Pattern Recognition: A Mature Masterpiece

science fiction book reviews William Gibson Pattern Recognitionscience fiction book reviews William Gibson Pattern RecognitionPattern Recognition William Gibson

William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition was published in 2003 and it marks the first of what has come to be known as the Bigend trilogy, a series of three novels united by a background character, Hubertus Bigend.

Cayce (pronounced like ‘case’) Pollard is a marketing consultant who is highly sensitive to corporate logos. In fact, it’s almost as though she’s allergic to bad logos. She’s made her living working as a freelance consultant thanks to this sensitivity. Although she’s quite fashionable in her non-designer label clothing, Cayce has turned her attention to things other than fashion. Lately, her passion is the “footage,” a topic that she researches using online forums and networks.

The footage is a series of anonymous film clips that have captured the attention of a growing audience of people. But who is putting these curiously impressive clips together? Hubertus Bigend, a fabulously wealthy marketing guru, wants to know, and he hires Cayce to track down the makers of the footage. Armed with an expense account, Cayce makes her way around the world — from London to Tokyo — searching for the makers of the footage.

And that’s pretty much it for plotting.

In interviews, Gibson would eventually reveal that he considered his critically acclaimed early novels adolescent. Although they are complex, there is a sort of noir action-adventure quality to the Sprawl novels that cannot be found in Pattern Recognition. Here, Gibson’s writing is subtle and the characters are nuanced. The conflicts and themes that Gibson discusses — which often relate to style, marketing, and the way that ideas are spread — are mature. It should come as no surprise that Pattern Recognition’s characters live in the world after September 11th, 2001. There is a subdued paranoia that lurks in the background of every conversation and careful readers will find themselves surprisingly responsive to the atmosphere that Gibson has created here.

Although Pattern Recognition offers very little action-adventure, it may yet prove itself Gibson’s masterpiece. Pattern Recognition is a deeply satisfying novel from one of science fiction’s finest writers.

Pattern Recognition — (2003) Publisher: 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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RYAN SKARDAL is an English teacher who reads widely but always makes time for SFF. Ryan and his wife make their home in New Jersey, where they read alongside several cats and two highly disobedient huskies.

View all posts by Ryan Skardal

2 comments

  1. I think I’ll like this. Thanks, Ryan!

  2. So many authors that have a great debut struggle to match it. Debuts don’t come much stronger than Neuromancer, but Gibson is definitely at the top of his game in Pattern Recognition.

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