William Gibson’s The Peripheral has been on my list for a long time. And last week when I was looking through my library wish list, it was available and I grabbed it. Wow. I finished it Saturday night and I’m still thinking about it.
The story follows Flynne Fisher after she witnesses a murder and it opens up a power struggle between a near (to us) future and a farther future. People from the far future are opening up a way to go back in time to the near future and so the power struggle exists in both time periods. Flynne’s character is strong, smart, and curious and her band of family and friends are loyal and struggling to survive in a world that is already feeling the effects of climate change and economic change.
Gibson opens up two worlds that both fascinate me and have me wondering. And (sorry, but there are spoilers here) the way he talks about The Jackpot, which is a long series of events that happen over time that slowly whittle away the population of the Earth by 80%, is what has obsessed me. I read a lot of dystopian fiction, but honestly this, along with The Parable of the Sower (review coming soon) are the most realistic as to where I think we may be heading as a planet. The Jackpot isn’t one massive catastrophe, but rather a series of them. It happens over a long period of time, in human perception (my guess is 80 to 100 years, possibly a bit more), and it feels like, although this is my conjecture, that humans feel powerless to mitigate it or stop it.
This, if I’m being honest, is how I feel right now about climate change and the way many in the world are reacting to it. People won’t inconvenience themselves to make changes that have real effects because it’s too hard to perceive, the time line is too long. Or, as I often think about, many people are struggling to get by, so changing for something that isn’t directly affecting them now feels like too much. This is how the people Gibson portrays in the near future feel to me, they can’t mitigate The Jackpot because most of their energy is going towards survival. It’s only when Flynne and her group of friends and family are given more financial security that they can then work towards mitigating what may come.
I highly recommend reading this, it’s a fast moving story that you’ll find hard to put down. And then we can talk about The Jackpot over a drink.
Eras are conveniences, particularly for those who never experienced them. We carve history from totalities beyond our grasp. Bolt labels on the result. Handles. Then speak of the handles as though they were things in themselves. (loc 3535)