Pattern Recognition

Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 20, 2004

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

Twelve people showed up for this discussion, plus we heard emailed comments from one person. Everyone had read at least part of the book, and of the five who hadn’t finished it, most did plan to finish later. All but one had read Gibson before.

Set one year after September 11 (although that wasn’t clear enough–several of us thought it was set ten years later), this book contains no science fiction elements. However, only a science fiction writer of Gibson’s caliber could have captured the rich detail of today’s digital and global consumer culture.

In the story, Cayce, a brand-name phobic woman, can intuitively spot what will be cool. Her interest in the footage, movie clips on the Internet, leads her through London, Tokyo and Moscow in her search for the maker. Along the way, other footage fans, hackers, spies and a power-hungry marketer aid in the search, while those who believe they need to protect the maker’s anonymity impede Cayce.

Reactions to this book varied from transcendence to dislike. Those who loved the book found it rich and ambitious, with many parallels to Neuromancer and Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49.

The intrigue in Pattern Recognition develops slowly, with more emphasis on sleeping, eating, drinking coffee and obsessing on clothes, brand names and logos than on action. This bothered some readers (some to the point of feeling allergic to brand names), although they still appreciated the book for its “lean and evocative” prose. Confusing segues, present tense and Cayce’s lack of emotion over her father’s 9/11 disappearance also troubled some readers.

Generally, the group found this a fast-paced (partly due to the sentence fragments), entertaining and enjoyable read.

— Sandy Kayser