... as engaging, thought-provoking and delightful as its predecessor. While the novelty of Gibson’s core conceit is no longer as startling, he still manages to squeeze fresh juice from the novum ... the intricate noir-thriller plotting affords constant entertainment and suspense ... Eunice is an extremely believable, idiosyncratic and highly polished character. So much so that her vanishing takes a little luster off the subsequent action. Her glib confidence and joie de vivre are really missed. But Verity, Netherton and the supporting cast offer plenty of anchoring interest ... Gibson fleshes out the 'present-day' venue of 2017 with his patented sharp vision for small and large cultural touchstones ... Gibson’s language is as zesty as ever ... what is different about this book, and the previous one, is a kind of elder statesman wisdom and optimism. Ironically, the 1980s — retrospectively a less fraught era — generated Gibson’s bleakest scenarios, while the arguably more dire present has seen him moving toward an almost Westlakean mordant lightheartedness ... Regardless of Gibson’s shifting ratios of glee to cynicism, he can always be counted on to show us our contemporary milieu rendered magical by his unique insights, and a future rendered inhabitable by his wild yet disciplined imagination.
The first novel, titled The Peripheral, was a New York Times best seller notable for its heady mixture of drone manipulation, time travel, apocalypse, and alternate history, all these devices being combined in a narrative prose precise in its physical and technological descriptions ... Verity Jane, on the other hand, seems a kind of cipher for the action of the second novel: she basically goes along with everything, and is a fairly empty character as a result ... Verity Jane’s emptiness makes space for the novel to be full of other things: the above mentioned fast-paced action, but also a much more extensive development of characters familiar from the first novel, especially a public relations specialist named Wilf Netherton ... we can see why Gibson remains an essential novelist. We should not be deceived by the novel’s thriller form and science fiction trappings into thinking Agency is not serious, idea-driven literature ... The genius of Agency, particularly in its injection of affect in relation to Eunice, is to show just how much people — especially at this moment in history — desire such practical direction for their lives ... To finish Agency is to be initially happy, satisfied by the utopian ending — and then increasingly disturbed, as one continues to think about what this happy conclusion entails.
Gibson has published Agency, a sequel to The Peripheral that is, incredibly, even better ... a superb, plot-heavy, poetic, darkly hilarious heist novel ... Thirty-five years after Neuromancer, Agency uses that same McGuffin, which makes the two novels wonderful counterpoints. Both are philosophical meditations on the nature of intelligence and humanity, and both are relentlessly plot-driven noirs ... It’s not just Gibson’s plotting that has progressed over the years. His use of language, always incandescent, has passed through its own singularity, keenly tuned ... Each sentence is a hand-turned marvel of compact characterization, world-building and sardonic wit, all used to illuminate his vivid milieus ... Gibson has an inexhaustible supply of tricks, new stories and new ways of telling them that make him the most consistent predictor of our present, contextualizer of our pasts and presager of our possible futures.
Gibson brings contemporary San Francisco, future London, and their inhabitants to tangible life ... As people in two different time zones work together to save at least one future, we glimpse the human experiment through Gibson’s unerring gaze ... Gibson’s brief chapters with their brusque headings match the urgency of the novel’s action — there’s no time to lose, no time to waste. A semi-sequel to 2015’s The Peripheral,Agency stands on its own, too — as well it should, given the title — as an immersive thriller, fueled by an intelligent, empathetic imagination.
[Gibson] generates a sense of what he calls, in Agency, 'the high resolution texture of an alternate universe' by stuffing his novels with real objects and brand names that feel both familiar and strange. He often describes the present in terms of the future and the future in terms of the past ... One of the thrills of his novels is that they throw you right in to new worlds and trust that you will figure them out for yourself. For the most part this works, though in Agency there are a few moments where you feel bombarded with technobabble ... [Gibson] is still interested in decentred political and technological systems and shadowy, quasi-criminal superstructures that can be navigated only by visionary individuals armed with the right tech. And he still delivers these ideas in plots that aspire to the satisfying knottiness of thrillers. It’s a shame, then, that in Agency the various parts don’t quite cohere. Despite the apocalyptic themes, nothing ever feels like it’s really at stake ... One of the paradoxes of fiction is that it must pretend its characters have agency even though we know that the decisions they make are preordained by their authors. Too often in Agency the controlling hand of the author becomes obvious ... If you can go along with the explication then Gibson’s vision is a compelling one, but often in Agency the novel comes to feel like an old technology, insufficient for the demands Gibson makes of it.
From the outset the information environment is hectic. This is William Gibson, after all: a world in an instant ... a sensual, remarkably visual ride, vigorous with displays of conceptual imagination and humour ... Almost all of the author’s interests, from the political aesthetics of technology to the technology of political fashion, are collected in this near-Moorcockian curation of images. Gibson’s ability to simultaneously destabilise and entertain is both celebrated and used to the full. But it’s also linked firmly to his signature themes, the prime one here, of course, being agency ... If he was 'prescient' back then, he’s right on the ball now, when it’s so much harder to believe in those loose human associations he imagined in the 1990s, whose combination of technical nous and cultural know-how enabled them to quickly distinguish the real from the sucker fantasy ... but despite frank exposition in dialogue, its complex internal rivalries remain as distant and difficult to parse as they seemed in The Peripheral ... a timely, politically relevant story in which none of the central characters can fully understand what’s going on ... You’re comforted by the feeling that Gibson would never write a word without at least trying to understand the primary forces, the shadow operators of our own world; but you’d be forgiven for wondering if that’s now worth the effort.
