Pattern Recognition Hardcover – Feb 4 2003
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With Pattern Recognition, William Gibson, the man who introduced cyberpunk to the world, gives us his first novel set in the present. But as Gibson's imagination makes clear, our corporation-dominated, technologically advanced reality doesn't need much tweaking to take on the aura of science fiction.
If there's a fantastical element to this, the author's eighth book, it's in protagonist Cayce Pollard's special talent. Here, Gibson takes some of No Logo author Naomi Klein's ideas about branding to a logical extreme: Pollard has an instinctual, often violently intense reaction to logos, a condition that makes her valuable to advertising agencies looking for the most effective way to brand a product. This talent, however, makes a trip to a department store potentially lethal, as when she visits a London shopping emporium and is inundated by "a mountainside of Tommy [Hilfiger] coming down in her head." "Some people ingest a single peanut and their head swells like a basketball," writes Gibson. "When it happens to Cayce, it's her psyche.... When it starts, it's pure reaction, like biting down hard on a piece of foil." Pollard is also a "coolhunter" of the first order, which means she can sniff out a trend before it's even begun to be commodified. She's so good, in fact, that "she's met the very Mexican who first wore his baseball cap backwards."
With such sensitivity to our over-branded world, it's completely natural that our heroine would become fascinated by Internet footage of a film in which characters, setting, and time are completely generic--unbranded, unfixed, free. But Pollard isn't the only one obsessed by "the footage," as it's referred to, and this is where Gibson's masterful storytelling comes to the fore. Who will be the first to solve the mystery of the film's origin? Who else is trying, and for what potentially nefarious purpose? As usual the author proves adept at weaving a suspenseful narrative out of humdrum elements, such as e-mail exchanges. If there's a caveat, it's that, as with literary forefather Philip K. Dick, the Vancouver-based author's prose veers wildly from the poetic to the clunky. And his supporting characters often amount to nothing more than a combination of an unusual name and shadowy motive. But the continual barrage of ideas, and the way Gibson arranges them for maximum impact, make for a gripping and insightful glimpse into our hyperdriven consumer culture. --Shawn Conner
From Publishers Weekly
Gibson, known as the "patron saint of cyberpunk lit," has made his reputation with futuristic tales. Though his new novel is set in the present, baroque descriptions of everyday articles and menacing anthropomorphic treatment of the Internet and sister technology give it a sci-fi feel. Cayce Pollard, a market researcher with razor-sharp intuition, makes big bucks by evaluating potential products and advertising campaigns. In London, she stays in the trendy digs of documentary filmmaker friend Damien (away on assignment), whom she e-mails frequently. When Cayce brusquely rejects the new logo of advertising mogul Hubertus Bigend, she earns his respect and a big check but makes an enemy of his graphic designer, vindictive Dorotea Benedetti. Hubertus later hires Cayce to ferret out the origin of a series of sensual film clips appearing guerrilla style on computers all over the world and attracting a growing cult following. Cayce treats this as a standard job until somebody breaks into Damien's flat and hacks into her computer. Suddenly every casual encounter carries undertones of danger. Her investigative trail takes her to Tokyo and Russia and through a rogue's gallery of iconoclastic Web-heads. Casting a further shadow is the memory of her father, Win, a security expert (probably CIA) missing and presumed dead in the World Trade Center disaster of exactly a year earlier. For complicated reasons even she doesn't understand, she connects her current dilemma with her father's tragedy and follows the trail with the fervor of a personal vendetta. Gibson's brisk, kinetic style and incisive observations should keep the reader entertained even when Cayce's quest begins to lose urgency. Gibson's best book since Mona Lisa Overdrive should satisfy his hardcore fans while winning plenty of new ones.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
As fascinating on a second (or third) reading as it was on the firstPublished 11 days ago by Julian C
A good mystery book that winds to a strong finish. The only negative for me was that the often complex sentence structures and frequent wondering-off-topic slowed the pace of the... Read morePublished 6 months ago
I'm sure this is a great book as based on reviews I've read but it IS a difficult read (as I also read in reviews)...haven't finished it after 6 months... Read morePublished 9 months ago by PeterK
Gibson's writing is stellar. He can switch from frenetic and choppy writing, to brilliant, metered prose at drop of a dime. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Aaron Berk
I understand C.S. Lewis said something about re-reading a book because if you liked it, why would you only read it one time? Pattern Recognition falls into that category. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Clay
read this in university for a class and had read some of Gibson's previous novels. He doesn't disappoint, I love his originality and care about his characters.Published on Jan. 31 2014 by Erika K Walter
I really used to enjoy Gibson, but my enthusiasm has dimmed as time has gone by. Things have hit a new low with Pattern Recognition. Read morePublished on Sept. 14 2008 by Jack Blatant