I’m not sure I quite understand the point of this title…

Written by
William Gibson in 2014

William Gibson is of course the grandfather of cyberpunk, the man who basically invented the subgenre. While I really enjoyed Neuromancer, it is frankly not an easy book to read. Instead of reading the sequels to Neuromancer, I decided to give Gibson’s latest offering, The Peripheral, a shot.

Set in two different futures, which are related but mutually exclusive, sort of, the story is about a poor young woman, Flynne, who witnesses what appears to a murder in an apparent computer game she is playing for money. Beta testing, you know?

It turns out that murder was real, but it happened more than seven decades in the future, with nefarious forces and conspiracies in play. By witnessing the murder, conspiracies and shadowy government forces spill over into Flynne’s life, as the future somehow can affect her reality.

Look, I would love to say that The Peripheral is as good as Neuromancer, but having read it, I kind of wonder just what the hell the middle sixty per cent of the book is for. There is little to no character development in the entire book, the story moves along at a glacial pace, and there might be some interesting future speculation as to the consequences of climate change (basically, not good), there is actually a sparcity of anything to offer for excitement.

It also does not help that Gibson’s writing style, which is quite flowing, but uses obtuse language and structures. There is a lot of slang, and what is not slang requires a reasonable level of reading between the lines. The short chapters also chop and change between the characters stuck in their respective realities, but it can be confusing when Flynne jumps between the narrative settings.

William Gibson’s latest offering is kind of a disappointment. the book spends too much time talking to itself, about itself, and not enough time advancing the plot. Also, none of the characters really do anything.


This book waffles on, and not in the good way. Best go get an actual waffle, which is delicious. Add choclate toppings, banana, strawberries and vanilla ice cream. Lovely.

Read this if you…

Have to read everything by William Gibson.

Don’t read this if you…

Would rather he just got to the bloody point.


4 thoughts on “The Peripheral

  1. Nooooo gonna have to disagree with you there. The Peripheral is fantastically Gibson, and the alternative plots/chapters get closer and closer throughout. Yes the language takes a bit of time to get a handle on, but that’s Gibson’s style, and if anything this is a return to form after the side-track he took post-9/11 with the Blue Ant series (Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, Zero History).

    I thought it was fairly well placed in the world building during the middle of the novel as the events build; the end felt just spot on. I’m fairly certain there’s still more stories to explore with the mechanic he sets up here (not to spoil it for anyone) – and that’s where the world building would be valuable.

    Also surely you get the title in reference to computer peripherals?

    • Don’t get me wrong, I “get it”, in terms of the play on words and what not. I thought it was quite clever. And yes, Gibson is hard to read, but it shouldn’t be hard to read and kind of boring.

      However, where Gibson was great in Neuromancer, with the language, the way the chapters actually felt like they were chunky and the pacing, this one felt like the story was meandering through a bog of stuff that wasn’t really…I don’t know…vital?

      Kind of like Tolkien with all the singing in LoTR and the Greyjoy plot in Game of Thrones.

      Some world building should be left for sequels, if you aim to continue it. Otherwise, you’ll just be making more filler.

      By the way, if you want good world building and pacing with speculative fiction, try the Nexus trilogy by Ramez Naam.

      • I guess it really depends on context – The Peripheral flows very nicely for a Gibson novel. Admittedly I haven’t read Neuromancer in years, but I thought this was a return to form.

        I’m surprised you thought there was that much filler – it really felt like fleshing out the world, and I didn’t think I got enough of it – wanted more background, more details. It would be skimming far too high if it skipped all that. Neuromancer was a much less nuanced book compared to those that came after.

        If you haven’t read any other Gibson novels than this and Neuromancer, I can see where it wouldn’t meet expectations. Have a read of at least Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive, and then the Bridge trilogy (Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow’s Parties). Blue Ant trilogy is far more meandering.

      • Perhaps I’m being a wee bit harsh. I think the world (or is that worlds?) is, by all means, an awesome concept. But, the events described in them seem so far removed from the personal stories of Flynn and Netheron, as the pawns in a parrallel universe, cross temporal conspiracy. It just feels too disconnected. One side of the coin is way too big for the other.

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