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The Peripheral
Cover of The Peripheral
The Peripheral
The New York Times bestselling author of Neuromancer presents a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that takes a terrifying look into the future...
Flynne Fisher lives down a country road, in a rural America where jobs are scarce, unless you count illegal drug manufacture, which she's trying to avoid. Her brother Burton lives on money from the Veterans Administration, for neurological damage suffered in the Marines' elite Haptic Recon unit. Flynne earns what she can by assembling product at the local 3D printshop. She made more as a combat scout in an online game, playing for a rich man, but she's had to let the shooter games go.
Wilf Netherton lives in London, seventy-some years later, on the far side of decades of slow-motion apocalypse. Things are pretty good now, for the haves, and there aren't many have-nots left. Wilf, a high-powered publicist and celebrity-minder, fancies himself a romantic misfit, in a society where reaching into the past is just another hobby.
Burton's been moonlighting online, secretly working security in some game prototype, a virtual world that looks vaguely like London, but a lot weirder. He's got Flynne taking over shifts, promised her the game's not a shooter. Still, the crime she witnesses there is plenty bad.
Flynne and Wilf are about to meet one another. Her world will be altered utterly, irrevocably, and Wilf's, for all its decadence and power, will learn that some of these third-world types from the past can be badass.
The New York Times bestselling author of Neuromancer presents a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that takes a terrifying look into the future...
Flynne Fisher lives down a country road, in a rural America where jobs are scarce, unless you count illegal drug manufacture, which she's trying to avoid. Her brother Burton lives on money from the Veterans Administration, for neurological damage suffered in the Marines' elite Haptic Recon unit. Flynne earns what she can by assembling product at the local 3D printshop. She made more as a combat scout in an online game, playing for a rich man, but she's had to let the shooter games go.
Wilf Netherton lives in London, seventy-some years later, on the far side of decades of slow-motion apocalypse. Things are pretty good now, for the haves, and there aren't many have-nots left. Wilf, a high-powered publicist and celebrity-minder, fancies himself a romantic misfit, in a society where reaching into the past is just another hobby.
Burton's been moonlighting online, secretly working security in some game prototype, a virtual world that looks vaguely like London, but a lot weirder. He's got Flynne taking over shifts, promised her the game's not a shooter. Still, the crime she witnesses there is plenty bad.
Flynne and Wilf are about to meet one another. Her world will be altered utterly, irrevocably, and Wilf's, for all its decadence and power, will learn that some of these third-world types from the past can be badass.
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  • From the book 1.

    The Haptics

    They didn't think Flynne's brother had PTSD, but that sometimes the haptics glitched him. They said it was like phantom limb, ghosts of the tattoos he'd worn in the war, put there to tell him when to run,

    when to be still, when to do the bad-ass dance, which direction and

    what range. So they allowed him some disability for that, and he lived in the trailer down by the creek. An alcoholic uncle lived there when they were little, veteran of some other war, their father's older brother. She and Burton and Leon used it for a fort, the summer she was ten. Leon tried to take girls there, later on, but it smelled too bad. When Burton got his discharge, it was empty, except for the biggest wasp nest any of them had ever seen. Most valuable thing on their property, Leon said. Airstream, 1977. He showed her ones on eBay that looked like blunt rif le slugs, went for crazy money in any condition at all. The uncle had gooped this one over with white expansion foam, gone gray and dirty now, to stop it leaking and for insulation. Leon said that had saved it from pickers. She thought it looked like a big old grub, but with tunnels back through it to the windows.

    Coming down the path, she saw stray crumbs of that foam, packed down hard in the dark earth. He had the trailer's lights turned up, and closer, through a window, she partly saw him stand, turn, and on his spine and side the marks where they took the haptics off, like the skin was dusted with something dead-fish silver. They said they could get that off too, but he didn't want to keep going back.

    "Hey, Burton," she called.

    "Easy Ice," he answered, her gamer tag, one hand bumping the door open, the other tugging a new white t-shirt down, over that chest the Corps gave him, covering the silvered patch above his navel, size and shape of a playing card.

    Inside, the trailer was the color of Vaseline, LEDs buried in it, bed- ded in Hefty Mart amber. She'd helped him sweep it out, before he moved in. He hadn't bothered to bring the shop vac down from the garage, just bombed the inside a good inch thick with this Chinese polymer, dried glassy and f lexible. You could see stubs of burnt matches down inside that, or the cork-patterned paper on the squashed filter of a legally sold cigarette, older than she was. She knew where to find a rusty jeweler's screwdriver, and somewhere else a 2009 quarter.

    Now he just got his stuff out before he hosed the inside, every week

    or two, like washing out Tupperware. Leon said the polymer was curatorial, how you could peel it all out before you put your American classic up on eBay. Let it take the dirt with it.

