The Peripheral (2014) by William Gibson

I’ve read most of Gibson’s novels before, starting with Neuromancer (1984) when I was a teenager. (I can’t believe it was published over 30 years ago. That makes me feel old.) I skipped the other two novels that make up the Sprawl Trilogy, and got back into him with 1993’s Virtual Light. Since then I’ve read all of his works except The Difference Engine, the latest ones being the Blue Ant Trilogy.

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The Peripheral is not an easy read. Gibson makes you work with this book, throwing you in at the deep end and expecting you to keep up with his style and invented language. There are no explanations, you’re just there in the middle of this world which feels strange yet familiar. You could liken it to a form of time travelling, or eavesdropping in on a dream from another dimension. The opening line is:

“They didn’t think Flynne’s brother had PTSD, but that sometimes the haptics glitched him.”

Wow! What a start. This could put a lot of people off, but I instantly wanted to know more. What are “haptics” and why do they “glitch” him? You can form some kind of idea about the meaning but it’s best not to worry too much about it; just go with the flow of the story. This kind of language is common in Gibson’s writing and he doesn’t include a glossary.

The Peripheral isn’t perfect, and as I’ve already mentioned it requires the reader to work through it. But I believe that “‘work” is very rewarding. Sometimes it’s good not to have an instruction manual. That way, you can put the story together in your own original style.

Recommended, but I prefer Gibson’s earlier writing. If you are looking to start reading him, then I suggest you start with the brilliant Neuromancer.

2 thoughts on “The Peripheral (2014) by William Gibson

  1. I really enjoyed this one, but yeah, it does require some “work.” Or at least some trust in the author that it will all make sense in the end. It’s like the meaning of the jargon just floats to the top when it’s most important. It’s a neat trick.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Agency (2020) by William Gibson | Wakizashi's Teahouse

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