Thursday, December 11, 2014

Patterns and mysteries

Since I started rereading Gibson I've been waiting for Cayce to headbutt the living shit out of an Italian in Japan and it's still as cathartic as it ever was.

Pattern Recognition is a difficult book to describe because so much of the texture (and even true content) of the novel seems to be made up by, well, pattern recognition. Making an audience read precisely the random noise that the author wants them to is a peculiar and brilliant gift that Gibson has, and when you've submersed yourself in his writing you start picking up on the phrases you know will be important and following them before he's done more than make a passing reference to an object or a concept.

I'm torn as to whether Pattern Recognition or Neuromancer is my favorite Gibson novel because they're very different books that nonetheless have a lot in common. What Pattern Recognition has that is very different than all of Gibson's other novels is a unified voice. There's one narrative here; the book doesn't go dancing around or bouncing through a cluster of disparate characters, it starts, stays, and finishes in the voice and from the perspective of Cayce Pollard. I don't think this particular narrative technique makes the book better or worse than any of Gibson's other books, but it does make it easier for me to identify with Cayce and to understand her fears and motivations. In particular I don't think Cayce's allergy to advertising would have been nearly as completely explored (and therefore as impressive) if we'd had to look through several sets of eyes to see the story.

The novel feels like a shift on Gibson's writing, a movement to something that hadn't been in his stories since the very early parts of Neuromancer and choice bits of Burning Chrome. Pattern Recognition isn't a far-future romp, it's not really a story about hackers, but it seems to be looking at NOW as a new frontier and is fascinating in a way that makes the whole world novel after you're finished reading.

As a side note, I think the book is also one of the very first (and very few) post-9/11 stories that does a very good job of dealing with the implications of a national tragedy with tact and foresight that allow the book to be perhaps more relevant now than when it was published.

     - Alli

Gibson, William. Pattern Recognition. Berkley Books. New York: New York. 2005. (2003)

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