Submitted by Obscura_Games t3_11ae97e in books

As a teenager I discovered Neuromancer and was instantly entranced.

"The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel."

Chills. I also went on to love Pattern Recognition (one of my favourite books) and the Peripheral, which was incredibly inventive (but somewhat lacking in some areas - nothing could really match Pattern Recognition for me though).

But I read the sequel to The Peripheral a year or so ago and was incredibly disappointed, and have been looking for somewhere to get views on it since.

Has anyone else read it and if so what were your thoughts? Goodreads has different views, some positive and some negative. Personally I wondered if it is ironic that it is called Agency, or if I was missing something, because the actions of the main POV character have zero effect on what transpires in the plot. If you removed that character's actions, it all would have happened anyway. And it doesn't happen in a kind of reflective, 'we are small and events are much bigger than us way'. It happens in a bad writing, not thought through sort of way.

It's one of the first books I've read where I finished it out of some strange loyalty to the author, rather than because I was enjoying it. It's so weird because Pattern Recognition is superb and reads like a mournful meditation on modernity, perfectly taking you into the mind of someone alienated from life and struggling to reconnect through weird subcultures. But Agency is almost vacuous. It doesn't iterate on the ideas of The Peripheral in an interesting way either.

Anyway - just interested if anyone else has views on the book or on Gibson's progression of writing in general.



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RowYourUpboat t1_j9s8itv wrote

I liked The Peripheral, and I liked the idea of Agency but the execution really doesn't do it justice.

Side note, I really hated the Peripheral TV show. They ruined the Gibson vibe and turned it into just another cheesy sci-fi show. I was hoping for something a little more sober-minded, like Severance.


Zatoichi_Jones t1_j9sb76f wrote

The way they ruined my boy Wilf Nertherton on the TV show made my blood boil.


DernaNerna t1_j9tvpns wrote

Wilf being a hopeless romantic and alcoholic is like, his thing. And they completely ditched that


BobCrosswise t1_j9rn2yi wrote

I think Agency is the worst book he's published, and it's not even close.

It was doubly strange to me, because I thought The Peripheral was the best thing he'd done since Idoru at least.

That's the only thing I might disagree with you on - I thought the Blue Ant books were pretty good, but not great. Pattern Recognition was definitely my favorite of the three, but still, aside from some of the characters and some of the set pieces, it just didn't impress me all that much. And by the time he'd recycled the characters yet again for Zero History, I was bored.

But then The Peripheral came along, and I was caught entirely off guard. Everything about it impressed me, and most notably, the character of Flynne. She's easily one of the best protagonists he's ever written.

And I emphatically agree with one of your points - I too noticed, and thought it was oddly ironic, that the entirely milquetoast protagonist of Agency (whose name I can't even remember) essentially had no agency at all. She barely even had any presence.


lem753 t1_j9sb1x8 wrote

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think Gibson's books got worse because we actually got to the future and it wasn't 80s Cyberpunk so he had to change the feel of the books, and it was never quite as good.


Zatoichi_Jones t1_j9rzxlb wrote

I've always felt the POV characters in a Gibson book are not the main drivers of the plot. They almost are always someone caught up in bigger events that operates, for the most part, in the background. Gibson's characters just try to hold on for dear life, while bigger and more powerful people pull the strings. I'm fine with that, because when he does it well, it's a great time.

But I have to agree that Agency didn't pull this off very well. So much of the book is the main character traveling to someplace, then asking questions about why she had to travel to that place, then traveling to another place and asking more questions. The modern day stuff was pretty dull. I only really enjoyed the stuff in the future world, but I think that had more to do with loving the characters from The Peripheral.

Still, I'm looking forward to his last book in the series. The setting, if nothing else, should be pretty dynamic.


Napoleon64 t1_j9s743y wrote

>I've always felt the POV characters in a Gibson book are not the main drivers of the plot. They almost are always someone caught up in bigger events that operates, for the most part, in the background. Gibson's characters just try to hold on for dear life, while bigger and more powerful people pull the strings. I'm fine with that, because when he does it well, it's a great time.

Agreed. His characters often seem like passengers to the story, sat by the window watching things happen, but never in the driver's seat directing them. I don't say that as a complaint because I love his work, but it very much clashes with the dominant narrative philosophy that the protagonist should always be active and never passive.

Even in Neuromancer, Case is mostly pulled along by Molly. I'm not sure if I'm just more aware of it now, or if his later works don't hide it so well. Personally, I think Pattern Recognition was last the truly great book he wrote, but I enjoyed The Peripheral well enough.


bloodyell76 t1_j9rlhm4 wrote

I never even finished The Peripheral. But I don’t read as much as I used to either. So my copy of Agency sits unread. The thing is, I’ve read all the others- the Sprawl, the Bridge, the Blue Ant trilogy. But this one could not hold my attention. Few books do these days, however.


