Pattern Recognition (Magill Book Reviews)
In William Gibson’s seventh novel, Cayce (pronounced Case) Pollard travels from New York to London to evaluate a footwear logo. Ironically for someone in her profession, she hates trademarks, removing all from her clothing, and is actually terrified of the Michelin man. The most meaningful aspect of her life is following “the footage,” 135 pieces of film available on the Web. Are they segments of a unified whole? What are their maker’s goals? Where and who is the maker? Cayce’s employer, a Belgian billionaire, asks her to find out. Can she trust him? Can she trust anyone? Who is following her and why?
Gibson’s tale works well as a mystery and as a character study. Many novels about the postmodern world offer mere figureheads as protagonists, but Cayce is well rounded, resourceful, and sympathetic: a lost soul as Everywoman. Pattern Recognition examines the ways the Internet creates unlikely communities, while recognizing the need of the individual, even cynics like Cayce, to be part of communities.
While the novel is intelligent and well written, it lacks that extra element that would elevate it to a higher level. Gibson is often compared to Thomas Pynchon, clearly a major influence here, as are Martin Amis and Don DeLillo, but Pattern Recognition resembles less the Pynchon of V. (1963) and Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) than the one of The Crying of Lot 49 (1966). It is an admirable but...
(The entire section is 282 words.)
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Pattern Recognition (Magill's Literary Annual 2004)
Pattern Recognition is William Gibson’s first novel since All Tomorrow’s Parties (1999), which concluded the trilogy that began with Virtual Light (1993) and continued with Idoru (1996). In that most obvious sense, this book marks a point of departure. In other ways as well, while clearly in continuity with Gibson’s earlier work all the way back to his first novel, Neuromancer (1984), Pattern Recognition is different from anything the author has done before. It is his first novel set in the present—a bold departure for a writer of science fiction, even though his recent novels have been set in the very near future. It is different in style, being far less fragmented and having a narrative point of view that hews closely to the present-tense experience of the protagonist, Cayce Pollard. Its emotional texture is strikingly different from that in Gibson’s characteristic works, allowing for deep sentiment (especially Cayce’s love for her father, Win) that is not undercut by reflexive irony.
Cayce Pollard is a “coolhunter.” As she explains, “I hunt ‘cool,’ though I don’t like to describe it that way. Manufacturers use me to keep track of street fashion. . . . What I do is pattern recognition. I try to recognize a pattern before anyone else does.” (In this she resembles earlier Gibson creations, especially Colin Laney of Idoru, “an intuitive fisher of patterns of...
(The entire section is 1682 words.)