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Pattern Recognition Hardcover – 1 Jan 2003
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In Pattern Recognition, William Gibson changes focus from the not-too-distant future of his slick, influential SF novels to a netwise vision of strangeness just hours or minutes from the present.
Talented, vulnerable heroine Cayce Pollard is an adept "coolhunter" with an intuitive gift for telling whether any image or logo will be a commercial flop. The downside is her tortured sensitivity--like an allergic reaction--to logo overexposure. She can just about bear to fly BA, but not cross-promoted Virgin...
When she's consulted by top ad agency Blue Ant and gives the thumbs-down to their designer's latest concept, the edgy urban paranoia begins. A porn-site URL that she never accessed appears in her browser history, and the phone's redial button goes somewhere it shouldn't. The same faces appear around her as she flits between continents. Small world. Worryingly small.
As new vistas open in viral marketing and stealth publicity, the big admen are all too interested in Cayce's private hobby: mystery fragments of haunting movie footage, released anonymously on the Web. This unknown "garage Kubrick" auteur has spawned a fascinated, obsessive online cult. Is this a brilliant marketing operation for a still-unknown product, or something with different, dark and painful roots?
Cayce's personal quest, or flight, converges on the source of the Footage, helped and threatened by memorably offbeat characters. In Britain, these include a pettily sadistic woman who seems to know Cayce's most carefully concealed phobias, and an embittered collector of obsolete mechanical calculators made in Liechtenstein. Tokyo: a lovesick Japanese geek whose "otaku" friends find a hidden digital signature in the Footage. Moscow: a strange girl whose uncle is a fabulously wealthy--and dangerously protected--Russian mafioso...
Here's Cayce in a Japanese hotel, showing that wittily lyrical Gibson view of the world and his deft use of brand names:
She uses the remote as demonstrated, drapes drawing quietly aside to reveal a remarkably virtual-looking skyline, a floating jumble of electric Lego, studded with odd shapes you wouldn't see elsewhere, as if you'd need special Tokyo add-ons to build this at home.
This world of glittering surfaces and pulsating data connections is mined with surprises, betrayals, flurries of violence and unexpected allies. This is a very 21st century novel: compulsive reading, and vintage Gibson. --David Langford --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
"'More insight, wit and sheer style than any of his contemporaries' Charles Shaar Murray, Independent" --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
The story is pretty straight-forward--the "footage", bits and pieces of what is suspected to a single film turn up on the web and cause a cult following. One of the footageheads gets the opportunity to try to find out who or what creates the film and why. The hunt goes from one exotic luxury hotel to the next...
I can't help wonder how weird a story Philip K Dick could have made from the premise.
The plot, put briefly, surrounds the search by Cayce (whose name is a pleasing nod towards the protagonist of 'Neuromancer') and others to discover the meaning behind, and makers of, a series of enigmatic, often abstract video clips. The clips are posted on the internet, left to be found by those who follow the unfolding series, but they are never traceable. While on unrelated business in London, Cayce finds herself involved in a venture to discover the source, turning her private past-time of discussing the video clips online into a project funded financially by a British marketing executive who walks around in a big, Texan cowboy hat (which he always wears incorrectly). To reveal more would be to spoil the novel, but it is enough to say that around this premise Gibson creates a highly intelligent, highly successful novel, part thriller, part exploration of contemporary technology culture, and much more besides.
'Pattern Recognition' is a masterpiece, and can be called such for a whole host of reasons. Cayce, the dominant character, is brought vividly to life, Gibson's super-sharp prose showing us Cayce's world as she sees it, and in doing so creating a reality that seems more real than real. We see things more crisply. The very best writers have the ability to grab the reader with their unique angle and focus on the world, and pull them completely between the lines. We become consumed by the words. One particularly poetic, recurring image is that of Cayce's soul catching up with her after each of her flights around the world, as though it is tethered to her by a long, stretched out wire, taking the slow-boat from place to place... Dialogue, inter-personal dynamics, split-second glances: all of these are handled as only a master author can. There is no shortage of reasons to admire 'Pattern Recognition'. Every page contains a sentence or a phrase or an observation that makes you think about things slightly differently, whether it be the state of democratic Russia in the 21st century, or the taste of a latte in the morning. Life seems slightly deeper, and more complex after finishing 'Pattern Recognition'. And the mind-expanding qualities of Gibson's writing never flag, from first page to last. So when you finish 'Pattern Recognition' you feel a part of Cayce. You have lived in her cutting-edge, liminal world, a setting which exists on the threshold between what we call today, and what we call tomorrow. And slowly we catch up with the future we are so delicately tethered to.
If you have never read Gibson, read this now, because it may well be his best book. Then again, it may just be another of his best books, and so you should also read it, because at worst, you'll simply have more good Gibson novels to read later. Whichever (and neither is bad), 'Pattern Recognition' is a must-read for anyone interested in the best contemporary fiction of 2003.
Is it "cyber-punk"? I'd say so, and in fact this is where I think this book's most amazing skill lies. It's a tale of modern day Britain, Russia and Japan, painting those countries with the eye of a modern American in such a subtle and beautiful way. The protaganist thinks of the UK as the "mirror world", since things are so similar to the US, but also so different, and this feels like the starting point for a clever technique that never becomes too clever for its own good: the mirror-world is a cyber-punk world, and yet it's our present-day reality, just being shown through an unusual and thoughtful lens.
I hope this is not too waffly a way of saying that this is a great book, but that people who loved Neuromancer for its unreality might find it a little hard to enjoy.