Questions about The Peripheral by Wm. Gibson
December 28, 2016 2:43 PM   Subscribe

I just finished The Peripheral and have questions. It's great if you haven't read it. Spoilers inside.

1. I don't understand why Burton was originally hired to provide security at the party. Surely there is some more straightforward and effective way of providing security/chasing away drones than employing someone from a past continuum that is linked through a Chinese server that nobody understands? I get the idea that providing a "polt" as a "gift" had something to do with it -- i.e., it was intended to be a novel gift not a practical one-- but wouldn't there be additional/better security in place as well? Especially considering the very elaborate security and use of assemblers we see at the second party - why not just have assemblers handle the spying drones?

2. I don't understand why Wilf had to/wanted to communicate through the "Wheelie Boy." Why not just fab Wilf some kind of snazzy camera/speaker/microphone combination?

3. I don't understand the part of the ending that alludes to some kind of continuing business between the people in the stub and Wilf -- i.e., someone is being flown in from Germany and a conference call is being planned. What is that about?

4. It strikes me that the people in Wilf's future may themselves be part of a "stub," but I didn't notice that suggested anywhere. The characters in Wilf's future seem 100% certain their continuum is the "real" one and every other "stub" is irreversibly impacted by them but not as much the other way around. But isn't Wilf's future "changed" because of the contact with Flynne's continuum? It seems to me this could go on infinitely, but I was surprised that Gibson didn't seem to play with it very much (maybe because it devolves into dorm room philosophizing)?

5. The payoff on Connor's "red cube" weapon was kind of weak, no? It just rolled around a little and crushed the robots?
posted by Mid to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I noticed a few of these things too, but I think it's a common feature of William Gibson's fiction that some plot points, settings, and items imply things about the world but don't necessarily have a specific explanation behind them (in the Blue Ant trilogy, there's lots of under-explained stuff in Bigend's orbit). So, for at least some of these things (#1, #3, and #4 particularly), there may be many reasonable but not definitive explanations. Also, I think on #5 that's a bit of a Gibson pattern too. There are a few other Gibsonian weapons that get introduced, built up, and used in a way that's sort of unglamorous.

For #2, IIRC, the explanation was that a lot of bandwidth and expertise was being directed to other work in the stub (like manufacturing other, more important hardware and manipulating businesses for money), so the wheelie boy was good enough given the circumstances.
posted by ddbeck at 3:54 PM on December 28, 2016

Read page 105 in the hardback, for #1.

I think there's more enjoyment to be had from Gibson's infrequent books than can be fully apprehended in a single reading.

Read the Wikipedia articles for tipstaffs, thylacines, and Newgate Prison, too.
posted by the Real Dan at 6:20 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

1. The appeal of using Burton for security is that he's a non-entity -- he literally doesn't exist at all in Wilf's world. He has no past, since the Jackpot erased the historical record. Hence, a "polt". In Wilf's heavily-surveilled future, that's something rare and valuable.

2. Convenience. It wasn't a huge organizational priority to invent a retro-peripheral so Wilf could go on charming robot dates with Flynne.

Besides, the Wheelie Boy really exists, and I doubt Gibson could resist the temptation to put a "real" peripheral in his book.

3. There's plenty of profit in the stub for Wilf's people -- if nothing else, as a source of free/cheap intellectual labor, or more nonperson polts.

4. I think you're right. Gibson admirably kept the time-travel fuckery relatively low-key.

(My personal technical objection to the book: If the magic time-traveling server is in China, then simple speed-of-light latency over the "normal" network would make the whole peripheral thing totally unviable. Ever played a video game on a server from the other side of the world? It sucks. Now consider that video games cheat heavily by predicting motion and retroactively adjusting the game state if the prediction fails -- something you wouldn't be able to do with a peripheral.)
posted by neckro23 at 12:29 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

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