futures is spot on, as usual, and he makes us care about his characters’ struggles in dealing with the lunacy of their worlds.

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