the Little Red Reviewer

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

Posted on: September 8, 2010

I wrote this review quite a while ago, but the book came out quite a while ago as well. So everything might be a little dated.

What images would we choose to define our lives? Or a moment in our life? A couple embracing? A bird flying? The face of a parent, or of a child?  An empty plastic bag floating on the wind, just grazing the ground?

As the only Gibson book that I’ve come across to take place unmistakably now, Gibson works his usual ubersleek cyberpunk magic, however in a somewhat tempered manner. Missing is the plethora of Often dripping with amusing similes, this is a sleek and polished piece of intellectual science fiction.

Has Gibson (gulp), gone. . . . normal??

Maybe as normal as is possible, for him.

The story focuses around Cayce Pollard, whose works as a somewhat freelance marketing consultant. With her hyperactive intuition and psychological allergy to logos and name brands, she is able to immediately tell a marketing firm how the public will react to their new logos, brand marketing, etc. In her spare time, Cayce, along with thousands of other webjunkies, follow something simply called “the footage”, snippets of video anonymously posted on the internet, in no discernable order. Online discussions abound on who is the maker of The Footage? What does it mean? Is each piece a separate creation, or do they all go together in some meaningful way? And what the heck does it all mean?

Life is relatively normal for Cayce, until a client hires her, under the table, to find the maker of The Footage. How to track down the creator of something that is anonymously posted on the internet, and spread via a 2003 version of YouTube or MySpace? Impossible. But given a limitless budget, Cayce and her connections learn that everyone leaves some kind of tracks, and everything fits some kind of pattern. And if there is some conspiracy, don’t waste your time thinking it’s all about you, even when it comes full circle.

Pattern Recognition isn’t about plot. Sure, it’s about plot, the plot is great, there’s action, subterfuge, double crossing, web stalking. It’s all there, and it works, very well. But Gibson has something much more subtle, much more fragile he’s trying to show us. Or maybe I’m just seeing it there because I’m looking for it? No, it was there, floating just beneath the surface, waiting to be found.

Gibson veterans know how easy it is to get buried alive in what he’s got going on in his head – this will be a quick and easy read for you. Gibson virgins, don’t worry, this will be an easy read for you too. In fact, Pattern Recognition is the perfect introduction to Gibson for first time readers of his fiction. It’s not that he’s gone soft, or normal, it’s that he’s gone subtle.

The references to The Matrix and James Bond were greatly appreciated. As were the highly amusing comments on modern fashion.

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1 Response to "Pattern Recognition by William Gibson"

I read this when it first came out and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Gibson normal? Nah! I just picked up a used copy of Spook Country, another one set in the present day, to add to the TBR pile.

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