    Burton took her hand, squeezed, pulling her up and in.

    "You going to Davisville?" she asked. "Leon's picking me up."

    "Luke 4:5's protesting there. Shaylene said."

    He shrugged, moving a lot of muscle but not by much.

    "That was you, Burton. Last month. On the news. That funeral, in

    Carolina."

    He didn't quite smile.

    "You might've killed that boy."

    He shook his head, just a fraction, eyes narrowed. "Scares me, you do that shit."

    "You still walking point, for that lawyer in Tulsa?"

    "He isn't playing. Busy lawyering, I guess." "You're the best he had. Showed him that." "Just a game." Telling herself, more than him. "Might as well been getting himself a Marine."

    She thought she saw that thing the haptics did, then, that shiver, then gone.

    "Need you to sub for me," he said, like nothing had happened. "Five-hour shift. Fly a quadcopter."

    She looked past him to his display. Some Danish supermodel's legs, retracting into some brand of car nobody she knew would...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 1, 2014
    Seminal cyberpunk author Gibson, who has spent the last several years writing the more-or-less present-day Zero History series of novels, returns to the future with this slow-burning thriller, ambitiously structured on either side of an economic and ecological collapse known afterward as “the jackpot.” In the hardscrabble “pre-jackpot America“ of our near future, gamer Flynne Fisher is covering a beta-testing shift for her ex-Marine brother when she witnesses what she thinks is a gruesome murder—“some kind of nanotech chainsaw fantasy.“ In a depopulated London decades post-jackpot, Wilf Netherton, a disgraced publicist, is caught unawares when his latest client‘s sister disappears. The resulting investigation kicks Gibson’s discursive narrative into high gear as Flynne, allowed across time lines by use of a “peripheral“ (“an anthropomorphic drone... a telepresence avatar“), proves to be exactly the savvy, principled ally that enigmatic Det. Insp. Ainsley Lowbeer has been looking for. If the mechanics of time-travel are sometimes murky, the stakes are crystal clear when Flynne reaches out from Wilf’s past to alter her own future. All of Gibson’s characters are intensely real, and Flynne is a clever, compelling, stereotype-defying, unhesitating protagonist who makes this novel a standout. Agent: Martha Millard, Martha Millard Literary Agency.

  • Kirkus

    October 15, 2014
    While placed firmly in the sci-fi genre of his earlier works, Gibson's latest retains the social commentary from his more recent novels (Zero History, 2010, etc.).Most Gibson plots essentially concern a race for a particular piece of information-one side seeks to possess it, the other to suppress it. (Although to be fair, isn't that the plot of most thrillers?) What sets each book apart is the worldbuilding that surrounds that plot kernel. This time around, it's particularly intriguing. Flynne, a young woman living in a poor, rural American county (probably Southern, though it's never specified) in the near future, believes she's beta testing a video game, witnessing the "death" of a virtual character in an urban high-rise. In fact, Flynne has gotten a view into a possible London existing decades in the future and has seen an actual woman get murdered. The two timelines can exchange information and visit each other virtually, via the androidlike "peripherals" of the title. That ability is enough for various future factions to hire killers to go after Flynne and her family or to protect them from that fate, as well as to change the events of her timeline sufficiently enough to ensure that it will never become that future, where, despite considerable scientific advancement, a cascade of disasters has eliminated the majority of human and animal life. Gibson's strength has always been in establishing setting, while his characters tend to seem a bit blank and inaccessible; for example, alcoholic Wilf's constant attempts to reach for a drink read more like an annoyingly persistent quirk than a serious psychological problem. Gibson seems to leave his characters' motives deliberately obscure; due to that and his tendency to pour his energy into the chase, not the goal, the story's resolution basically fizzles. This is quintessential Gibson: gonzo yet cool, sharp-edged, sophisticated-but ultimately, vaguely unsatisfying.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from October 15, 2014

    As a favor to her brother Burton, Flynne Fisher fills in on a mysterious job beta testing a new game. She's glad for the work, as money is tight with her mother needing constant medical care and Burton having financial troubles since he left the marines. Remotely flying a copter around a high-rise building, Flynne is tasked with simply keeping the paparazzi drones away from one of the apartments, but after she witnesses a murder, everything in her life is going to change. VERDICT Gibson leaves his one-step-into-the-future thrillers (his "Bigend" trilogy wrapped up with 2010's Zero History) behind for something a little more complicated and shows he can still stun readers with his ability to take a trenchant look at the present and give a striking vision of the future. Just as he did with his groundbreaking first novel, Neuromancer, the author weds exciting action with an endless stream of big ideas that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page.

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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