...[a] disenchanting sequel ... When Verity learns that she must do what she’s told in order to secure 'a better chance of avoiding nuclear war', it’s as close as Agency gets to the 'come with me if you wanna live' moment any self-respecting techno-thriller requires. But despite motorcycle dashes and VR-enabled century-hopping, our sense of jeopardy all but flatlines as the motives of a vast cast stay hazy ... it’s like being forced to watch someone jump through the hoops of a video game ... Yes, there’s a measure of amusement to be had ... And the action is full of goodies, obviously: invisible flying cars, icky shape-shifting nanotechnology...a robot nanny transforming into a troupe of pandas... But it all has to be read through the gauze of a narration fussily insistent on its own intricacy ... it’s hard not to come away feeling short-changed by a novel that, neglecting its basic duty to excite, uses its headline-grabbing counterfactuals as an opportunistic peg for a tricked-out potboiler.
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 ... the first half of the novel is slow-going, concerned with exposition, and often confusing. Characters are introduced without introduction; settings, and new technologies, suffer the same fate. We shift quickly between both timelines, without either being fully explained except through hints and asides. In fact, it is not until the second half of the book, when the two timelines begin to intertwine more closely, that the plot of the novel becomes clearer. From here on in, Agency is an enjoyable, even feverish, read, but the opening section is difficult to get through. Gibson’s prose, here as in his other novels, is stylish and to-the-point. His dialogue is sharp, full of contemporary life ... Although the development of the characters is lacking (and there are a few too many to keep track of), Gibson’s world is detailed and convincing ... Regardless, this is an exciting read, and won’t disappoint Gibson’s many fans.
Like many of Gibson’s novels, Agency is a thriller at its core. Everything is breakneck fast, and characters are whisked into corporate-espionage or heist plots with little question. In Agency, this can make Verity seem less a character than an excuse for mapping Gibson’s weird and disorienting world ... trenchantly, Agency dismantles the notion that individual choices and singular human actions can have world-redeeming effects ... Even so, Agency glazes over the intersections of...proletariat existence with immigration and racism.
... it’s more than chases and escapes and intrigue. Both worlds are filled with the expected Gibsonian oddball details and throwaway bits of invention ... Then there are those throwaway touches...hallmark[s] of Gibson’s imagination as the awareness of branding and fashion statements. It makes for an immersive, textured, and sometimes deeply strange setting, which is a good thing. Come for the intricate plotting, stay for the weird and wonderful mindscape.
Being in a more philosophical frame of mind and with Google at hand, I managed to cut a path through the dense verbiage. Agency gets a lot more reader-friendly as it goes on, with canny exposition on some of the odder terms thankfully arriving sooner or later ... Gibson takes no prisoners. It’s his gaff, his rules; he plunges the reader deep into a technospeak world full of strange inventions and oddly named characters. He also likes to link his books, as with his Sprawl and Blue Ant trilogies, which makes picking them up in the wrong order a bit like dipping into a later season of a box set ... Gibson’s future universe is a crazy one, but also a lot of fun ... You have to give Gibson credit for a Lewis Carroll-type imagination, even though his characters are less engaging ... Once you have got your head round the cyberjargon and the twin timelines, Agency is an enjoyable read. The way that people talk in ultrahip staccato may not appeal to many, and Eunice is such a fun character it’s a shame she disappears from the narrative fairly early on, but Gibson fans will find he has lost none of his challenging edge. The uninitiated may find it tough going at first, but it’s worth staying with. As for Bertrand Russell, I’m not so sure.
This is par for the course with Gibson. As in many of his books, the action flits from one setting to another in a back-and-forth of short chapters filled with clipped dialogue that falls somewhere between Raymond Chandler and bleeding-edge tech industry corpo-speak. This all works well enough. Until it doesn't ... At some point too early on in Agency, Eunice drops out of the picture. At that point, it becomes clear that her and Verity's chummy if AI-inflected badinage...was the most energizing part of the story. Without it, Verity becomes something of a random element, bouncing from one character and setting to another like a player in a poorly understood open-world game, while the Londoners pull strings, try to keep Qamishli from going nuclear, and laze about in meticulously designed interiors.
An AI upload hybrid for which overheated readers can host friendly fire/side, warm and fuzzy feelings! ... Gibson crossed that undefined line into high literature. Breakneck on a straightaway, dime tight in the turns. Code dicey and sly like Stéphane Mallarmé, Agency is as slick as a wet slide off a nine. The well-wrought urn without the burn.
The plot...is familiar Gibson territory, both for better and for worse: a shadowy corporation with military ties, imaginative future tech, impeccably described clothing, snappy dialogue, telepresence robots, frenzied chases and a miraculously averted near-catastrophe, the pieces falling into place, perhaps a bit too neatly, just in time. But despite nuclear war looming on the other side of the world, the stakes never feel as high as they should. And it’s not always clear what motivates Verity and those in her orbit to go to such lengths to help Eunice achieve her mysterious goal. But that may be the point. Agency is at its best when Gibson reflects our current reality back at us with startling clarity ... it’s increasingly unclear how much agency any of us truly have.
Time play is second nature to Gibson but it can be tough to keep pace with Agency. As with Brexit—which, in Verity’s timeline, went Remain after all—tracking its febrile plot and crowded cast prompts flashes of comprehension chased by furrows of despair. This frustration would be eased if the characters felt worth fighting for. But the novel’s beings are often thinly fleshed, including the none-too-likeable Verity ... The novel’s finale is anticlimatic.
Gibson blurs the line between real and speculative technology in a fast-paced thriller that will affirm to readers that it was well worth the wait ... Gibson wrote about the internet before there was an internet; plenty of readers will be anxious for his take on AI.
... Gibson disappoints with this inventive but jumbled prequel to The Periphery ... 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.
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? ... 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.