After tasting instant acclaim, and being adopted as some kind of matriarch to the teen revolution after publishing her first book, Bite The Hand, Bobbi Johnson must now tackle her difficult second book, without losing herself in the process.
Using a typewriter, and living in the dark and cold after she can’t pay her bills, Bobbi makes a deal with her agent that she’ll cave on her more old school preference when it comes to writing and agree to use futuristic real time editing hardware, if it means she can get an advance.
The computer arrives, all 10 foot square of it, and suddenly it’s editing her words and changing the gender of her main characters. Not only that, but prolonged exposure to its keyboard is turning Bobbi’s fingers charcoal black. Day after day the software changes, as it creepily follows Bobbi’s every move on the surveillance camera. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she’s got a stalker leaving blood stained VHS tapes in her post box, and an ex-boyfriend using her flat as a place to store his drugs. Drugs that, once the deadline counter starts ticking and words stop coming, she can’t resist having a dip into.
Hannah Arterton does a great job of making us fear for Bobbi, staying plucky and resilient in the face of all her world closing in around her. Connor Byrne shines with dark humour as the straight talking computer delivery man, and later on, possibly the only one Bobbi can trust.
Peripheral pulls a lot from different places, and it’s not like we haven’t been subjected to endless gentle, and not so gentle cyberpunk overtones in recent popular culture. Between hardline “possessed by tech” stories like Altered Carbon, Tau, and Mute, and recent book-burning re-imaginings like Fahrenheit 451, and British TV like Black Mirror referring to the phenomenon ever so directly, that doesn’t leave too much room for total originality.
That being said, Peripheral is an edgy watch, enjoyable mainly in its Britishness, and goes to places you don’t really expect it to. Not least of all, quite sad and human places. Set inside one house, our protagonist trapped by her own success, her fear, and her reluctance to take on a role as some sort of Hunger Games-esque cult leader, once she starts watching her “fan-mail” is forced to confront her impact on people’s lives, and her responsibility to them, whether she wants to or not.
A good effort, entertaining, and whilst not breaking completely new ground, Peripheral does force us to consider certain elements of our increasingly computer reliant society from slightly different angles. Sophie Francois