Review: Time Meddling Becomes Altruism in Amazon's The Peripheral

It's the story of a distant future where rich denizens meddle in the affairs of the past.


In his 2014 novel The Peripheral, science fiction writer William Gibson told the story of a distant future set in the aftermath of a slow-rolling climate-disease-and-politics apocalypse known as the Jackpot, where rich, sad, often vaguely criminal denizens meddle in the affairs of the past. It's just not their own past.

Instead, their connection to the pre-Jackpot world creates a "stub"—a timeline that departs from their own, just a few years into something like our own future—set in a hillbilly enclave on the hard edge of a decaying American society.

Why meddle? The novel is somewhat coy, suggesting a mix of amusement, curiosity, sadism, and even good intentions. But a new Amazon Prime Video adaptation of the book makes the primary motivation more clear: altruism, of an essentially political nature. As a mystery character operating out of a "peripheral"—a sort of android body that can be inhabited via digital presence—says, the plan is to save "the world." It's just that the world isn't their own.