3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gibson's Breakout Postmodern novel! **** 1/2 stars
Author William Gibson has always proclaimed the influence of Thomas Pynchon ("V," "Gravity's Rainbow") in his beginnings as an author. With "Pattern Recognition," Gibson not only tips his hat to Pynchon but also seems indebted to him through the book's structural content. Gibson's new book, and I mean no slight in saying this, feels like a re-work of Pynchon's classic...
Published on June 12 2003 by Paul Petrovic
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing ending
First of all, consider my rating to be 2.5. I bumped it up one because, well, you always round up I guess. I remember in most of the several writing classes I have taken over the years teachers and professors re-canting the mantra "show don't tell". Gibson commits the cardinal sin of writing in the last few pages of this book by telling and not showing how the...
Published on March 2 2004 by Jason Kemmery
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gibson's Breakout Postmodern novel! **** 1/2 stars,
Author William Gibson has always proclaimed the influence of Thomas Pynchon ("V," "Gravity's Rainbow") in his beginnings as an author. With "Pattern Recognition," Gibson not only tips his hat to Pynchon but also seems indebted to him through the book's structural content. Gibson's new book, and I mean no slight in saying this, feels like a re-work of Pynchon's classic "The Crying of Lot 49."
Heroine Cayce Pollard, like the heroine of Pynchon's book, finds a symbol that defies decoding and, seeking its answer, slowly gains a not inconsiderable amount of self-knowledge through treks across land and people. Rather than the Trystero in Pynchon's book, which remained a mystery at story's end, here Cayce seeks the Footage and its Creator; what she uncovers dazzled and delighted me. (And watch for the veiled reference to Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow" through Win; it changes so much about this book!)
The prose of Gibson in this book is masterful; he is acute and lyrical while noting how material comforts have come to desensitize us and lead to a sense of soul-decay. Truly, this is some of Gibson's most impassioned prose since "Neuromancer." His ear renders some of the most awe-inspiring descriptions and musings this side of Don DeLillo ("White Noise" and "Mao II"). However, whereas DeLillo misstepped slightly with his latest book, "Cosmopolis," Gibson's meditation is eerily, and deadly, on. I can only find one fault with the book, and that is that the end of "Pattern Recognition" starts to let the plot wrap up just a little too quickly.
Still, not merely content to be behind the postmodern masters of DeLillo and Pynchon, Gibson finally closes the ranks with this novel. Through "Pattern Recognition," he proffers himself as one of the accessible yet intelligent authors on the postmodern condition. Familiar, yet deliciously different.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Present catches up to Gibson's Future,
I remember the profound sense of fascination I felt when I read Gibson's 'Neuromancer' many years ago. 'Pattern Recognition' has triggered that same sense of wonder and thoughtfulness. One cannot help but wonder how Gibson himself feels at seeing the Information Age he unknowingly prophecised come true around him, but this novel is an undeniable proof that Gibson has his writer's finger on the "Zeitgeist" of it all.
The story behind 'Pattern Recognition' is rather simple: Cayce Pollard, a 'coolhunter' and marketing consultant, is hired by an ad agency to hunt down the source of an Internet subculture revolving around mysterious video footage. The story, in itself, is not incredibly engaging, but it matters little because there is a lot more to like. The fact that Cayce is 'allergic' to branding is what initially drew me into this novel, but it turns out it plays only an anecdotical role. I did not care about the mystery of the footage at the beginning, but when everything came together, I found the concept behind this poignant and thought-provoking.
To put it simply, the way Gibson writes about culture and technology is awe-inspiring. The novel is littered with little gems, too numerous to recount here. It reminded me of the early Douglas Coupland, but with a more somber, dramatic and meaningful tone. Pattern Recognition, as the title implies, provides thought-provoking themes about chaos, order, and how the human mind struggles to make the later emerge from the former. The many ways in which Casey searches for 'patterns', in the world around her and in her personal life, are moving and deeply satisfying.
I'm amazed at how much more 'mature' Pattern Recognition feels in comparison with Gibson's earlier cyberpunk stuff. It's not that Neuromancer is not as good as it used to be, but you can definitely feel the wiser, more thoughtful approach that two decades of writing have brought to Gibson. It's a joy to see a writer evolve as such, and I hope to see more of this kind of work from Gibson in the future.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, action-filled plot. Perfect for first time readers of Gibson.,
What images would we choose to define our lives? Or a moment in our life? A couple embracing? A bird flying? An empty plastic bag floating on the wind, just grazing the ground? Two twin towers engulfed in flame and smoke?
