Pattern Recognition - William Gibson

This is the first book of Gibson's I've read, despite having heard of Neuromancer ages ago, one of those books that it seems like every serious sci-fi reader has read. (Apparently I'm not one of them.) Pattern Recognition is about Cayce Pollard, a "coolhunter" who has an unexplained knack for identifying successful trends and logos, but also has something of a phobia for trademarks, almost like a psychic allergic reaction. That information only relates to part of the plot; most of it has to do with "the footage," mysterious video clips that show up on the web which have achieved almost cult-like status. There are websites devoted to it, and a "Fight Club"-like aura about it. Footageheads obsess over it: is it filmed or computer generated? Are these parts of a completed film, being released in random segments to torture us, or is it a work in progress? Who's behind it?

Gibson's writing is wonderful—a strange combination of the way we actually talk and hear things, and the way we think. It took me a little while to get used to it, the way he'd lapse into incomplete sentences. Another thing Gibson does is that he expects the reader to remember things they've read earlier—the arrogance! When he introduces a metaphor, you learn to pay attention to it, because chances are he may throw in references to it much later, and if you just skimmed it the first time you'll be thrown for a loop.

The plot relies on a lot of the "too smart, too powerful" type of characters—people who can somehow get you things that are impossible to get, and quickly so you don't have to sit around waiting for them. After a while you almost become inured to that, just assuming that Cayce will be able to go anywhere and buy anything without any real difficulty.

Despite that, the only thing I really had difficulty believing was this: that Cayce Pollard, of all people, uses Hotmail. And not only that, but she only gets, oh, two or three messages every few days, and no spam. Sure, I'll believe that her connections can decipher a watermark hidden in the footage, but nobody using Hotmail is spam-free. Other than that little stumbling block, Gibson's incorporation of email and web-tech seems fine. He refers to "Googling" people to find out about them, and most of the technology he talks about is actually feasible to some degree.

Overall, a fun (and sometimes challenging) read, with all sorts of "Bourne Identity"-type conspiracies wrapped around the central mystery of the footage, which makes you wish it were real so you could obsess about it, too.

Fed to jonathan's brain | March 18, 2005 | Comments (0)


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