Thursday, February 17, 2011

Book Review--"Pattern Recognition"

William Gibson

It is 2002 and Cayce Pollard is a "cool hunter," a marketing expert who has an innate sense of what kinds of corporate designs will work and yet is allergic, even fearful, of brand names.  She becomes enthralled with an Internet meme known only as "the footage," a montage of video cuts that has all of web culture guessing.  A wealthy and eccentric client hires Cayce to track down the source of "the footage" at any cost.  This journey takes her from London to Tokyo and then to Russia, culminating in a dangerous epiphany of not only the source of "the footage," but the answer to what happened to her father in New York City on September 11th.

Nearly all books come with blurbs.  Often they are gushing and backscratching and sometimes they are reviews taken out of context.  "The most shocking thriller this year"--NY Post.  "Nichols is amazing"--Chicago Tribune.  Here are a few of the blurbs from Pattern Recognition:
"One of the first authentic and vital novels of the twenty-first century."--The Washington Post
"Gibson's best books since he rewrote all the rules in Neuromancer."--Neil Gaiman
"So good it defies all the usual superlatives." The Seattle Times.

None of the blurbs for this book are hyperbole.  This really is Gibson's best work since Neuromancer, yet oddly enough I would not classify it as science fiction as it is rooted very much in the here and the now.  Well, it is tinged with science fiction, purely via the un-copyable style with which Gibson writes. Those of you who have read his previous books know what I mean.
In a few of said works, Gibson has a locale known as The Sprawl, a future mega-city where technopunks eke out a living on society's fringes.  In Pattern Recognition, it is we who are The Sprawl, our lives awash in marketing brands and corporate logos.  The book is a flashframe of our society, a "mirror world," as Cayce Pollard might call it.  It is both surreal and exciting, ambient and frightening.  Very Blade Runner in its own respect.  One aspect that helps build this milieu is that of global networking.  There are many characters in this book, but the only interactions that Cayce has with many of them are through email, chat, or other such cyberspace communique.  She meets them virtually first, then, in certain cases, in real time much later on.  
You may argue that I normally am more critical of books and that here I am merely gushing over a literary idol.  I am.  But I simply am having a hell of a time trying to find anything to be critical about with this book.  If you're looking for a profound statement on our time and digital culture, then you need to read this.  If you enjoy a smart cyber-thriller, then you need to read this.  If you appreciate intricate and innovative prose style, then you need to read this for there is no finer writer out there now in terms of style than Gibson.  Oh hell, you need to read this.  Period.  Go order the book now.  You have no excuse.
Highest possible recommendation.

Pattern Recognition is available at Amazon.

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1 comment:

  1. On Facebook, Fern said: "This must mean you're done with it! You know what that means!!!!!"

    Yes, on to "The Mothman Prophecies."