Thirty years ago, William Gibson blew our minds with his prescient debut novel, Neuromancer, which imagined a technologically advanced world that now eerily resembles our own.
The Peripheral doubles down on his cyberpunk classic by transporting us to not one but two future worlds, connected by a murder but separated by the “jackpot,” a multi-causal near-apocalypse set in motion by mankind’s greatest threat: human indifference.
In the nearer of these futures, several decades hence, small-town America has been reduced to a sole industry: the manufacture of illegal drugs. To rise above this real-life version of “Breaking Bad,” ex-Marine Burton Fisher and his sister Flynne eke out a living playing online games for wealthy enthusiasts. When Flynne sits in for Burton on what she assumes is just another futuristic game for hire, she witnesses a murder that seems far more real than virtual.
And indeed it is, as the siblings find out when Flynne is contacted by investigator Wilf Netherton—but the crime occurred in a drastically altered London, 70 years in their future. In that distant, dystopian time, predicting the future remains impossible—but manipulating the past is not.
And so Netherton enlists Flynne in an investigation in his world that could never have been possible in hers. Leave it to Gibson to break down our innate resistance to time travel by using our uncertainty about the mechanics of high-speed computing to make the impossible seem plausible.
Fair warning: Gibson throws readers directly into The Peripheral’s dual worlds without undue explanation, preferring to let the details of his futures—whether polts, patchers, sigils, Medicis, thylacines or whatever those shape-shifting Lego blocks are all about—catch our eye and lure us in. But rest assured: By the time this master storyteller starts methodically revealing his cards, you’ll be hooked.