Future Tense


For the past decade, cyberpunk novelist William Gibson, who coined the word cyberspace, has set his novels in the present. But with his latest, The Peripheral, Gibson goes back to the future—two futures, to be precise. One is an economically struggling, intensely local, rural near-future of 3D-printed drones, drugs, and video game escapism. The other is a far-flung urban utopia populated by quasi-governmental corporations and humanoid bodies that the wealthy can inhabit, thus extending their physical presence to anywhere in the world. The two futures are separated by a vague, catastrophic event known only as "the jackpot." They turn out to be connected in ways neither conventional nor obvious.

The connection to our own world, however, is immediately apparent: This is a noir-tinged, science fiction riff on inequality—on the divide between the haves and the have-nots. As always with Gibson, the future is really an extension of the present. -Peter Suderman