Pattern Recognition by William Gibson (2003) 356 p.

Neuromancer was William Gibson’s novel, and it remains his finest: a fantastic science fiction tale of a washed-up computer hacker drawn into the ultimate heist, it was gritty and post-modern and ahead of its time and genre-spawning and, most importantly of all, simply an excellent novel. In the decades that followed, Gibson wrote many more novels set in the Neuromancer universe, before eventually writing Pattern Recognition – his first novel set in the real world and the present day.

Pattern Recognition is centred around Cayce Pollard, a “marketing consultant” who is literally allergic to certain logos and corporate symbols (the novel’s only unrealistic touch). While working in London, Cayce is hired by a Belgian entrepreneur to uncover the origin of a series of viral videos that are sweeping the Internet. This leads her to Tokyo, back to London, and finally to Moscow.

The most intriguing thing about Pattern Recognition is that it reads like science fiction despite the fact that it isn’t. It’s not so much that Gibson has stopped writing science fiction; rather that the real world has caught up to the creative vision he laid down in the 1980s. And yet it’s not (and never was) technology that defines the fiction of William Gibson, but rather the way it influences and affects our society and our identities. Marketing, globalisation, fashion trends, commercialism, the end of communism, the effect of September 11… Neuromancer was impressive not just for its prediction of technologies such as the Internet, but also because it depicted a world in which corporations are becoming more powerful than nation-states, urban decay is rife and society seems to be wracked with nihilism. Pattern Recognition presents the same world – but this time it’s real.

I spent three years at university trying to wrap my head around post-modernism, and now I can recognise it when I see it, but I still can’t articulate it. Whatever, nobody cares about post-modernism.

In any case, I found Pattern Recognition to be fascinating on that level, but not neccesarily fascinating on its own merit. It’s a good book, certainly, but nowhere near the level of Neuromancer. On the other hand I read it quite quickly, so it must have been somewhat compelling. Certainly reccommended for Gibson fans.

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