Her car decloaked behind her. It was patterned, someone had told him, on something called a Dymaxion, though he’d never bothered to look the term up.
— William Gibson, Agency
Emotion pictures. If all-gender Snapchat glut reached critical mass oohing over Ava, that smart sex-bomb bot in the 2015 movie Ex Machina, William Gibson’s Agency (Berkley, 2020) gifts us with (“kinda sorta”) one, up close and personal, if disembodied Eunice, who comports in her select tele-present terms, as “culturally African-American,” “Pronoun, she.” An AI upload hybrid for which overheated readers can host friendly fire/side, warm and fuzzy feelings! In Greek, Eunice spells Joyous Victory. She’s one of the Nereids; they’re sea nymphs. “She’s an intermittently hierarchical array, complexly conterminous” (page 36). UNISS: “Untethered Noetic Irregular Support System” (page 68). Cherish is the word that I use to describe.
Gibson “re-calibrated” Agency, his adroit Future(s) Is Now novel, then still a work in progress, pursuant to the calamitous results of our 2016 Presidential Election. That re-vision took him one whole year.
So, on a gravely topical note, yet indicative of just how far-eyed Gibson undoubtedly is (he created “Cyberspace” in 1982 for the short story “Burning Chrome”), one thread here prophetically starts in Qamishli, Syria, which in the 21st century will be the site of a real-world Armageddon, years before the Kurds and Turks began fighting there recently, in October 2019.
It is rumored that during the Hush Hush A-Bomb Manhattan Project, the Defense Department sent field agents to interrogate Isaac Asimov, who had previously published science fiction featuring atomic bombs. When asked how he knew, he told them he didn’t. He took what facts we had, and extrapolated. Met with blank stares, he defined “extrapolated.”
Here, in this unequaled sequel to Gibson’s The Peripheral (2014), certain fab favorites come back from the future. Virtually, and with a vengeance. You’ll brunch with varying avatars of 8-ball-eyed “semi-mythological magistrate executioner” Agent 0069, Ms. Inspector Ainsley Lowbeer. Did you miss, in the film by that name, TV’s Wonder Woman’s plastic invisible plane? Well, once again, you can’t find chic Lowbeer’s invisible car.
Parking? Hands free. Due to The Jackpot, some dark black undecidable Event way beyond Badiou, as of CE 2500, 80 percent of humanity will have been disappeared.
Welcome back, too, badly addled ex-Haptic Recon combat vet Conner Penske! Disgruntled Grunt toggling eerily athwart continua, cheerily transgressing wildly disparate eons or eras, today satisfactorily compensated for his mind-bending disabilities by weaponized prosthetics shunted home from five futures, enabling Conner to kill to his heart’s content without ever leaving his chair.
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“Hi. I’m Eunice. No last name. Siri and Alexa don’t have ‘em either, but the resemblance stops there. […] I’m here because I’m something new, and because I want to introduce myself before anyone else starts explaining their idea of me to you. While I’m at it, I want to say that I’m nobody’s property, not a product, and neither Stets or anyone else, any entity of any kind whatever, is going to profit financially from my being here, now and going forward. I pay my own way. And while we’re on that, I’m culturally American, obviously, but I’m not the citizen of any nation-state. I don’t exist physically, so I’m in no place in particular, no one country. I’m globally distributed, and that’s how I view my citizenship. Lots of you are hearing me in a language other than English. I’m translating for myself, as I speak. I’m as multilingual as anybody’s ever been, but saying that brings up the question of whether I even am anybody.” She paused. “Whether I’m a person. Human. All I can tell you about that is that it feels to me like I am” (pages 391-392).
Say what you may, with his Blue Ant trilogy (Pattern Recognition, 2003; Spook Country, 2007; Zero History, 2010), 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.
Agency by William Gibson (2020) is published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House.