Book Review: Agency – William Gibson

by @edent | # # | 2 comments

A black woman - as seen through blurred glass.

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.

I sometimes worry that I’m not clever enough to read Gibson. He lives about five minutes in the future and seems to believe that exposition is for other people. With an large cast of characters, and a mind-bending turn of phrase, this book was a struggle to get through.

It’s a whirlwind of confusion, wrapped up in an alternative future which isn’t as unlikely as you might suppose given the divergent nature of reality constrained by plausibility. Did that make sense? That’s about the level of meta-negative we’re dealing with here.

Once I finished the book, I discovered that it was the sequel to an earlier novel! I don’t think that made a difference to my enjoyment. It is a bonkers-fun story which works as a stand-alone book. Despite the grandiose plot, it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s an energetic ride through the future – but all feels a little bit futile.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Agency – William Gibson

  1. “…seems to believe that exposition is for other people”. I’ve tried to read The Difference Engine about four times and just can’t understand what’s meant to be going on. It’s a terrible shame. It founded a genre I love, but I can’t engage with it.


  2. Mike says:

    Having read both, I think a lot of stuff in Agency would be less mysterious if you’d read The Peripheral first. The Peripheral sets up the concept of the stubs and introduces a lot of the characters who appear in Agency. I think it’s the most directly a sequel sequel he’s written. I get what you mean by doesn’t really go anywhere. I recommend The Peripheral, I think it’s a better story than Agency.

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