The Peripheral by William Gibson

When Flynn’s brother hires her to take his place as a security guard in an online game, she witnesses what appears to be a murder, but the murder weapon (?) is an apparatus that defies her brain’s abilities to comprehend it; meanwhile, publicist Wilf Netherton is approached by an old friend who knows how to make phone calls into the past.

The “no spoilers” ethos of blogging does prove somewhat limiting when it comes to complex works like The Peripheral. How much can I really talk about the book without giving away all of its delicious twists and turns?

The best praise I can offer is that it took me three glorious weeks to get through it because there was just so much for my brain to chow down on. The ideas contained in this book about the promise and possibility of technology, as well as its novel take on time travel were only half of the pleasure. The rest came in the form of delight with the effervescent plotting and complicated characters.

One character in particular needs to be mentioned and praised, and that’s Flynn. In full disclosure, she’s basically the girl of my dreams. So way way way back in the day, there was no internet. And then my college campus got “networked” and we got this program called “Broadcast.” It was basically instant messenger and the interface let you virtually peek into the dorms to see who was online. I was a sophomore and had read Neuromancer maybe 7 or 8 times at that point. My Broadcast handle was Razorgirl, of course. I may also have used MollyMillions as my AOL username (or was it Prodigy?) and then of course Daisybat but now we’re getting away from why I love Flynn so much. Sleater-Kinney also explains it, and Fairuza Balk in The Craft.

How can I explain? She’s not Arya Stark, a smooth rock of capability who’s invincible even in her vulnerabilities. She’s not cool, but she’s also not chick-lit dorky. Flynn loves her sick mom, but not in a heroic “look at me” way. She’s just living her life when the shit goes down, and as the shit continues to go down, she partakes in her hero’s journey while continuing to live her life. She’s center stage without seizing center stage. She’s admirable because she doesn’t ask for it. But she’s not above it all, she’s a beating heart in a body that’s constantly moving forward because she’s a survivor.

On a final note, this is one of the few books about time travel that didn’t frustrate me. I hate time travel. Except when it’s awesome and involves 3-D printing. Oops, spoiler alert.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *