July 2nd, 2012


Book Review: Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson

Neuro-science, pop culture, and the next step in Internet evolution.

Pattern Recognition

Berkley, 2003, 367 pages

Cayce Pollard is an expensive, spookily intuitive market-research consultant. In London on a job, she is offered a secret assignment: to investigate some intriguing snippets of video that have been appearing on the Internet. An entire subculture of people is obsessed with these bits of footage, and anybody who can create that kind of brand loyalty would be a gold mine for Cayce's client. But when her borrowed apartment is burgled and her computer hacked, she realizes there's more to this project than she had expected.

Still, Cayce is her father's daughter, and the danger makes her stubborn. Win Pollard, ex-security expert, probably ex-CIA, took a taxi in the direction of the World Trade Center on September 11 one year ago, and is presumed dead. Win taught Cayce a bit about the way agents work. She is still numb at his loss, and, as much for him as for any other reason, she refuses to give up this newly weird job, which will take her to Tokyo and on to Russia. With help and betrayal from equally unlikely quarters, Cayce will follow the trail of the mysterious film to its source, and in the process will learn something about her father's life and death.

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Verdict: William Gibson is a smart, entertaining writer who's delivered many SF classics; Pattern Recognition is probably not the place to start if you want to be convinced of his greatness, but it's a smart post-modernish techno-adventure without a lot of sci-fi gloss. The prose is more well-developed than the characters, and the story is merely adequate, with snippets of occasional brilliance. Good for fans of techno-thrillers and cyberpunk, even though Pattern Recognition only loosely fits in either genre.

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