A Peripheral Glossary

My own pleasure as a reader of that type of fiction is being left in the dark, confused, gradually putting it together.
- William Gibson

That's exactly the kind of reader you have to be to enjoy William Gibson's new novel.

Peripheral drops you into two separate futures, one near, one distant, without so much as a guide in either, much less some kind of portable universal translator. Nope, you're on your own. And it gets bewildering at times.

 

I do love a good perplexing story though. One that has to be puzzled through. Where the sense of mystery isn't confined to the whodunnit, but pervades everything. Peripheral begins with an ordinary person witnessing a crime. A familiar enough beginning, something we've seen a hundred times before – even if this time the technology is slightly out of reach. But the story soon leaves such footholds behind.

Still, if you're like me, you'll appreciate the novel's concept (more intriguing, I think, than anything Gibson has come up with before) more than its execution. His writing has a certain poetry to it, so it may come down to having a taste for his particular style. I have to say, my favorite Gibson novel is Pattern Recognition, which avoids the heavy neologizing of Peripheral and his original cyberpunk novels for plainer prose, putting a greater premium on character and story.

But if you're like me, you'll appreciate Peripheral all the same. It was both fun and frustrating trying to decipher Gibson's invented jargon. I built an index to it as I went along. A glossary. A key. More for the pleasure of cataloging my own discoveries than as an aid to others. But it occurred to me that it might help some readers sort through things, as they read, or after they've finished. So I've dropped my list into this post. If I ever go back in for a second reading, I'll be taking it with me. 

I've tried to exclude details that might act as spoilers. Hopefully none have slipped through. I don't recommend reading this before starting the book; wait til you get frustrated yourself, or even better, til after you're done. Then tell me about any mistakes or omissions!

CHARACTERS IN THE NEAR FUTURE

  • Flynne Fisher ("Easy Ice"): professional gamer
  • Leon: Flynne's brother 
  • Burton: Flynne's other brother, haptic Marine vet
  • Shaylene: Flynne's friend, Burton's girlfriend 
  • Macon: tech
  • Conner Penske: disabled vet
  • Dwight: Operation Northwind game leader 
  • Madison & Janice: married Operation Northwind gamers
  • Reece: vet buddy of Burton's
  • Tommy: police officer
  • Corbell Pickett: corrupt car dealer/drug kingpin
  • Griff Holdsworth: English agent
  • Tacoma Raeburn: Klein Cruz Vermette employee
  • Clovis Raeburn: Klein Cruz Vermette employee

 

CHARACTERS IN THE DISTANT FUTURE

  • Wilf Netherton: publicist 
  • Rainey: publicist/Wilf's boss
  • Daedra West: celebrity artist, Wilf's client/ex
  • Aelita: Daedra's sister
  • Lorenzo: Rainey's "cameraman"
  • Annie: neoprimitive curator, fan of Daedra
  • Lev Zubov: rich Russian, friend of Wilf, continua hobbyist
  • Ossian: Lev's Irish henchman
  • Maria Anathema Ash: Lev's tattooed henchwoman
  • Gordon & Tyenna: Lev's thylacines (extinct Tasmanian wolves)
  • Ainsley Lowbeer: Detective Inspector of the London Met 
  • Clovis Raeburn Fearing: friend of Lowbeer

 

TERMS

  • Stub: time fork created by info transfer
  • Continua: see "stub"
  • Peripheral: semi-human mindless cyborg avatar
  • Builders: drug manufacturers 
  • Homes: Homeland Security
  • Michikoid: female robot
  • Medici: healing gadget
  • Squidsuit: invisibility camouflage suit
  • Haptics: military cybernetic implants 
  • Paparazzi: camera drones
  • Patchers: deformed cannibals living on the Garbage Patch, in the Pacific
  • Darknet: underground internet
  • The jackpot: world depopulating catastrophe, happened between near and far futures
  • Hefty: utterly dominant retail chain, Walmart + Starbucks?
  • Luke 4:5: religious fanatic organization, like Westboro Baptist Church 
  • Fabbed: manufactured by 3D printer
  • Klepts: Russian oligarchs
  • Matryoshka: hidden corporate ownership, "shells within shells" like the Russian dolls
  • Assemblers: manufacturing drones
  • Klein Cruz Vermette: law firm in near future

 

Patrick D. Joyceessays