Gibson’s Nightmare

At the most superficial level, there’s probably some sleeplessness accompanying the anxiety that the whole of The Peripheral — once people have processed it — begins to look like a piece of fabulously ornate, maze-patterned wrapping paper for the four pages that really matter. There’s the Great Pacific Garbage Patch elsewhere, along with ubiquitous near-future drones, and – further down the time-line — some exotic neo-primitivist adornments — but basically, if you’ve read Chapter 79, you’ve got the thing. Yes, that’s to miss out on some of the time-travel structure, but Gibson takes such a lazy approach to that (deliberately suppressing all paradox circuitry) it’s no great loss.

On the positive side, those four pages are really something. Chapter 79 is helpfully entitled The Jackpot, and contains what might well be the most profound reworking of apocalypticism of modern times. There are some (fairly weak) remarks here. Perhaps somebody has already contributed some better commentary, that I’ve missed.

The Jackpot is a catastrophe with a fruit-machine model — all the reels have to click together ‘right’ for it to amount to disaster. It’s therefore poly-causal, cross-lashed, or “multiplex” — eluding narrative apprehension through multiplicity.

… it was no one thing. … it was multicausal, with no particular beginning and no end. More a climate than an event, so not the way apocalypse stories liked to have a big event, after which everybody ran around with guns … or else were eaten alive by something caused by the big event. Not like that.

It was androgenic … Not that they’d known what they were doing, had meant to make problems, but they’s caused it anyway. And in fact the climate, the weather, caused by there being too much carbon, had been the driver for a lot of other things.How that got worse and never better, and was just expected to, ongoing. Because people in the past, clueless as to how that worked, had fucked it all up, then not been able to get it together to do anything about it, even after they knew, and now it was too late.

It kills 80% of the world’s human population in the end.

… Except that’s not the end. The end is Neoreaction:

“What about China?”
… “They’d had a head start,” [Netherton] said.
“At what?”
“At how the world would work, after the jackpot. This … is still ostensibly a democracy. A majority of empowered survivors, considering the jackpot, and no doubt their own positions, wanted none of that. Blamed it, in fact.”
“Who runs it, then?”
“Oligarchs, corporations, neomonarchists. Hereditary monarchies provided conveniently familiar armatures. Essentially feudal, according to its critics. Such as they are.”
“The King of England?”
“The City of London,” he said. “The Guilds of the City. In alliance with people like Lev’s father. Enabled by people like Lowbeer.”
“The whole world’s funny?” She remembered Lowbeer saying that.
“The klept,” he said, misunderstanding her, “isn’t funny at all.”

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