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They will be coming.


The first one I have found is not very flattering, from Kirkus Review.



A sequel to The Peripheral (2014), in which bored dilettantes from the future meddle virtually with potential pasts while more responsible people try to ameliorate the damage.


The novel opens, as so many Gibson novels do, with an intelligent, creative young woman accepting a not terribly well-defined job from an enigmatic (possibly sinister) executive involving a piece of cutting-edge technology. In this case, that technology is an emerging AI with origins in top-secret military research who calls herself Eunice. The young woman, Verity Jane, spends only a couple of days with Eunice (via company-issued glasses, phone, and headset) before her new boss, Gavin, gets nervous about Eunice’s potential and starts attempting to monitor every move of the human–AI pair. What Verity does not know is that her present day of 2017, in which a decreased Russian influence on social media led to an unnamed woman who is clearly Hillary Clinton winning the presidency, the U.K. voting to remain in the E.U., and a volatile situation in Turkey threatening to turn nuclear, was deliberately manipulated by someone in 2136 who enjoys creating doomsday scenarios among possible past timelines. It’s up to future law enforcement (who can only contact the timeline via digital communication or virtually controlled mechanical peripherals) to get in touch with Verity and Eunice and recruit them to prevent looming global catastrophe. Given Gibson’s Twitter-stated unhappiness with the timeline in which he currently finds himself, it's hard to know what he's implying here: That outside intervention would have been required to achieve a Hillary Clinton presidency and defeat Brexit? Or that our own vigilance on social media could/should have brought those outcomes about? And why would these two potentially positive occurrences in that timeline instigate an even darker scenario than the one readers are currently experiencing—and also require that intervention to fix it? Have we reached the point of no return in all potential 21st-century timelines, doomed, at least in part, regardless of what political and social choices we make now? (Nor is it ever really explained why Gavin turns so quickly on Verity and Eunice, unless it’s simply to inject the story with urgency and transform it into the author’s favorite plot device, the chase.) This is vintage, or possibly tired, Gibson, filling his usual quest-driven template with updated contemporary or just-past-contemporary politics, technology, and culture.


Someone else might’ve made this fresh and clever, but from this source, it’s an often dull and pointless-seeming retread.


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Another one, from Publisher's Weekly



Cyberpunk pioneer Gibson disappoints with this inventive but jumbled prequel to The Periphery. In 2017, gifted “app whisperer” Verity Jane is hired to beta test a pair of eye-glasses that double as an artificial intelligence assistant named Eunice. As Eunice’s personality and capabilities grow, Verity decides to hide the AI’s rapid development from her mysterious new employers. She can’t keep the secret for long, however, as agents from a century into the future descend to make sure that Eunice­—a misplaced technology from their time—doesn’t start a nuclear war. Though the writing is packed with intriguing concepts and characters, the scrambled timelines and shifting narrative perspective make an already complicated plot even harder to follow. The characters from the future fall flat, especially in comparison to the dynamic, fully-realized personalities of Verity and Eunice. Cyberpunk fans looking to dive into the “what-if’s” of an alternate timeline will be as enraptured as ever by Gibson’s imagination, but they’ll be left with more questions than answers. (Jan.)


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I confess I did not like Agency either. I read it a second time, hoping to have it click better, as I find often with WG books, but it was not the case.


From my point of view the time travel component detracted rather than improved the novel, unlike what happened in The Peripheral, where it was key, and fully justified. So we end up with two novellas, one of life in a klept future, from the point of view of the hangers-on of the highly privileged, and a story of how lucky we are that the first self evolving AI prevents an unlikely nuclear war rather than starting one, told by a hanger-on of the highly privileged. We also get real time drone piloting and information between two universes through a third one, and there were points where I just threw the book to the floor. Though that is mostly a personal peeve with multiple universe abuse. 


The 2017 part would have worked practically as well (or better, if we consider how likely nuclear escalation is) with Trump, so the What if becomes, for me, a pointless gimmick. The Future part does not develop much the setting, except to highlight the power of a certain character.


The book is not all bad. The ability of WG to write brief accurate vignettes of our reality in a new life is still there, and most of the auxiliary cast is well realized and shaped in just a few sentences. But the brilliant artisanship and moving fragments do not change that, for me, the premise is flawed, the fit between the parts clunky, the privilege becomes overbearing, and the opposition becomes clownish (once there were enough operating funds, why not just acquire them?).


I agree with the basic point that, for many things we get Agency only through privilege, political, economic or social, and otherwise we are just powerless in the grand scene of things, but that should not mean only the 0.1% matters. The main characters are not 0.1 percenters, but all they seem to achieve is due to their relationship with them, or the newest club member, the first AI, who quickly becomes one.

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Whew, I thought I was going to be the only one who didn't like Agency as much as they'd hoped. 


I do intend to read it again, because it feels like the main action, the stuff Eunice is up to, is magic that makes things happen, but I have no idea how or why she made the choices she did. And while I understand the whole Naturalist philosophy in Gibson's work, I felt cheated. I realize, too, that whatever AI comes to life now is going to be, at minimum, that fast in getting itself together, however I just felt like it all happened weirdly.


Maybe a second reading will make things clearer.

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I need to do another reading too. Yeah this one definitely felt like it lacked a certain "depth" somehow that his other books have. I honestly wonder if the surprise Trump win possibly made him have to concentrate so hard on duct-taping his original idea back into workable form that he didn't have as much time to let the content marinate and gain all those amazing little character and plot wrinkles that he usually has.

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