Cross_22 t1_j9sfzjo wrote

Peripheral was terrible, but I stuck with it because Agency was supposedly better and needed the background info. Now that I have read the first quarter of Agency I feel like I have wasted enough time.


tsv1138 t1_j9v0rwk wrote

I really enjoyed the blue ant series, and it's funny seeing things like "Incredibly ugly sweater defeats AI surveillance camera" on news sites today, but even those had some pacing issues. The Peripheral had some interesting ideas, especially "the Klept" and ideas around who would be best suited to ride out a power vacuum but again.. pacing. Agency felt jarringly fractured at times, and I get that the main character is supposed to be the stand in for the audience but you are right that she is just along for the ride. The AI had more agency than the woman who basically gets kidnapped and told what to do by every other character including the AI.


My_Name_is_Galaxy t1_j9rxf4d wrote

I just read this book earlier this week and was terribly excited to learn that The Peripheral had a sequel. Then I read it and thought, wait, what was that about again? Two days later I had to think really hard to remember the main character’s name and how it ended.


thegoldencashew t1_j9s3ok3 wrote

I enjoyed it. Not his best, but still interesting.


LibrisTella t1_j9s3qn9 wrote

I also love neuromancer and some of Gibsons older books! So, I picked up zero history around 2010 when it came out and I did not like it at all.


Ok-Letter2212 t1_j9s8ia2 wrote

I bought it on a whim after taking a break reading his books. Not great. Only finished it because I kept hoping that something would happen.

The only thing that's stuck with me is the idea that your go bag should be something you can run with.


bloonail t1_j9sq0sw wrote

My god I gotta read these books. Seems I missed two, maybe three. Gibson is exploring something else. It is fine and it is not Necromancer or Count Zero.


Ramoncin t1_j9t29qc wrote

I'd say he's never been that great of a writer. I remember reading "Johnny Memonic" years ago and found it nearly unreadable. "Neuromancer" was good, though.


Guyver0 t1_j9usz72 wrote

i enjoyed it but it felt a bit anaemic. I assume this is a result of having to re write so much of it.


Obscura_Games OP t1_j9ut24i wrote

How do you mean rewrite?


Guyver0 t1_j9utbfy wrote

So much like Pattern Recognition, Gibson had written most of Agency, then Trump won the election. So he decided to scrap a bunch of it and re write it.


Obscura_Games OP t1_j9utgb1 wrote

Ohh I didn't know that. Huh that's interesting given Clinton wins the election in their timeline.


ApocalypseSpokesman t1_j9wrcro wrote

I just finished it and it's awful.

>!Why on Earth would Eunice go to all that trouble, pulling a dozen things out of her ass at a time, to ensure the safety of Verity, who never did anything or amounted to anything? She had no real personality, and half of her lines were repeating what the previous person said to her as a question.!<

>!I sincerely doubt that the Server, whatever it is, can ensure a steady enough bandwidth between two stubs that Connor, who apparently has nothing but time on his hands, can pilot drones inside of buildings with no latency.!<

>!Nothing at all happens in the book. What's the whole Qamishli thing? Don't ask me, I only read the thing. Don't ask Gibson, because he doesn't know either.!<

>!They mention that the future is kinda barely holding on, thanks to the improbable shards and the unobtainium assemblers which can do just anything instantly. That is belied by the fact that the future is positively filled with whimsical, extravagant nonsense. A cosplay part of town? Why not? Hey, I'm gonna cloak my car that moves in any direction soundlessly, all day, for the fuck of it, because energy is apparently free and limitless. Hey I'm gonna go meet this guy I need to talk to. Should I meet him at a cafe, or should I go to a repurposed, neolithic-themed sex club that serves breakfast all day? And Ainsley is apparently omniscient, because she knows everything that gets spoken aloud in at least the city of London, if not the world.!<

>!Every fucking thing is simultaneously overwrought and vacuous. None of the characters have much of a personality. The good guys are 100% good as gumdrops, and the bad guys, well I'm sure they're bad for entirely unspecified reasons.!<

>!And the whole Hillary Clinton <wink, wink> angle was an eye-roller.!<


reddplay t1_j9xuf5i wrote

"The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel."

Modern TV's show blue for a dead channel, which changes the visual entirely.


Obscura_Games OP t1_j9xvd4r wrote

Yeah I'm sure a kid reading it now would see that line differently


PorkloinMaster t1_j9rzp2z wrote

Bills getting old. He doesn’t have the ear for dialogue or story anymore, sadly. I love him but it’s absolutely true. He was at the core of many exciting changes in tech and culture - even Blue ant worked for its time - but don’t expect much more. He’s my favorite writer and I know any next books wouldn’t rank as good or favorites.