In some ways The Peripheral is William Gibson in good old form. Imaginative, and written in a tight prose (unlike some of the unsuccessful, abandoned and un-reviewed reads that have littered my path recently /Victorian authors, however famous and successful, may you rest in forgotten peace…/).
The story run in two parallel and partly connected tracks. I say partly, because one of them is in the past of the other while at the same time running in tandem. As soon as the future starts messing with the past the connect disintegrates while – and here’s the paradox – both past and future continue to exist, but now independently of each other… while still being in contact… Confusing? The standard premise of the time travel story is to say that if you go back to the past and kill a grandparent your future self will too cease to exist. It teaches us not to look backwards but ahead. Not so in this one.
In this particular story the aimless son of a ruling clan, heir to a future with immense technological means but almost devoid of real people, entertains himself and his friend by meddling with the past, employing people who live on the edges of what might be described as a lawless mob economy to unknowingly run security for the rich. In the future. Making the people of the past believe they are doing test runs of a game of some kind.
By chance one of them witnesses a murder, and from there on the entanglement of the two realities only grow more complex. By the end the past is infused with future tech, a president whose murder preceded the catastrophe that wiped out most of the population is still alive, and I am left wondering what this all was about, really. Kind of like when you listen to a charismatic speaker, greatly enjoying the performance, but trying to tell someone afterwards what it was all about you find out that really it was just smoke and magic – nothing of consequence was ever said.
That said I did enjoy the read immensely and while I might not reread The Peripheral I would not hesitate to recommend it to someone in need of a passing diversion, of entertainment. And I will definitely buy and read his next book too, whatever it may be.
What do you do when a favourite author suddenly challenges you by writing in the exact genre you detest? When I belatedly found out Jon Courtenay Grimwood had The Fallen Blade, an alternate history vampire story, out my choice was easy – to read first and judge later. My aversion to certain genres or sub-genres rests largely on empiric evidence, after all, and every thesis need to be challenged every now and then ;-)
First perhaps some words on why the “belatedly” in above paragraph. The book was published in January last year. Normally I am holding an eye to the “upcoming” list at my local dealer (SF Bokhandeln) but this list is partitioned into SF, Fantasy and Horror. Of these I only ever check the SF one on something approaching regular basis but by chance I glanced over the Fantasy list recently and found JCG was to publish a new novel in early 2012. I followed the link and realised the 2012 release was a “part 2 of 3”. I was aghast at having missed a release from a fave author and hurried to the physical bookshop the very next day, to get part 1, which is The Fallen Blade.
To me the book was a pleasant surprise. We follow the nameless boy who doesn’t really know who he is or where he’s from. His voyage takes him through Venice’s upper and lower levels – some of which is closer to each other than one would think…
While still relying on classic JCG archetypes – the outcast who doesn’t understand who or what he is, a real place but an alternate history, upper crust politicking, and a dedication to describing texture, look and smell that makes most scenes an inner eye visual explosion – the writing feels more mature, as he is in his natural element, for once. And then I’d never call his other books immature. It’s just that he seems to have, step by step, distanced himself from his cyberpunk and very Gibsonian background far enough to finally do something that is more wholly his own. And this despite this latest book being in a genre that I would not hesitate to call over-exploited and tired.
A definite recommendation for anyone who enjoys the voice of Jon Courtenay Grimwood. It would seem the trilogy format suits him so much better than the standalone novel. Definitely looking forward to the next instalment.
We follow homicide detective Meyer Landsman, and we find him when he’s at his absolute bottom; living in a flea hotel, with a drinking problem, and as the world is turning a fellow unlucky is found murdered in another room a few floors down. As the story unwinds we get a waft of that precious 90’s X-files feeling as we zap through a few days on the Alaskan coast, in an imaginary near future where a lot of things turned out in another way, with a small part of that frozen country a jewish enclave.
I really don’t like the hard boiled style of some crime novelists; the fake macho veneer, the affected tone of an author sitting back in his or her insulated life. In this particular case I’m prepared to make an exception, though, because Chabon uses it to good effect and with a steady hand.
What irked me, though, when I was through reading the book, was how miraculous recovery Landsman made from his drinking habit. Not very believable, in my humble opinion.
Maybe not the most revolutionary book ever written, but witty, entertaining and very well crafted. I can recommend reading it.