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The Peripheral

By Andrew Lovett-Barron
Published in Reading
August 08, 2021
1 min read

I love William Gibson’s writing, even if I don’t always love the story. Gibson has a well known ability to turn the hand-waving that often occurs around emerging technologies into something more akin to shadow puppets. Suddenly the hands used to mask the vagaries of a tech in today’s world, are used to paint compelling (and often depressing) narratives in another world of his making.

This is exactly what happens in the Peripheral. Gibson locks into drones, quantum computers, telepresence, and time travel to take us on a somewhat wild multidimensional whodunnit. It’s a bit nuts and an enjoyable ride, but perhaps not one I’d revisit too quickly.

That said, this book does an incredible job of setting up the next book in the series, called Agency. This seems to be a trend in Gibson’s writing where certain books in a series are classics, but only reach that position because they’re built on strong but less memorable foundations. The other example here is the book that came before my favourite Gibson book, Zero History. Spook Country was a book about geolocative art and an exploratory blending of graffiti art and special operations people. It’s an interesting book, but not one I’ve ever once felt like revisiting. That said, Zero History only really makes sense in the world that Spook Country and Pattern Recognition (which does stand on its own as a masterpiece) established around art and taste making.

So. Anyway. I’d suggest giving this book a read since it sets ups some pretty interesting ideas, and it leads directly into Agency — which is very much worth your time.


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Andrew Lovett-Barron

Software Designer and Researcher

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