Agency by William Gibson

4 out of 5 stars

Verity is known as the app whisperer and even though she doesn’t like working for big corporations this startup seems more interesting than most assignments, besides she needs the money. They want her to evaluate and test a set of glasses with a phone and an earbud. She’d chosen the plainer grey pair, but plugging them all in and turning on gave her a bit of a shock when the voice talks to her. It is not a recorded voice, rather it is a personal AI that calls herself, Eunice.

Unnerved by this, she decides to head to her local coffee shop, 3.7 sigma, as she walks in the door the barista pushes her favourite drink across the counter to her. It is starting to dawn on her that Eunice is not the usual digital assistant, she is much smarter than anyone she has ever met and is continually scanning everything, what makes her certain of that though is after coming out of the show a courier knocks on the door and hands her a package. In it is $100,000 that Eunice says Verity is going to need very soon…

If that was unexpected, she is contacted by a guy called Netherton, but what she really is not prepared for is to be the fact that he is from 100 years in the future from a different timeline where Brexit and Trump happened. This is very different from her timeline and he is there to stop something nasty happening with Eunice’s particular skills.

I have liked Gibson’s writing since I first came across his in Neuromancer, he has a knack of picking up the trends and projecting them into a future that might happen. It is often a future that has some positives and also some downsides. It is the same in this book, it is dripping with cool tech, drones and AI. Coupled with all of this is a deeply layered plot that is full of moments that happen and make no sense until 50 or more pages later. Snappy chapters keep the pace fast and it has this slightly sinister black ops vibe running all the way through it. The main characters have depth but the rest are a little two dimensional. I liked the use of stumps; alternative storylines to regular time travel episodes in world history that branched the other way to the timeline that you are on, it is a technique that fully messed with my head. Great stuff from Gibson once again.

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  1. Annabel Gaskell

    I really like the sound of this one. I’m about 3 books behind with Gibson at the moment. Must catch up (Christopher Priest too, who has a similar-ish world view).

    • Paul

      It was classic Gibson. I like the way he takes all the things that you know and are comfortable with and makes them unsettling.

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