William Gibson - The Peripheral

"Fuck hell." "Is it?" "'Fraid so." "Why does she?" "Guess good as mine."

Do people talk this way? Yes they do. They do talk like this in every William Gibson novel. It's a pity, because the result is they all look alike. They all seem to have the same mind set. They all understand each other's lingo immediately. And it makes it hard to bond or to (dis)like characters. Not to mention that it takes long to know who's who.
Another problem. Have you ever heard a '60s hippie talk? Have you ever heard an '80s yup spout its jargon? Familiar with today's language fads? These differences are all gone, whether we're in the 21st or 22nd century. Even 70 years apart it's all the same.

After some time you start to suspect who the characters in this book are. And in some way, that's classical Gibson as well. William Gibson lets you discover what is going on without telling or explaining. That typical disorienting perspective has its charms. But it can be a risk if you want the reader to bond with your book. Maybe it doesn't bother Gibson that it could mean only aficionados will read them.

So much for the negatives. The characters might be a bit one dimensional, the story is clever. An ex-soldier gets paid to play in what seems to be a game. When he needs to leave town he asks his sister Flynne to be a stand-in. During her shift she witnesses something that might not be a game. And soon she is in physical danger. Here the clever part comes around the corner. Her opponents are from the future. Not the Terminator kind, but the quantum computer kind. Seventy years in the future sophisticated hardware can contact the past. And so Flynne and her band of brothers and sisters get a glimpse from the future. No, *a* future. When future people use this computer, history splits off in a different direction.
Flynne gets a ride in the future through the computer, packed into a biomechanical robot. It's called a peripheral, hence the title. And the future gets a ride in the past via a Segway with an iPad on it. I think.

The story is all about the future manipulating Flynne's present. In the end things get alright and they live happy ever after. I got the impression that Gibson didn't know how to end the story after he led Flynne's world to its conclusion. That is not a problem, but when the action is over, the story ends too abrupt to my liking. Like nothing happened and with the future restored. The future contacting the past is quintessential for one large development and everything related. But for the small things of day to day life it seems inessential. Especially for the interactions between the people of Flynne-land.

Flynne's social surroundings can best be described as trailer-trashy. But these people care about each other, which is a pleasant surprise. They all stand with another in the face of adversity and they keep their warm relations.

Flynne is no Cayce from Pattern Recognition. At the end of the book she's in essence in the same position as in the beginning. Her role might have been pivotal, but she's only an actor directed by others. It would have been good if you could see some catharsis, or at least some change in her personality. After all she experiences something extraordinary: living in two times at the same time.

As usual the story is fast paced with short chapters. The titles consist of hip quotes from the chapters themselves. And as usual Gibson is best in developing ideas that baffle you. If only his characters would do the same.