As the only Gibson book that I've come across to take place unmistakably now, Gibson works his usual ubersleek cyberpunk magic, however in a somewhat tempered manner. Missing is the plethora of technobabble, the drug abusing protagonists, the violent sexual encounters. Although often dripping with amusing similes, this is a sleek and polished piece of intellectual science fiction.
Has Gibson (gulp), gone. . . . normal??
Maybe as normal as is possible, for him.
The story focuses around Cayce Pollard, whose works as a somewhat freelance marketing consultant. With her hyperactive intuition and psychological allergy to logos and name brands, she is able to immediately tell a marketing firm how the public will react to their new logos, brand marketing, etc. In her spare time, Cayce, along with thousands of other webjunkies, follow something simply called "the footage", snippets of video anonymously posted on the internet, in no discernable order. Online discussions abound on who is the maker of The Footage? What does it mean? Is each piece a separate creation, or do they all go together in some meaningful way? And what the heck does it all mean?
Life is relatively normal for Cayce, until a client hires her, under the table, to find the maker of The Footage. How to track down the creator of something that is anonymously posted on the internet, and spread via a 2003 version of YouTube or MySpace? Impossible. But given a limitless budget, Cayce and her connections learn that everyone leaves some kind of tracks, and everything fits some kind of pattern. And if there is some conspiracy, don't waste your time thinking it's all about you, even when it comes full circle.
This book isn't about plot. Sure, it's about plot, the plot is great, there's action, subterfuge, double crossing, web stalking. It's all there, and it works, very well. But Gibson has something much more subtle, much more fragile he's trying to show us. Or maybe I'm just seeing it there because I'm looking for it? No, it was there, floating just beneath the surface, waiting to be found.
Gibson veterans know how easy it is to get buried alive in what he's got going on in his head. This will be a quick and easy read for you. Gibsons virgins, don't worry, this will be an easy read for you too. In fact, this is the perfect introduction to Gibson for first time readers of his fiction. It's not that he's gone soft, or normal, it's that he's gone subtle.
The references to The Matrix and James Bond were greatly appreciated. As were the highly amusing comments on modern fashion.
4 out of 5 spaceships.
Reviewer: Andrea Johnson for Multiverse Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars irresistable gnomic trivia,
Odd how Gibson fiction is not much good, at the same time, seems better than any other fiction around.
Most fiction is about:
1) Girl does adultery to gain status: Wuthering heights, War & peace, Mme Bovary, (or Tales of Genji, to go back 1000 years)
2) Boy grows up and leaves town : Dubliners, Sons & lovers
3) Hornblower hoists sail, or the SciFi clones of, with space ships and Emperors
Gibson writes flat, detail obsessed studies of people in culture. In the area I am expert in (Cryptography) he actually gets details slightly wrong, so I guess he may be slightly wrong about Vodun, or designer luggage or other areas he details. Somehow it doesnt matter, his air of fascinated resignation, melancholy abstraction, loving attentive indifference, is weirdly compelling (I actually pay money for his work)
He famously defined "cyberspace" on a manual typewriter, so I suppose he wrote this work about branding wearing Kmart boat shoes.
I read it wearing a 1986 pulsar digital watch, the one with the black metal band, with a new faceplate, so no logo.
4.0 out of 5 stars "The Kiss",
Plot Summary: Plot is well described in the editorial reviews.
Opinion: I like it better than Neuromancer. The pacing is good, the character of Cayce it well set-up. By page 50 I was intrigued enough to be hooked, which is always good. Gibson seems to make moderately large time jumps in his novels that the reader is supposed to fill in the blanks of (or sometimes the character will "flashback" in some literary device kind of way), he also will spill some twist out into the story without much buildup and the reader is supposed to catch it. I really like that, but I bet that can get annoying to some who will have to go back and see what just happened (like I have to sometimes). There is not much humor in this book. The conclusion was good but not entirely satisfying to me. I felt some things were left really unaswered, but Cayce apparently didn't feel that so I'm ok with it.
