The Future is here
March 22, 2015 6:35 AM   Subscribe

The future is here

posted by Wolof (19 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
William Gibson tries Gear VR, is impressed. Apparently he had tried an regular Rift earlier but couldn't get it to work with his glasses.

We're just living in a less stylish version of the Gibson dystopia now. I was flipping through Virtual Light a while back (I think due to the Hololens presser) and was like "Yup, cool tech and crippling inequality."
posted by selfnoise at 6:58 AM on March 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

With the turn of the century, he recalibrated again: his most recent books, published after, and directly confronting, September 11, were anchored in a recognizable now. This shift prompted some critics to argue that he had become a realist writer and was accordingly of greater literary interest, as if abandoning science fiction were a sign of evolution.

I don't think that he ever stopped writing science fiction, he just set his science fiction novels in the present day because technology had caught up to the point where he could tell the stories that he wanted to tell without needing a future setting.
posted by octothorpe at 7:06 AM on March 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm only the first few chapters into The Peripheral, so I don't know, but this review checks out so far: it's something still very Gibsonesque and ripped-from-the-tech-headlines, but maybe also something transitional. I've enjoyed some of Gibson's later work and agree with the reviewer that Pattern Recognition was especially interesting. But none of his novels have ever made me quite as happy as his short fiction: almost everything in Burning Chrome but also, and very much on point as an index of his shift in focus and tone, "Thirteen Views of a Cardboard City."
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:15 AM on March 22, 2015

posted by Mike Mongo at 7:32 AM on March 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Like most of Gibson’s novels, The Peripheral turns frantic toward the end, with a series of increasingly zany thriller scenes; the build to the climax involves a burrito delivered by drone, a corporate merger, and a weaponized pram. This is fodder for Gibson’s fans, not those seeking insight, but no Gibson novel would be complete without the moment when “the localized high-pressure zone of weird begins to manifest.”

I truly enjoy William Gibson's work, but this is always the part of any given novel where I get bored. I much prefer the long setup. He's a master of ambiance -- of making you understand exactly how it feels to live in the world he's describing. I don't think he's necessarily as good at consistent or believable worldbuilding... but by the time I was done with The Peripheral I could vividly imagine what it would be like to wake up in either of the futures he described.

His action scenes, however? Meh.
posted by fencerjimmy at 8:26 AM on March 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

To keep up with her mother’s medical prescriptions (“paying the cancer rent”), Flynne pulls shifts at Forever Fab, a 3-D printing outlet that churns out everything from personal drones to the croissant-doughnut hybrids called cronuts that have a cult following even in our reality.

Cronuts. Yes it's a thing!
posted by bukvich at 8:31 AM on March 22, 2015

I liked his earlier cyberpunk stuff but was bored and actually kind of irritated by everything since Idoru. What are the chances I'd enjoy The Peripheral?
posted by Foosnark at 8:33 AM on March 22, 2015

I liked his earlier cyberpunk stuff but was bored and actually kind of irritated by everything since Idoru. What are the chances I'd enjoy The Peripheral?

+1'ing this. His later books seem to get a lot of respect for being sociologically forward-thinking. It's the SF that lit crit says it's ok to like (what with Oryx and Crake being 'not science fiction'), despite it being not quite as interesting as his earlier stuff. Still, it's tough to put lightening into the bottle, and those later books aren't bad... just not as good.

I note that Bruce Sterling has solved his lightening-bottling problem by not writing books, and instead talking about his ideas for books to easily influenced programmers. Which is weird, because the technology we have today is so close to what he was writing about for ages (the storm-chasing book?) and the main idea for Gibson's new novel is Mirrorshades v2, that it's a shame to see him eased out of literary debate in this area. But maybe that's just mainstream press writing about these things.
posted by The River Ivel at 9:12 AM on March 22, 2015

What I'm taking away from this is that Gibson has once again (sort of; they're always there, but they used to be just plot catalysts) let go of the hyper-privileged megarich characters and sterile optimism his post-Sprawl work increasingly centered around, and returned to writing about poor, borderline criminal people and a much more ambivalent look at industrial civilization and its various impacts. Which is doing a lot more to bump the book up in priority for me than all of the, "William Gibson writes a time travel story" (remember The Difference Engine?) noise I've heard thus far.

