There are worse things, it turns out, than being a prophet without honour. Just ask William Gibson, whose predictions have hit the mark so nearly and so often that his prodigious powers of invention are all too easily mistaken for mere observational skills. His gloomy near-future thrillers are so fully imagined and minutely rendered that they play out like that quaintest of narrative modes, realism – and there is indeed something Balzacian about his work (it is tirelessly informative, and unrelentingly pitiless).
A ‘peripheral’ is an auxiliary device: I have a few chirruping away in a Disney chorus round my computer right now. But in Gibson’s latest novel it’s a synthetic person, or at least a biotechnological entity of some sort, that can be remotely