Recommendation: Read it. I reluctantly read Pattern Recognition after not liking Neuromancer very much. The style is clearly the same which I liked in both novels, I enjoyed the story in Recognition much more than Neuromancer. It was more contemporary. Nothing really far fetched or science fictiony in this novel. I will definately read more of Gibson's stand alone works as they come. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
5.0 out of 5 stars an exposition of net culture,
Gibson is a stylist rather in the Joycian tradition instead of the Proustian writers I usually love. But more importantly Gibson is the voice of our times. His previous masterpiece, Neuromancer, is set in the future and is a violent and male world where the Internet is a place rather like a country. Gibson coined the word cyberspace to describe this "country". Pattern Recognition, his latest work, is set in our times and is non-violent and female but still about the Internet, in this case how its culture is affecting our culture, how the two are merging so to speak.
Here is a quote, slightly elided:
"Of course," he says, "we have no idea of who or what the inhabitants of our future might be. In that sense, we have no future. Not in the sense that our grandparents had a future, or thought they did. Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which 'now' was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents' have insufficient 'now' to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile." ... "We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment's scenarios. Pattern recognition."
The book has several themes, all connected to the net. One is the nature of friends made over the net, long time friends that is, that one has had many many deep conversations with. These friends have something of the nature of childhood friendships which have survived into adulthood in so far as the people are known for their verbal impact rather than for their image or sociological impact. Children (and dogs) see people in a different way -- they see an inner essence and cannot be fooled by such trappings as wealth, beauty or circumstance. We would call the way children see an "interface" and the way adults see a different interface. Net friendships of long standing have something of the children's interface because what one "sees" is the projection of intellect and emotion in words, in this case words on a screen instead of words on paper.
Another theme is what is called "the footage" -- brief scenes from a strange and compelling film that are posted anonymously to the net. Here is a description:
"How much time have you spent with the actual footage?'
"How do you feel when you watch it?'
He looks down at his noodles, then up at her. "Lonely?"
"Most people find that that deepens. Becomes sort of polyphonic. Then there's a sense that it's going somewhere, that something will happen. Will change." She shrugs. "It's impossible to describe, but if you live with it for a while, it starts to get to you. it's just such a powerful effect introduced by so little actual screen time. I've never felt convinced that there's a recognized filmmaker around who can do that, although if you read the footage boards you'll see different directors constantly nominated."
"Or maybe it's the repetition. Maybe you've been looking at this stuff for so long that you've read all this into it. And talking with other people who've been doing the same thing."
"I've tried to convince myself of that. I've wanted to believe it, simply in order to let the thing go. But then I go back and look at it again and there's that sense of . . . I don't know. Of an opening into something. Universe? Narrative?"
Cayce (the female protagonist, pronounced "case" in analogy to the protagonist of Neuromancer) eventually finds an email address connected with the footage and sends this message to that address:
"Someone showed me one segment and I looked for more. I found a site where people discussed it, and I began to post there, asking questions. I can't tell you why, but it became very important to me, to all of us there. Parkaboy and Ivy and Maurice and Filmy, all the others too. We went there whenever we could, to be with other people who understood. We looked for more footage. Some people stayed out surfing, weeks at a time, never posting until someone discovered a new segment.
We don't know what you're doing, or why. Parkaboy thinks you're dreaming. Dreaming for us. Sometimes he sounds as though he thinks you're dreaming us. He has this whole edged-out participation mystique: how we have to allow ourselves so far into the investigation of whatever this is, whatever you're doing, that we become part of it. Hack into the system. Merge with it, deep enough that it, not you, begins to talk to us. He says it's like Coleridge, and De Quincy. He says that it's shamanic. That we may all seem to just be sitting there, staring at the screen, but really, some of us anyway, we're adventurers. We're out there, seeking, taking risks. In hopes, he says, of bringing back wonders. Trouble is, lately, I've been living that."
So these are some of the themes, all of which have to do with our experience of ourselves as part of the net which means that we experience ourselves as part of something that is virtual. And this, ironically enough, causes us to value those parts of ourselves that are the most human, the most emotionally connected. And we find this, more and more frequently, with those we converse with over the net.
