September - November 2014
2 November 2014
burning down the house
— William Gibson. The Peripheral. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, . This is a short notice rather than a full review because you should just go read the book and then we can talk. Like all good literature of the fantastic, The Peripheral is a mirror. Notionally occurring along two timelines, the continuum of Flynne Fisher and her tribe, sometime post-2026 in the American south, and in Wilf Netherton’s London maybe seventy years thereafter, Gibson charts inequalities in the distribution of information and wealth that are fully present right now ; and describes an ecological disaster from both sides of the cataclysm. The plot is supple enough, and seeds planted early bear nicely ripened fruit ; but it is the dance of language on the page that held my eye and ear. The words are tasty, the sentences delight ; the neologisms, names of corporations, and repurposed words are integrated into the lives and speech of the characters. I don’t suppose I will ever use the word singularity again, except perhaps in a narrowly descriptive sense, for Gibson has pulled a term from the other side of the event that both embodies history re-written by the victors and critiques those assumptions. I am still pondering the energy requirements and other consequences of certain processes that are mere commonplaces to the future Londoners. From the first page, Flynne really is up for anything the universe throws at her ; the awakening of Netherton’s humanity is rather more gradual.
The fabric of daily life in the novel seems weird but lived-in, “ The ordinar