William Gibson – Pattern Recognition

Anyone who reads Gibson knows he knows cool. His worlds are full of that intangible quality; his characters make Neo from the Matrix (who could not have existed without Gibson, of course) look dowdy. But this is the first book where he’s talked so explicitly about coolness. His protagonist, Cayce Pollard, is a “coolhunter”, finding the Next Big Thing and passing judgement on proposed brands. Ironically, she is violently allergic to excessive branding, breaking out in hives if she flies Virgin Atlantic and experiencing panic attacks when faced with the Michelin Man.

Anyone who reads Gibson knows he also knows the online world. Again, though, Pattern Recognition takes a new look at a favourite topic. In this case, the characters exist in the real world, but are members of an online community whose group dynamic drives some aspects of the plot. As a long-term member of an online community myself, I instantly recognised the personalities and situations that crop up in any such group, from newbie floods to sock puppets and troll-baiters.

The story centres around snatches of a black and white film that have been released on the Internet. The “footage” is so compelling that several online groups have formed to investigate it, and so mysterious that the groups haven’t learned anything. The plot follows Cayce’s travels from London to Tokyo (a Gibson staple) to Russia in search of the source of the footage, accompanied, aided and hindered by a mix of odd personalities.

It’s standard Gibson, with fast motorcycles and obscure technology. Fun. In some ways, though, Gibson builds the mystery too well. I was almost disappointed to find out the truth about the footage, not because the solution was weak, but because the enigma was so compelling. Apart from that, however, I did enjoy Pattern Recognition.

One thought on “William Gibson – Pattern Recognition

  1. Timothy Brown

    I too enjoyed Pattern Recognition, but I didn’t think it was standard Gibson. It was set in something resembling real-time and real-world with near rel-technology (iBook) and in this respect it seemed different to the dystopian futures he uses in his other books.

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