5.0 out of 5 stars Patterns Around Us, Among Us, and Within Us.,
I hadn't read any of William Gibson's novels since "Neuromancer", his first, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that Gibson's prose style has improved immensely. Novice choppiness at some point gave way to "Pattern Recognition"'s organic, vivid prose. I was amused to find that the novel's protagonist, Cayce Pollard (pronounced "case", not "casey") shares the same name with "Neuromancer"'s Case. Cayce is a trend-spotter and design consultant whose uncanny gifts for recognizing the up-and-coming before it arrives have made her one of the world's most in-demand marketing consultants. She's in London to look at a new trademark design for a company called Blue Ant, when its President, Hubertus Bigend, makes Cayce a proposition that she somehow cannot refuse. Cayce's personal life has recently become consumed by snippets of mysterious film footage that has surfaced on the internet. There have been 135 pieces of the footage so far. No one knows where it comes from, but the footage has captivated internet users around the world. Thousands congregate in chat rooms and forums to discuss the footage's meaning, its origin, its nature. Cayce is one of those people, and somehow Bigend has found out. He sees the footage as the latest and greatest marketing gimmick. No one knows what it is, yet is has developed a global cult following. Bigend wants that kind of power, and he wants Cayce to find the footage's creator for him. Curiosity gets the better of her, and Cayce sets out to discover the well-guarded secrets behind the footage. Her search will take her to several continents and prove to be more dangerous and surprising than any footage aficionado would have expected.
"Pattern Recognition"'s themes are thought-provoking but sometimes almost covert. Cayce thinks a lot about pattern recognition and apophenia, "the spontaneous perception of connection and meaningfulness in unrelated things". These two concepts create a sort of pattern recognition/pattern hallucination dichotomy that underlies the story. Subtle and not-so-subtle comments on the nature of art are also woven throughout. Both of these topics are interesting food for thought, presented in an interesting, sometimes insidious, context. They are also frustrating in that the author's own opinions of art and patterns are indiscernible. Gibson seems only to say that these things exist. But do they exist only because we see them? I'm not sure if "Pattern Recognition" is asking that question or if Gibson intended to be more clear.
"Pattern Recognition" is the first novel I've read that incorporates e-mail and internet forums into the story. I was surprised at how effective Gibson is in making e-mail seem vital. Anything that exists only on a computer monitor would seem to be best avoided if engaging narrative is the goal. But Gibson manages to make us want to see what's inside Cayce's e-mail as much as she does. Cayce's online relationships have that real-but-je-ne-sais-quoi quality that such relationships really do, and they're as much a part of her life and investigation as those whom she knows corporeally. I was intrigued by the internet's prominent role in a contemporary, not sci-fi, novel and impressed that it wasn't tedious. Fluid, sometimes poetic prose and oddly articulated, but undeniably provocative, themes make "Pattern Recognition" a sort of cerebral page-turner. 4 1/2 stars.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Reflection on The Present Way of Life,
By A Customer
Pattern Recognition, unlike Gibson's other novels, is set in the present day, in the hyperconnected cyberlinked yet increasingly chaotic and uncertain world of the post-9/11 era. Into this background steps the wonderfully quixotic, quirky, loveable character of Cayce Pollard, an enigmatic 30-something freelance "coolhunter" with a pathological evasion to certain trademarks and logos.
The main thrust of the novel's plot involves unraveling the mystery of who is secretively releasing snippets of film footage in digital format onto the world wide web. But the novel is really about the way we interact and relate to each other in this digitally charged age, the way in which the internet and its modes of personal interaction are changing the web of human relationships in ways both known and surprising.
Gibson's prose is fluid and at times electric, wonderfully joyous to read and savor. His cast of characters is interesting, particularly the principal character of Cayce Pollard, whom we can hope we will see again in a future Gibson work. The novel is somewhat marred by a weaker ending than was probably justified by the balance of the work, together with a love-related ending that did not seem likely based on the previous interactions between the characters involved. But in all and on balance this is a very fine, clever, insightful and ultimately relevant novel, and an important read as we all embark upon our digital journey into the 21st Century.
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, Count Zero Lite ...,
By A Customer
Basically the same story as Count Zero, but done in a much slicker and less interesting way. The writing is all very slick and edgy as we've come to expect from Gibson. At one point, he describes a set of keys as looking like something you'd get if you "disassembled a very modern automatic pistol." There's also an enormous number of brand-names in the text, which is appropriate to a degree since this has to do with some of the central themes of the book. However, it eventually becomes heavy-handed and annoying after 340 pages. Really, how many times can you use "Google" as a verb and expect the reader to ooh and ahh at your hipness.
The big killer is that the plot is horrid. First off, it is basically a rehash of the plot from Count Zero, minus the interesting Turner/Angie thread. Artist-woman gets hired by big, powerful person/corporation to find the maker of strange art objects. She gets an uber expense account and is constantly followed by multiple groups of people. She tries to dart off and find the maker herself.
