Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pattern Recognition - William Gibson

Summary: Cayce Pollard is a new kind of prophet--a world-renowned "coolhunter" who predicts the hottest trends. While in London to evaluate the redesign of a famous corporate logo, she's offered a different assignment: find the creator of the obscure, enigmatic video clips being uploaded to the Internet--footage that is generating massive underground buzz worldwide.

Still haunted by the memory of her missing father--a Cold War security guru who disappeared in downtown Manhattan on the morning of September 11, 2001--Cayce is soon traveling through parallel universes of marketing, globalization, and terror, heading always for the still point where the three converge. From London to Tokyo to Moscow, she follows the implications of a secret as disturbing--and compelling--as the twenty-first century promises to be… (Summary from book - cover image from

My Review:
Please ignore the summary above. Although completely true, it gives a grossly distorted image of what this book is about--even as a William Gibson fan, I approached this book with hesitation based on that description, which promises exactly the sort of pretentious, shallow, self-consciously "cool" thriller that I make a point of avoiding. In fact, Pattern Recognition is anything but that kind of book.

Not that I could do any better trying to summarize it. I've spent almost a month since reading this book trying to think of a better way to explain it in a review, and failing. It's not a thriller, per se, though it is thrilling. It's not pretentious, though it ought to be, and would be in the hands of a less capable writer. It's not even cool, at least not in the style-before-substance way that so many bestsellers are. For Pattern Recognition, style and substance are the same thing, and are both available in mind-bending quantities.

Gibson's early work had a certain prophetic quality, not so much the result of foretelling the future as of telling stories so powerfully as to shape that future. This book, however, presents something else--a telling of the present so powerful as to capture it, like a dragonfly, in mid-flight. One can almost imagine this book as a sort of linguistic needle, sharp enough and subtle enough to pierce right to the heart of the spirit of our age, and pin it down so we can see the delicate tracery of the veins on its wings.

Star Rating: 5 stars. Contains non-explicit violence and sex, and some explicit language.

Sum it up: Neuromancer come of age. If you're the sort of person who looks for novels with the power to show you not just a different world, but a different perspective on this one, this book is for you.

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