The Peripheral, by William Gibson

A friend loaned me The Peripheral, by William Gibson, a couple weeks ago. I started it, and within 50 pages the adjective “propulsive” came to mind, because I had this feeling the author was propelling me along and it was hard, each evening, to stop. I definitely found myself a couple times at 2:30 am saying STOP. That said, at the end I was a bit disappointed. Everyone lives (complicatedly) ever after, happy for at least the interlude of the ending? The klept world had a logic of social interaction that was barely addressed, in terms of the massive technological and social change. If there are so few people, and assemblers can build anything, why don’t Wilf and Aelita just do whatever they want? It is not clear why the barons are bothering to control the others. Just a great game? Some introspection about the post-scarcity world would have been interesting. Why not assemble interstellar travel. Perhaps the idea is that the baron’s world is a stub like any other, and a different timeline is manipulating it? But that is never really developed. Also, why not have Hamed be “the” peripheral… that would have been more interesting if he had been a sentient AI leveling up? There were hints about AI sentience but it was not developed as a theme. These qualms are because this was good sci-fi, in that it provokes many questions about social organization in a reasonably possible future (well, if information transmission between continua is something that could happen in 1000 years…).

BTW, two episodes into the amazon prime series: it is fine, not following the book plot (same characters though) at all it seems, which is fine by me.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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