*** SPOILER WARNING ***
Many of the sub-plots are never resolved or simply dropped. Cayce's love interest, Boone Chu, is introduced mid-novel and just disappears near the end, with only a cursory explanation of what happened to him. Her mother's EVP thread comes to nothing. The whereabouts of her father, a seemingly central sub-plot, are never revealed and much about him is left unanswered. Damien's dig documetary amounts to nothing, and contributes nothing but "cool" to the story. Other sub-plots are too neatly and quickly resolved in the very last few pages. Who cares if Judy gets a job with Blue Ant? Or that Cayce falls for Parkaboy?
Also, in thinking about the plot, all major progress towards finding the maker of the footage is made via deus ex machina plot devices. Cayce barely has to lift a finger for the maker to drop in her lap. Taki just gives her the embeded number map. There is never any explanation of how the Mystic group in Japan got this. It just appears. Then Marly ... oops, I mean Cayce just hands this to Baranov and he magically gives her an email address of the maker. Lame. Worse yet, Gibson flatly refuses to describe how Baranov went from a T-shaped block of numbers to an email address, stating that "she will never know" how it was done. Basically telling the reader to just quit worrying about it, since he isn't going to resolve this mystery. What a cop-out.
*** END SPOILER WARNING ***
Also, annoyingly, some of the minor locations details are incorrect. Japanese phone users answer the phone with "mushi mushi," rather than the more common Romanization "moshi moshi." A Japanese office worker "inkjets" (ooh, he used "inkjet" as a verb, wow, gee, Gibson's so hip ...) a photo onto an "eight by eleven." Unfortunately for Gibson, they use A4 sized paper in Japan.
Some of the language is nice and some notions and descriptions are classic Gibson chic, but the story itself is poorly plotted and the characters are thinly drawn. As an exercise in how cool can you sound when describing jetlag, the book succeeds. As a compelling story, it fails miserably.
2.0 out of 5 stars What's the point?,
I went into this book with high expectations. The friend who gave it to me said it was just amazing and he thought I would just love it because of my marketing background. Well...it didn't live up to my expectations and I am beginning to wonder if my friends know me at all!
First of all I think Gibson's writing style is definitely unique in the literary world, but it certainly isn't new in the blogging arena. His first person present perspective is an interesting approach and it seems to justify the almost stream of consciousness writing style. It certainly lends nicely to the overarching theme of the tech generation (yes, cliché, but I can't think of a better phrase), but...the halting stream of thought and the often times esoteric references make the reader pause long enough to dwell on the flaws in the story. Just because the unedited, fragmentary blog-language is a popular way of communicating does it make it "good writing"?
I am a quick reader, but this book took me much longer to read than a book of equal size because I found it so difficult to get over these linguistic humps. I had to really stop and try to decipher his meanings more than once. Some of them never resolved. Some of his sentences are simple fragments with no bearing. It's as if they were just dropped out of space and given no real place to go. On one hand that can be creative, on the other, a serious hindrance to a good story. It's very exclusive feeling...is that what he was attempting to get across? It's entirely possible that Gibson has created, or utilized, a new expression of art with his writing style that I am completely barbarian minded to...I am not sure what to make of that thought.
Also, I would like the plot to have been a little more exciting and believable. The book seemed to have so many parallel themes running simultaneously that it's difficult to say what it was truly about or if there was even a main point. If you want to think of it as a masterpiece of postmodern thought, then you are free to make that assertion. I think it more random than anything. For example, at the beginning we are given the seminal plot structure surrounding this pattern recognition gifting and the fragments of footage on the net.(Regarding the pattern recognition: in reality, fundamentally unrelated to the trademark phobia, but Gibson doesn't make this distinction and possibly doesn't believe that there is one and just lumps everything he personally deems unexplainable into the suggestion of "paranormal"). This was the beginning of what could have been something really exciting and interesting steeped in mystery, but it seemed, in the end, to become very watered down with tons of other seeminly unrelated baggage, steeped in cliché (Russian mafia??????) and anticlimactic. The many, many references to pop culture and name brands was also a difficulty for those of us who are not quite so "conscious." I think it could have been weaved into the plot line just a little more delicately.
In summary: I found myself with the urge to consume large quantities of Portobello mushrooms while drinking Starbucks coffee, and if I ever thought about wearing Tommy Hilfiger clothing I am certain now that it is completely derivative and "un-cool." And where can I get a Rickson's???? Heeeeeyyyyy now, could this just be a marketing scheme????
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Pattern Recognition by William Gibson (Mass Market Paperback - Feb. 1 2005)
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