Agency: a sci-fi thriller with no Brexit and Turkey as threat

After a tricky first half , William Gibson’s stylish prose makes for a feverish read

William Gibson: In Agency’s future timeline of 2136, someone is manipulating 2017, creating darker scenarios among possible pasts. Photograph: Christopher Morris/Corbis

William Gibson: In Agency’s future timeline of 2136, someone is manipulating 2017, creating darker scenarios among possible pasts. Photograph: Christopher Morris/Corbis

The publication of William Gibson’s latest novel, Agency, was delayed repeatedly, and has been accepted as a prequel to Gibson’s previous novel, The Peripheral, though readers unfamiliar with that earlier work will not find themselves inhibited. Both involve people in a future timeline creating new scenarios in the past, wreaking havoc, and the mission of law enforcement to stop the damage created.

Gibson’s novel is a sci-fi thriller split across an imagined, alternative present (2017), and a speculative, post-apocalyptic far-future (2136). The author is known for his prescience, and has been lauded as a sage. This novel’s attempt to depict the present times through the dark mirror of an imagined 2136 is a tough task, when the political situation we find ourselves in is evolving at such a rapid, irrational pace. Perhaps Gibson’s delaying of the novel is a reflection of this climate, and his difficulty in ascertaining enough clarity on it to fix it into a satisfying plot. Whatever the case may be, it is quite difficult to tell what we are supposed to think of his alternative 2017. Would the world have been better with Clinton as president? Was Brexit a mistake? We’re never fully sure, but the fact that the characters in 2017 find themselves on the brink of nuclear war stemming from a volatile political climate in Turkey suggests that, whatever happened, things were never to be easy.

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