Book Review: The Peripheral, by William Gibson

Overall Impressions

The book took me a long time to read and I guess that probably means that I didn't really get into it. I liked the idea enough: while time travel itself isn't possible, information can "leak" between different times - but time itself isn't strictly linear and so things in the future might not happen. People's consciousness can effectively pilot robots in other times and off you go. It's a cool enough idea with some neat details, but again, I just didn't find myself ever gripped by it - and even towards the end I was having to remind myself just who some of the characters were (and sometimes just going with it to keep making progress). When I got to the end, I was happy to be done with it.

I have read most of Gibson's stuff and this isn't the first time this has happened. I tend to like him more than not, but even when I don't like it, it's not that I dislike it and this is true here.

The Good

I do honestly like the idea. I originally got into Gibson because he was writing techno thrillers, and this one involved some cool tech ideas.

I wish I had more to list here.

The Bad

As I said before, the character development was a bit weak. I've seen this before in his books where they're long enough and there are enough characters to have a hard time keeping track of who is who that when they pop up at random times, it can be tough to remember just who they are. My advice to Gibson: include an appendix that includes a short cast of characters that doesn't give anything away about them as far as twists are concerned, but lets you flip back to it and get up to speed when needed. I won't say every book should do that, but I can name many that do and it really helps.

Secondly, and maybe this should have been first, but (SPOILERS!) the big plot point is that someone in the past witnesses what she finds out later was a murder in the future. Maybe I just missed it, but it wasn't clear to me why the future cared so much about this - it seemed that vast amounts of resources were expended to both protect the witness, and to capture her. I'm not saying that murder isn't a big deal, but it seemed to be taken a bit too far. I would have liked to have seen Gibson find another way to tie the past and future together than that plot.

Final Thoughts

Wow, it sounds like I really didn't like this book. It wasn't that bad though - just not good.

On the b-rent scale of 1-5, this is either a 2 or a 3.