Author William Gibson is probably best known for his early novels, which not only spawned the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction, they heavily influenced The Matrix series of films, as well as countless other cultural works. After writing in other genres for awhile, The Peripheral sees Gibson once again plumbing the depths of cyberpunk, although with new characters, settings, and technologies.
I read the text of The Peripheral a few years ago when it first came out, but recently I decided to listen to the audiobook as I had forgotten some of the details and I was getting ready to read the sequel, Agency. Apparently a third novel is in the works, but isn’t out yet.
The story takes place with two different timelines, one of which takes place in the late 2010s in California, and with the other taking place in early 22nd century in London. Because of a mysterious server in China, some people in each timeline are able to speak with people in the other timeline. They’re in separate universes, so the people in the future can’t affect their own pasts, but influence the future of the others so they don’t make the same mistakes. In The Peripheral and Agency, the characters in London sometimes reference something called “The Jackpot”, which we are led to believe is a collapse of climate and society over the span of decades that left their world with fewer people. It’s a bit of vague explanation as to why their society is the way it is.
In the context of the story, the peripheral of the title is a designer animatronic body in 22nd century London that is controlled by a character in 21st century California. This character had witnessed a murder that took place in London, and a lot of the story is taken up by trying to determine if someone was really murdered and if so, who did it.
Actress Lorelei King does a great job of narrating The Peripheral, and has an amazing range of voices and accents for the wide variety of characters in the story. Her narration helped transport me into the story as effectively as reading the text, and in some cases did a better job since it’s sometimes hard to catch nuances without hearing them.
It’s also been reported that Amazon is working on a TV series based on The Peripheral and its sequels, so I look forward to seeing it. I thought I had read it would come out in 2022, but I haven’t seen any trailers for it yet, so maybe it will come out next year instead.
Overall, The Peripheral is a very entertaining audiobook, and one I would recommend to all fans of the cyberpunk genre.