The New York Times bestselling author of Neuromancer and Agency presents a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that takes a terrifying look into the future...
Flynne Fisher lives down a country road, in a rural America where jobs are scarce, unless you count illegal drug manufacture, which she’s trying to avoid. Her brother Burton lives on money from the Veterans Administration, for neurological damage suffered in the Marines’ elite Haptic Recon unit. Flynne earns what she can by assembling product at the local 3D printshop. She made more as a combat scout in an online game, playing for a rich man, but she’s had to let the shooter games go.
Wilf Netherton lives in London, seventy-some years later, on the far side of decades of slow-motion apocalypse. Things are pretty good now, for the haves, and there aren’t many have-nots left. Wilf, a high-powered publicist and celebrity-minder, fancies himself a romantic misfit, in a society where reaching into the past is just another hobby.
Burton’s been moonlighting online, secretly working security in some game prototype, a virtual world that looks vaguely like London, but a lot weirder. He’s got Flynne taking over shifts, promised her the game’s not a shooter. Still, the crime she witnesses there is plenty bad.
Flynne and Wilf are about to meet one another. Her world will be altered utterly, irrevocably, and Wilf’s, for all its decadence and power, will learn that some of these third-world types from the past can be badass.
Seminal cyberpunk author Gibson, who has spent the last several years writing the more-or-less present-day Zero History series of novels, returns to the future with this slow-burning thriller, ambitiously structured on either side of an economic and ecological collapse known afterward as "the jackpot." In the hardscrabble "pre-jackpot America" of our near future, gamer Flynne Fisher is covering a beta-testing shift for her ex-Marine brother when she witnesses what she thinks is a gruesome murder "some kind of nanotech chainsaw fantasy." In a depopulated London decades post-jackpot, Wilf Netherton, a disgraced publicist, is caught unawares when his latest client s sister disappears. The resulting investigation kicks Gibson's discursive narrative into high gear as Flynne, allowed across time lines by use of a "peripheral" ("an anthropomorphic drone... a telepresence avatar"), proves to be exactly the savvy, principled ally that enigmatic Det. Insp. Ainsley Lowbeer has been looking for. If the mechanics of time-travel are sometimes murky, the stakes are crystal clear when Flynne reaches out from Wilf's past to alter her own future. All of Gibson's characters are intensely real, and Flynne is a clever, compelling, stereotype-defying, unhesitating protagonist who makes this novel a standout.
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Back to the future
William Gibson has always been a great fav of mine and with this, his latest book, he's back at the top of my list. There's lots of good sci-fi out there but what much of it lacks is real characters. By that I mean real people who are doing extraordinary things because after all, let's not forget, that's what the world is. These days I still love sci-fi but I have a hard time finding truly adult sci-fi. Gibson is certainly one of those authors and he's in great form in this story. It's nice to see him writing sci-fi again, strictly from a selfish standpoint. Also, he's from Vancouver which high real estate prices aside is one of the truly great places to live on this planet. I also must say that in these harsh times it's great to find a book that balances cynicism with a good ending without being sucky. Good work Mr. Gibson, thanks.