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Saturday, 5 March 2016

Not peripheral

Now that's what I call science fiction!

After the disappointment of "The Difference Engine" - see February 5th. - "The Peripheral" is a welcome return to form by William Gibson and reinforces my view that collaborative fiction is generally inferior to sole authorship.

Image result for gibson peripheralThe plot revolves around Flynn Fisher, a young woman in a bleak future USA, who becomes accidentally embroiled in a sort of 'time war'. Essentially the idea is that technology in her future has advanced to a stage where the past can be contacted but the act of making contact splits the stream of time into what they call a 'stub'. This is a clever device to avoid all the issues around time paradox and works well once you accept it as a premise. The action moves effortlessly between the two futures and Gibson introduces all sorts of detail (some admittedly a bit cyber-punk) to enrich the mix, making the reading experience very compelling. There are many plot twists and turns but in the end it is Flynn's humanity, really her ordinariness, which wins the day and which seems likely, after the novel ends, to help restore the world of her 'stub'. You need to be there!

For me this is the ideal science fiction novel - imaginative, intelligent, plenty of action, interesting characters, weird technologies, but near enough to our own way of looking at the world to enable the reader to invest in the characters and feel their pain. I loved the quick-fire chapters and especially their witty titles. Mostly you are carried along by the plot but every now and then, in a quiet aside, Gibson makes you think about personal, social and moral issues. Excellent!

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