[Book Review] The Peripheral

The Peripheral / William Gibson (Powell's Books)

Rather late review for the September Speculative Fiction read.

The Peripheral could be considered a successor to Stephenson's Snow Crash, with it's blurring of lines between meat space and cyber space.  The country and economy as we know it isn't quite there, with business and money carving new territories, fabbing and building consuming the manufacturing infrastructure, and a blending of internet and virtual reality.  Instead of a hacker samauri and a skatergirl we have a veterans with PTSD and amputations, a younger sister with a knack for virtual reality, and money from the future playing its own game.

Discussion Fodder:
  • Did the characters make a Faustian bargain (regardless of the lottery involvement or not)?  Who's the devil in this story?
  • Who and what in the story is real?
  • Do the actions in Flynne's time and Netherton's time actually have no effect on each other's future/past?  By the nature of the forking into alternate continuas, do you think there are multiple Flynnes/Burtons/Conners etc?  What do you think happens when one alternate ends?  What about Griff/Lowbeer?  What would be the impetus to interact with continua?
  • What do you think of the peripherals?  The fact that "At the cellular level, as human as we are"?
  • Janice describes Flynne as a good person, regardless of what trouble she's gotten herself into, because "you are not doing this crazy shit, whatever it is, in order to make yourself rich," but to benefit others. 
  • What do you think constitutes an "evolved culture of mass surveillance"?
  • What do you think about Flynne bringing Conner in to a peripheral ahead of Burton?  Is access to a peripheral a kindness or a cruelty to Conner?
  • "The Jackpot" refers to a sort of rolling event or "climate" where things just get worse to the point of gradual collapse, then die-off, and a climbing out as discoveries and innovation provide the glue to hold society together.  How realistic or far-fetched does it sound to you?
  • When asked what he does, what people do in the future, Wilf responds with "Publicity."  Does that summarize what people seem to do in his time?  What about in our time?
  • Do you think that after everything they managed to "save" the continua stub that Flynne lives in?  Or do you think they're still headed to the Jackpot?

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