Don't get me wrong; I loved the Bigend trilogy. Gibson is a beautiful writer. I'd be happy to read 600 pages of Gibson describing a sandwich that never gets eaten. But I did notice somewhere that his perspective kind of took a shift from romanticized underclass to romanticized ruling class, and that's definitely sat a bit strange with me. Cayce Pollard initially felt like a much better protagonist to me, but that's only because she has the privilege of wearing herself on her sleeve. In retrospect, I actually dislike her and where she sits in society. Henry Case took a lot longer to get to know, is much shallower in a lot of ways, does better to hide himself from the reader, but I like him and what he means a lot more. Between the Advertiser and the Artiste, well.
posted by byanyothername at 9:24 AM on March 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

couldn't get through Bigend, but I'm very excited to start this soon as I finish Seveneves, The System of the World, and Ancillary Sword
posted by rebent at 9:30 AM on March 22, 2015

Or, heck, "The Gernsback Continuum," which I've always found simultaneously wonderful and just slightly disappointing, but dystopian romantics gonna dystopian romance.
posted by byanyothername at 9:30 AM on March 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I found The Peripheral to be a very good return-to-form for Gibson. I think the Bigend trilogy actually got better the further it went along, with the last being the most satisfying for me.

I suppose it's possible that it's because I work in web/tech (and have since 98) that the Bigend trilogy didn't really feel as alien-present as it did to many other people, but by Zero History he finally broke through to an alt-present that really felt unfamiliar to me.

Personally, I'm glad to see that he's gone back to less familiar locales -- especially the ones like Flynne's world (or Chevette's from the Bridge trilogy or Case and Molly's from the Sprawl trilogy) where you can feel those worlds already lurking in the interstices of our own. With the Bigend books, I felt like Gibson was just twisting knobs on the visible present rather than unearthing tiny fragments of the futures-to-be and putting them into the light and watching them grow.
posted by chimaera at 10:00 AM on March 22, 2015

I can see in the dark. You just stuck that flash in your jacket pocket. You look like you still wanna run. I gotta gun on you.


Don't even think about it. You ever see a Fujiwara HE flechette? Hits something hard, it goes off. Hits something soft, like most of you, buddy, it goes in, then it goes off. Ten seconds later.


So you get to think about it.
posted by ostranenie at 10:54 AM on March 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I liked The Peripheral, but it did take a while to get rolling. What I enjoyed most was the idea of taking time delays that were used in real-world financial market networks to gain advantage that were turned into a scifi mechanism for the unbalanced information push from the future society to the backwards modern society. A kind of colonialism separated by nanoseconds. As usual, Gibson had some interesting ideas to play with.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:50 AM on March 22, 2015

The Peripheral reminded me a lot of Neal Stephenson's Reamde, with the currency manipulation, the video-game connection, the ensemble cast, and yeah, the action scenes that don't quite live up to the buildup, that are almost a little...goofy? I still love both writers, though.
posted by limeonaire at 12:17 PM on March 22, 2015

I kind of stopped reading fiction for a while, so I only just finished Pattern Recognition. I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure if I should go ahead and finish Spook Country and Zero History before getting into this one. I'm looking forward to it regardless.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:37 PM on March 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

May be Gibson's future, as he can imagine it, is here ... but for most of the people younger, even me, future is still quite a bit far away.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 9:08 PM on March 22, 2015

"The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed yet."
--William Gibson
posted by mmoncur at 9:44 PM on March 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think I came to Gibson by a peculiar route, starting out with Monalisa Overdrive. It was glorious, catching glimpses of unexplained prologue and having to figure things out for myself - like the throwaway with the model airplanes and the Battle of Britain from WWII ("... the one before the last one..."). Then I read Count Zero, and Neuromancer was a letdown in comparison. Here was everything I'd worked so hard to figure out from crumbs and clues, just laid out on paper... But I loved the Sprawl.

I didn't like the Bridge trilogy. Never got into it, I'm just not sure why. Probably the time and place when I read it.

Pattern Recognition was fantastic. Everything totally of the moment, but just slightly off, with that aching loneliness and alienation. I'm not so sure about the rest of the Blue Ant series. And the whole series is science fiction but barely science fiction.

I haven't read the Peripheral yet, but it's on my list, and this makes me want to move it up.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:43 AM on March 23, 2015

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