I was about a quarter of the way into The Peripheral (William Gibson 2014) when it hit me that there was a lot more going on than I had realised; in both the novel and the “world” of the novel.
Up to that point I’d noted a few nouns here and there that I didn’t recognise (and which the Kindle’s look-up features didn’t help me identify) but I’d been happy to let them remain loose. To assume, I suppose, that it was their “colour” and not their specific meaning that mattered. I’d had a similar moment reading The Seed Collectors (Scarlett Thomas 2015) recently where I’d enjoyed reading the flow and feel of the words (as narrated by a non-human character) rather than needing to lock-down their specific meaning.
But, at around the 1/4 point it became clear that what I needed to know (and what I could know) was going to expand. In a big way. It was unexpected and tremendously enjoyable and I’m not sure I recall feeling that exact thing while reading a novel before. I was already enjoying it and then it got so. much. better.
Over on William Gibson’s blog (a long ago post) he quoted his editor telling him: “Fuck the exposition… The exposition can come later.” The quote was shared in the context of a post about the relationship between the audience / reader and the text in the ‘age of Google’. In this age a story / storyteller can – perhaps – simply entice or invite or tease and then the reader can (if sufficiently interested) look for more information online. It’s the kind of premise and understanding of audience/player that alternate reality game ‘rabbit-holes’ work on.
However, based on what I’ve read to date (I’m making it last) The Peripheral takes this even further; embedded both within the narrative and the world it describes is an important, unanswered question about how something came to be and how it works. And that question is unanswered not just for the reader, but also for the people in the world.
I’m curious about whether this question will be answered–or somehow resolved–by the end of the novel (and how I will feel about that if it is or if it isn’t). At the moment, that sense that the people in the world / the characters in the novel don’t know everything has increased my enjoyment and my immersion in the world. It feels real – that these people have puzzles that they’re working at but can’t quite solve. It makes me feel like one of them.