Pattern Recognition – William Gibson

Life is all about patterns. Think about it: you live your life on a linear frame, a demographic progression, with your likes and dislikes, your life stages and steps all patterned out, in sync with others of your generation. Each life is similar, but different when regarded up close. Life, like a city in the distance, is clear, well-ordered and structured – patterned – but up close, that’s where the chaos and pattern becomes more intricate, more fractual…harder to see.

Pattern Recognition is William Gibson’s latest book, and in my opinion, one of his best. It still doesn’t come close to the impact of Neuromancer (which was both a literary and genre-defining work), but, it is, as was once said, a near run thing.

Pattern Recognition’s main character, Cayce Pollard, is a “cool-hunter”, a natural marketer, someone who has developed an inate sense of pattern recognition for what “works” and what doesn’t in the ever-changing, chaotic and permeable world of consumer brand marketing. Pollard is also chasing after an underground Internet “sub-culture” that is piecing together clips of a unique and unknown film clips called “the footage” that is being uploaded onto the Net by person or persons unknown. Unknown to her, others are chasing the footage and view her and her unique brand sense as a tool to finding the creator of the footage…

One of Gibson’s descriptive riffs from an earlier work still floats around in my head regularly – for no particular reason that I can discern: “The sky was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel..”

I’ve yet to find an author who can weave the modern and the descriptive quite so well as William Gibson. Gibson’s prose is so evocative and effective, so laced with meaning and sub-text. It is, as with his book Neuromancer, as though something is lurking just under the surface, some meaning, some presence…The message you receive when you parse through one of his intricate and elegant paragraphs is eeriely reminscent of the stripping away of layers of chaos within society, technology, and the modern world; to discover the underlying codes that permeate today’s world….Pattern Recognition is both a title and what he does as a writer.

Don’t read Pattern Recognition expecting cyberpunk. This is not cyberpunk. Do read it however, it is worth your time.

Check out Gibson’s own weblog here. Nice to see an author blogging…I highly recommend some of his online articles, in particular the one he wrote on Japan, a country with which I have had a long history and involvement with. I know no one who can capture the essence of modern Tokyo like Gibson can. It is indeed a writer’s gift…

Interested in cyberpunk culture? Check out Project Cyberpunk for some interesting links, or read Neal Stephenson’s excellent book Snow Crash.

Interesting in marketing and “cool-hunters”? First read Naomi Klein’s No Logo, then check out Frontline’s take on cool-hunting. Personally I prefer Toffler…he’s not cool, but he’s got pattern recognition down cold.

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