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Agency

by William Gibson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Stub (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3791448,090 (3.65)20
""One of the most visionary, original, and quietly influential writers currently working" (The Boston Globe) returns with a sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Peripheral. Verity Jane, gifted app-whisperer, has been out of work since her exit from a brief but problematic relationship with a Silicon Valley billionaire. Then she signs the wordy NDA of a dodgy San Francisco start-up, becoming the beta tester for their latest product: a digital assistant, accessed through a pair of ordinary-looking glasses. "Eunice," the disarmingly human AI in the glasses, soon manifests a face, a fragmentary past, and an unnervingly canny grasp of combat strategy. Verity, realizing that her cryptic new employers don't yet know this, instinctively decides that it's best they don't. Meanwhile, a century ahead, in London, in a different timeline entirely, Wilf Netherton works amid plutocrats and plunderers, survivors of the slow and steady apocalypse known as the jackpot. His employer, the enigmatic Ainsley Lowbeer, can look into alternate pasts and nudge their ultimate directions. Verity and Eunice have become her current project. Wilf can see what Verity and Eunice can't: their own version of the jackpot, just around the corner. And something else too: the roles they both may play in it"--… (more)

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» See also 20 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Romp though the future and a linked alternative past with all but maybe a couple of the onscreen humans having the agency of a bag of potato chips. Verity Jane takes a job, meets the AI she is supposed to evaluate and loses all control over her life. Lots of fun shenanigans keep us entertained, but seem totally arbitrary to what is supposedly actually happening. ( )
  quondame | Jul 11, 2020 |
In most recent profiles of William Gibson, he's discussed his shift from the speculative futures of the Neuromancer era to a mere decade out to basically the cutting edge of next week or so, as the present is plenty weird enough (and, of course, the future is already here; just unevenly distributed). But as this followup to The Peripheral shows, even that isn't weird enough - instead, Gibson is so far into the future that this book is partially in the past (2017, to be precise).

This sets up an extremely intriguing premise in a different "stub" than "the County" of the previous book. Given contemporary technologies, how to replicate the futuristic capabilities of the County's 2060s setting, or post-Jackpot 2130s? (These eras are spelled out with much more specificity here.) How to give the future London denizens the degree of Agency in the 2017 stub that they need in order to productively manipulate things? A sentient AI begins to set a plan in motion and you're along for the ride, waiting to see what happens next.

Alas, the promise of this early story never quite gets off the ground, despite literally doing so in the denouement. An ending manages to coalesce itself and some favorite characters make a return, but even the moments of self-discovery and plot unfolding fizzle into a rather open-ended climax. I'm hoping that this sets up a particularly interesting third volume, but as a standalone work, this one was less "out there" in the eye-opening speculative mode that Gibson normally operates in. This may have been because the alternate timeline of the 2017 stub was so "ripped from the headlines" - a future in which the Brexit vote failed and Hillary Clinton elected (albeit the latter never mentioned by name). Much in the same way later seasons of The Simpsons became overly topical and referential to the moment, this too seems a bit...on the nose. But again, I'm hoping this might be the setup for a mind-blowing conclusion. ( )
  goliathonline | Jul 7, 2020 |
If you were a fan of The Peripheral when it first came out, I'm certain you will also be a fan of this sequel. Reading the other is NOT required, however.

In fact, for a great deal of this novel, it's just a fun ride with an AI and a lot of time spent with drones. The AI is NOT your average superpower, but an uploaded mind/AI hybrid based on ad-hoc technologies designed to be a normal, average APP. :) Of course, when the App gets alpha-tested, it slips its leash and the rest, as they say, is history.

Or is it?

Because the world of the Peripheral, and this one, is a story of additional time-lines. Of a future that has gone busted but still tries to reach back and solve some of the major problems of ours even though they won't be able to make a change on their own. Yeah. I know. Selfless behavior. WEIRD. But it makes for a very interesting tale.

And I admit I got a little lost in places. The cool details and the bits about WHERE we went all wrong in 2016 are both humorous and sometimes a bit odd, but overall it blends quite nicely with our prejudices.

The places where the story is full of action and intrigue are my favorites. I was MOSTLY interested in the cool future and current tech. Everything else was pretty much on par with all modern William Gibson, however, and old fans will still enjoy it. :)

( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
From his beginnings in 1984’s Neuromancer, Gibson has offered the struggle for agency as an unacknowledged, quietly devastating war – fought by hackers, gig economy workers, off-gridders and their networks – against the algorithm, against the manipulation of our needs, our personal information and our appetites, by big data and gangster capital. If he was “prescient” back then, he’s right on the ball now, when it’s so much harder to believe in those loose human associations he imagined in the 1990s, whose combination of technical nous and cultural know-how enabled them to quickly distinguish the real from the sucker fantasy.
added by melmore | editThe Guardian (Feb 22, 2020)
 
But there's no boom. His bomb ticks and ticks, then hangs there, suspended between hope and catastrophe, because his stories these days are all about highly competent people being brought together to solve a problem — drawn in like rays inevitably converging, arriving just before everything explodes. His conflicts are intellectual, occasionally solved by the swift application of overwhelming violence, but more often seeing victory come as the natural result of more intelligent systems processes; through more effective usage of human capital and resources. And the good guys win simply because they are smarter and geekier and just so much cooler than the bad guys could ever hope to be.
 
Regardless of Gibson’s shifting ratios of glee to cynicism, he can always be counted on to show us our contemporary milieu rendered magical by his unique insights, and a future rendered inhabitable by his wild yet disciplined imagination.
 
Someone else might’ve made this fresh and clever, but from this source, it’s an often dull and pointless-seeming retread.
added by melmore | editKirkus Reivews (Nov 10, 2019)
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
William Gibsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
AND-ONECover photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Corless, Laura K.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gray318Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Martha Millard, my excellent literary agent for thirty-five years, with many thanks
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Very recent hiredness was its own liminal state, Verity reminded herself, on the crowded Montgomery BART platform, waiting for a train to Sixteenth and Mission.
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